Kay and I both love history, and we love riding motorcycles. We often combine our dual sport rides with a bit of historical sleuthing. This time we decided to follow in the footsteps of the Butterfield Overland Stage Route as it made it’s way through Oklahoma from St. Louis to the 1850’s gold fields of California.
We met up with several of our closest riding friends at Clayton Lake State Park, one of our favorite camping spots. I had researched the route over the prior winter and discovered that the Oklahoma Historical Society had marked the stage stops with concrete markers on in 1958 on the 100’th anniversary of the start of the stage route. We jumped on our dual sport bikes – mine is a Suzuki DRZ-400 and Kay’s is a Honda CRF-230L – and went in search of a marker.
The Butterfield Overland Stage Route was started in 1858 as a means of fast transportation from the transportation hub of St. Louis – and the end of the railroads – to the gold fields of California. Prior to the stage, travel to California was either by ship around the tip of South America – an arduous 3 month ordeal – or via a slow rumbling wagon train across the untamed west. Congress authorized funding for a faster mail route and an enterprising man named John Butterfield raised the money to fund the startup costs. This was not an insignificant investment. Stage stops were required every 15-17 miles. Each stage stop needed around 50 head of horses, someone to run the stop, a barn and pasture to house the horses, and a place for travelers to rest and eat. The stagecoachs themselves were quite expensive and custom-built for the journey.
We didn’t have time to ride the entire route, but picked up the route on a dirt road south of Hartshorne along the Indian Nation Turnpike. We followed it eastbound searching for stage stop marker every 17 miles or so as marked on my GPS. The first four stops we found nothing, and were about to give up but decided to try one more stop. Low and behold we found a marker in a pasture near Poteau! Pretty darn cool find and capped off a fun day of riding dirt bikes with friends.