35 – Rare Stagecoach Artifact

By Museum of Northwest Colorado

Although stagecoaches were a major part of life in early Northwest Colorado, surprisingly few artifacts remain. This brass luggage tag is from the Wolcott, Steamboat Springs and Hahn’s Peak Stage Co. – it’s one of only a couple known to exist. Northwest Colorado is considered one of the last regions in the U.S. to rely on horse-drawn stages for transportation. In fact it wasn’t until around 1915 that local stagecoaches became obsolete due to the proliferation of the automobile and improved roads. One of the main companies ferrying people in and out of our region was the Wolcott, Steamboat Springs and Hahn’s Peak Stage Company. The stage company was incorporated in 1898 and managed by D.W. Whipple.
D.W. and his father were some of the earliest residents into the Yampa Valley in 1879. The stage was the main line to the fast-growing town of Steamboat Springs. From Wolcott, CO (the closest railroad depot at the time) it was a 2-day, arduous trip with an overnight layover in Yampa, CO. When train service finally reached Steamboat in 1909, the Wolcott-Steamboat stage route was no longer needed and Whipple was left with just his stage operation from Steamboat to Hahns Peak. However, just a few months after the arrival of the railroad, Whipple’s livery barn in Downtown Steamboat was destroyed by a fire that also destroyed The Pilot newspaper office. With his business a relic of a bygone era, Whipple auctioned his remaining horse herd and soon moved to California to try his hand at mining until his death in 1943. His body was returned to Steamboat and is buried in the Steamboat cemetery next to his father. Fortunately both stagecoaches belonging to Whipple’s company still exist! “The Pilot” and “The Sentinel”, named after the 2 Steamboat newspapers of the day, are both on display for viewing. The Pilot lives on the grounds of the Steamboat Springs Chamber and Visitor Center and the Sentinel is displayed at the Hahns Peak Historical Society Museum.
*Brass luggage tag generously on loan from Wyman Museum