Raids on Butterfield Stations in Texas

“Texas’s secession vote in February 1861 prompted Congress a few weeks later to move the overland mail service from the southern route to a central route through the country’s midsection, far away from the southern states. The Overland Mail Company agreed to switch operations to the central route, and on March 12, 1861, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair officially ordered the change. . . .

In mid-May [1861], [Butterfield /Superintendent Owen] Tully sold all of Butterfield’s Trans-Pecos stations and equipment to San Antonio mail contractor George Giddings. Giddings continued mail service to El Paso and Mesilla until August 1862, when Texas and the Confederacy abandoned the Trans-Pecos to the Union Army, which occupied it for the duration of the war.

Before selling Butterfield’s Trans-Pecos properties to Giddings, Superintendent Tuller had to contend with a series of raids on his stage stops. Ironically, the marauders were not Comanches or Apaches but Texas Rangers. The principals involved included John Robert Baylor and his sidekick Harris A. Hamner, leaders of Texas’s Indian reservation was in 1859 and the gang responsible for the assassination of federal Indian superintendent Robert Neighbors. . . .

In February 1861, Tuller complained to Governor Sam Houston that Rangers were pillaging his company’s mail stations at Belknap and Clear Fork of the Brazos. The superintendent said that a party of armed men commanded by Captain Hamner had stolen a load of grain from Belknap Station. When Tuller arrived at Clear Fork Station abourd a Butterfield coach on February 10, he discovered four hundred armed men camping around the stage stop. The Rangers had looted the Overland building of all its grain and hay. . . .

While Johnson and Hamner were threatening Tuller, other Texas rangers were detaining overland stages and interfering with mail line operations. . . . Around February 19, a Butterfield stage conductor and his passengers reported ‘outrages by secessionists’ at Fort Chadbourne, including the seizure ‘of the coach, . . . its mail, . . . [and] the property of the company at Chadbourne Station. . .

Another Butterfield conductor told the St. Louis newspaper that while traveling through Texas with a ‘considerable amount of money’ during this time when ‘Secessionist Rangers’ were looting various mail stations, he pulled his coach off the road, deeming ‘it prudent to lie over till the Rangers had departed, lest the coin should be confiscated to the public benefit.’

On Friday, April 5, 1861 the postmaster of San Francisco announced, ‘The Overland Mail by the Butterfield route did not leave this city today for St. Louis as usual and will be discontinued hereafter.’ Effective June 1, Overland Mail Company stages would go from Missouri to California via the new Central Overland Route.”