Enoch Cummings

Sixteen Years and 100,000 Miles

ENOCH CUMMINGS was one of the oldest and best known of all the drivers on the old Overland Stage Line. He was born in Virginia, April 7, 1839, and first drove stage in Ohio in 1853, and two years afterward in West Virginia. He next drove west on the old Butterfield route, the first overland mail to the Pacific, that was started from St. Louis in September, 1858. Still later he drove in Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado. He spent the greater part of sixteen years on the stage box. His first driving in Kansas was along the Kaw river, on the Leavenworth and Fort Riley route, in the service of the Kansas Stage Company.

Cummings, early in 1861, drove on the Salt Lake mail route which ran out of Atchison once a week, from Liberty Farm to Fort Kearney, fifty-five miles. The Salt Lake stages then crossed the South Platte at old Julesburg; thence to the Mormon capital the coaches ran weekly. He relates that on one trip during 1860, when a little east of Lone Tree, soon after the break of day, his attention was attracted by a big cloud of dust a short distance ahead of him. The next thing he saw was a monster buffalo running along the stage trail. This was almost immediately followed by a band of Indians mounted on their ponies in hot pursuit. Cummings was then a "tenderfoot" on the plains--never before having encountered wild buffalo and Indians--and, for a few seconds, thought he would have to make peace with his Maker. The stage halted a short time to let Indians and buffalo go by and over the bluffs. As soon as they had passed he says it gave him great relief. But he finally got used to life on the plains, after punching his way through buffalo and Indians and roughing it for a period of a dozen or more years, in the '60's and '70's.

When the central overland route was opened to the Pacific in 1861, Mr. Cummings was one of the boys who drove on the first daily stage-coach that ever crossed the country to Placerville, California, being employed at the time out on the prairies between Thirty-two-mile Creek and Fort Kearney. The old military post was on the south bank of the Platte, seven or eight miles east of the city of Kearney. Mr. Cummings also held the reins on the first daily Concord coach that came through from Placerville. He has at intervals driven over the entire line between Atchison and old Julesburg (453 miles), being steadily employed on that portion of the road during all the time while the line ran the Platte route.

In 1864 he was promoted to division agent between Atchison and Big Sandy--distance, 140 miles--and subsequently he was employed in the same capacity between Nebraska City and Fort Kearney. He was afterwards employed to move all the coaches, stock, wagons, etc., belonging to the company between Rock Creek and Atchison southwest over the Smoky Hill route. After the Union Pacific road had been completed from Omaha west to the mountains and the stage line that started from Atchison had been abandoned, the Concords ran to Denver for the first time on the Smoky Hill route until the Kansas Pacific railway was finished to Denver, September 1, 1870.

While on the Smoky Hill route Mr. Cummings was employed as division agent between Big Creek and Pond Creek, a distance of 139 miles. In 1866-'67 he finally determined to bid farewell to staging, although getting at the time $200 a month. Sixteen years of almost continuous service, during which time he rode on the box a distance approximating something over 100,000 miles, had satisfied him. He has had a rather eventful life as stagedriver, division agent, cowboy, a rider of the bronco, and a thrower of the lasso, and from saddle and camp life on the plains.

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