Pioneer Stage Line

The Pioneer Stage Line is one of the most important stagecoaches in California during the 1850s. The line was founded by Jared Crandall & Lewis Brady in 1854.

Crandall is an older gentlemen (late 40s) who has a long family history in the coaching industry. He served as a driver back in New England (Vermont?) and moved out west at the beginning of the gold rush. He started up in business with the Hall brothers – forming Hall & Crandall Stage Line to service the San Francisco / San Jose route. That partnership dissolved in 1854, and Crandall moved his family to Placerville.

In Placerville, Crandall meet a local dry goods merchant (Lewis Brady) and they co-founded the Pioneer Stage Line with Brady acting as business manager and Crandall running the coach providing twice weekly service from Sacramento to Placerville.

The firm enjoyed good success and steady expansion for the next three years.

  • They build a fully functioning station house in Sacramento including horse pen and warehouse space, and hried local Sacramento importer (Thomas Sunderland) to serve as agent and business manager.
  • Service was extended from Sacramento all the way to the Butterfield line at San Jose with connecting service.
  • PSL won the Wells & Fargo contract for shipment of insured cargoes (i.e. gold dust) in El Dorado County.

In late 1856, Crandall came up with his most audacious plan yet. The state government had appropriated funds back in 1854 to build a road across the Sierra Nevada into the Utah Territory – after much wrangling, a plan to build a path over the “Johnson Pass” was agreed (it being 30 miles shorter and 2000-feet lower than Kit Carson’s famous “Carson Pass”). But the progress was slow and the PSL could no longer wait.

On July 11, 1857 Crandall took a four-hose Concord stage with 7 passengers (all local businessmen or news reporters) and 500 pounds of freight from Placerville east across El Dorado County with stops at Sportsman Hall and Clear Creek station. This was the farthest east a coach had gone – and there they overnighted and changed horses. The next morning they traveled across the Johnson Pass, past Echo Point and Luther Summit and arrived at Mormon Station in time for supper. (NOTE: modern-day Genoa, Nevada on the shores of Lake Tahoe).

The Sierra Nevada was conquered – and Crandall was an instant celebrity! This has lead to a huge prestige boost to the line, and to Crandall personally. The trail shut down for the winter, but should be reopening after the snow melt. PSL intends to provide weekly service from Placerville to Mormon Station from March to November.

In addition to Crandall, the PSL has two other drivers with strong reputations in the industry.

  • Henry James “Hank” Monk. Famous for his skill navigating treacherous mountain roads.
  • Charley “One-Eye” Parkhurst. Fearless with a whip in hand, and ruthless. Famous for killing bandits who let their guard down during a robbery.

Pioneer Stage Line

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