I rode down to where the coach had been attacked, and saw the dead horse and the ravine from which the Indians had sprung. The fight had evidently been a sharp one, and I could see by the trail that the savages had followed the coach nearly to the ranch, and then struck across toward the Republican, never stopping, in all probability, until they reached it, ninety miles distant.
An idea may be formed of the immense proportions to which the old mail-line service had grown, when in November, 1866, Ben Holliday sold out his interest to Wells, Fargo, & Company. The main line and its branches were transferred for one million five hundred thousand dollars in cash, and three hundred thousand dollars in the stock of the Express Company. This vast sum only covered the animals, rolling stock, stations, etc., but in addition to this, the Express Company was to pay the full value of the grain, hay, and provisions on hand at the time of the transfer, and this amounted to nearly six hundred thousand dollars.
The old line of mail-service continued until its usefulness was gradually usurped by the completion of the Union and Central Pacific railroads. The coaches started daily from the eastern and western terminals of the rapidly approaching iron trail, the gap between them lessening until on the day of driving the last spike with the junction of the rails the old stage-line through the Platte Valley had vanished forever.
From the earliest westward march of civilization, the beautiful valley of the Platte, through which the Salt Lake Trail coursed its way, has been a grand pathway to the mountains, and thence over their snow-capped summits to the golden shores of the Pacific Ocean.
In a little more than a third of a century, through the agency of that grandest of civilizers, the locomotive, the charming and fertile valley has been carved into prosperous commonwealths, whose development from an almost desert waste is a marvellous monument to the restless energy of the American people, and of their power to conquer the wilderness.
In 1842 Lieutenant John C. Fremont travelled up the Blue, on his first exploring expedition, and arrived in the Platte at Grand Island, where the party separated, a portion proceeding up the North Fork of the river, toward Laramie, and another up the South Fork. The following year the great pathfinder ventured on a second expedition by the way of the Kansas and Republican rivers, reaching the Platte at the mouth of Beaver Creek.
In 1847 the Platte Valley became the highway of the Mormons in their wonderful exodus from Illinois to Utah, and ten years later the trails made by that remarkable sect were followed by the rush of pioneers to the newly discovered gold fields of California.