News-starved pioneers suffered in a frontier dark ages until the Butterfield Overland Stage came to North Texas in 1858. The Butterfield Trail, also known as the Southern Overland Trail, delivered mail to settlers every 25 days instead of the previous two months' wait. Before then, mail from coast to coast depended upon steamers that first had to sail around Cape Horn. John Butterfield, who was awarded the contract to deliver mail along the country's southern route, demanded the world of his stage drivers. "Remember, boys, nothing on God's earth must stop the United States mail." The twice-weekly mail delivery system first crossed the nation from St. Louis, Mo., to San Francisco, Calif. The Butterfield stage only operated from 1858 until 1861 before it was moved farther north and beyond the Texas border. The first run of the Butterfield Overland Mail began in St. Louis, Mo., on Sept. 18, 1858. The stage delivered its first westbound mail to Fort Belknap on Sept. 22, 1858, where 150 civilians lived. Later, stages started routes at either Memphis, Tenn., or St. Louis, converged at Fort Smith, Ark., and entered Texas by way of Colbert's Ferry on the Red River. The route continued from the Sherman-Denison area before reaching Jacksboro, Murphy's Station (about four and a one-half miles south of present-day Loving) and Fort Belknap. Horses were exchanged for mule teams at Fort Belknap because many of the roads west were little more than cow trails, according to the Texas Almanac.


The southern route proceeded across the Young-Throckmorton County line about three miles north of Murray to Franz's Station. The stages progressed northwest with El Paso the final Texas station. On the first run, the Butterfield Stage arrived in San Francisco on Oct. 10. The entire journey took 23 days, 23-1/2 hours, which beat the original contract requirement to complete the mail run within 25 days. The average speed was five miles per hour for the 2,866-mile trip. On future runs, most stages arrived at their final destination in 22 days. Waterman Ormsby, a newspaper man for the New York Herald, volunteered to be the first passenger. The plucky journalist was the sole passenger and ended up enduring much more than he had bargained for. He sent regular dispatches to his newspaper readers. "Had I not just come out over the route, I would be perfectly willing to go back, but I now know what hell is like. I've just had 24 days of it." In 1859, Butterfield proved his point about the efficiency of the Butterfield Stage over its competitor, the steamship. He made a $100,000 bet with Capt. Harrison, who sailed the largest and fastest steamship in the world, the Great Eastern. The bet was that the Overland Stage could make the trip from St. Louis to San Francisco in less time than the Great Eastern could sail from New York to San Francisco. They both departed at the same time, and the Overland reached San Francisco 20 days later. The Great Eastern docked in San Francisco 36 hours after the stage had arrived. For the years it operated between 1858 to 1861, the Butterfield Stage brought news, visitors and merchandise to Young, Jack and Wise counties. When the Civil War began and calvary units left Texas to fight, the frontier once again fell into a darkness.