The Butterfield Overland Mail Trail was a stagecoach service in the United States, operating from 1857 to 1861. It carried passengers and U.S. Mail from two eastern termini, Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri to San Francisco, California.
The routes from each eastern terminus met at Fort Smith, Arkansas, and then continued through Indian Territory, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Baja California, and California ending in San Francisco.
Prior to this, U.S. Mail bound for the Far West had been transported by ship across the Gulf of Mexico to Panama, where it was freighted across the isthmus to the Pacific, then taken by ship for points in California.
During the 1860s there were few routes westward and the Overland Stagecoach Route was one of the primary routes and had to be kept open for settlers, miners and businessmen traveling west.
Because the Overland Stagecoach route was being harassed by bandits and Indians, Lincoln's War Department responded by assigning a detachment from the 9th Kansas Cavalry in the Wyoming Territory.
In March 1860, the Overland Stage Company was taken over because of the debt owed to Wells Fargo and as a result John Butterfield was forced out of the business. Butterfield's assets as well as those of the Pony Express were to wind up with the Wells Fargo partners.
Employing over 800 at its peak, it used 250 Concord Stagecoaches and 1800 head of stock, horses and mules and 139 relay stations or frontier forts in its heyday. The last Oxbow Route run was made 21Mar1861 at the time of the outbreak of the Civil War. The Civil War started on 12Apr1861.
In March 1861, before the American Civil War had actually begun at Fort Sumter, the US Government formally revoked the contract of the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach Company in anticipation of the coming conflict.
The route and service ceased on 30Jun1861.