Wednesday, June 25, 2014

15,000 Miles by Stage

Update: I originally titled this post "10,000 Miles by Stage" by mistake. The actual title of Carrie Strahorn's book is 15,000 Miles by Stage.

Carrie Strahorn wrote a wonderful book—still in print—about stagecoach travel in the West called 10,000 15,000 Miles by Stage. She and her husband Robert were newly married in 1878 when they traveled through Montana and other western states. Mrs. Strahorn’s astute observations about the characters they encountered, stage stops, hotels, and scenery are very entertaining.

Carrie Strahorn is the author of 10,000  15,000 Miles by Stage.
Photo courtesy Idaho Historical Society.
The Strahorns stayed at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Helena. The desk clerk gave them a room key, but they were astonished to discover that no one expected them to lock their door. Mrs. Strahorn writes that they encountered no tramps, no beggars, and no burglars. Unlike other towns along the railway routes where there was crime and poverty, Helena, although isolated, had none of that. Although citizens could not wait for rail service, “It seemed a pity,” Mrs. Strahorn writes, “to propose a railroad to such a happy community.” Among the characters she describes are two memorable women she encountered in the hotel dining room. They were angular in figure, tall, slim, with long features. Each had tried to outdo the other with tiny, elaborate spit curls from the center parts of their foreheads to their earlobes, and they were so prim and precise that they almost appeared to be machines.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Helena was one of the best in the region. The Helena Board of Trade published this sketch of the lobby in 1887. Montana Historical Society Research Center.
Mrs. Strahorn goes on the say that that there were so few women out west that military men begged their friends to send for sisters, cousins, and aunts. Sometimes, Mrs. Strahorn writes, they were weird specimens of the fairer sex like the two at the Cosmopolitan, but even they in their minority could reign as queens. They could dance, ride, and flirt to their hearts’ content and marry, too. The success of such women diminished as the population grew and single men had more choices. But in the 1870s, the frontier was a fact and not a fiction. A woman in the Far West was a blessing sent direct from Heaven, or from the East, which was much the same thing in those days.

2 comments:

  1. Great article. Any suggestions on where to find a copy of 10,000 Miles by Stage? I would like to acquire a copy.

    -- Smittie

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    1. I am so glad you asked! I mistakenly have the title as 10,000 but it should be 15,000 Miles by Stage. You can find the book on amazon.com but you have to have the correct title. I'll try to get this fixed. Thanks so much for your comment!

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