Woodward Delivers the California–Salt Lake City Mail

“Also in July [1858], Woodward [co-partner with George Chorpenning in Woodward and Co., which held the mail contract between Sacramento and Salt Lake City starting in 1851] made his first passage over the trail packing mail to Utah. On July 18 he was attacked in Thousand Spring Valley by two well-armed and mounted Indians. . . . Following his narrow escape, Woodward arrived safely with the mail at Salt Lake City before the end of July.

The return to Sacramento in August was even more hazardous. Woodward and a nine-man escort apparently left Salt Lake City on August 1, and followed the Salt Lake Cutoff, via Granite Goose Creek, to the Humboldt. On August 10, two of the escort were fired on by six or eight mounted Indians between wells and Elko, Nevada. Two days later, near Carlin, Nevada, the party was awakened at dawn by rifle fire from the willows along the river as Indians attempted to stampede the stock. One man and three animals were wounded when the carriers hitched up fought a slow retreat up Emigrant Pass. In the broken summit of the pass, a second band of Indians ambushed the mail party but failed to prevent its escape southwest toward Gravelly Ford.

On August 15, Woodward met a courier named Henderson with the August 1 mail from Sacramento. Henderson had been the target of several long-range attacks on the previous day. Doubting that Henderson could fight through to Salt Lake City, Woodward ordered him to accompany the westbound mail to Carson Valley. Enroute, the combined mail parties were joined by six survivors of a fourteen-man emigrant train that had also been attacked by Indians. Woodward left Henderson at Carson Valley and brought the Utah mail into Sacramento on August 31. . . .

Despite the Indian menace, Woodward & Company’s initial trips to and from Utah indicated possible profit in express and coach service. Within a week of Woodward’s return to Sacramento at the end of August, he and Chorpenning bought seventy-five pack animals and expanded their business to include freight and passengers.”