Frank A Root

Author of The Overland Stage to California

Taken in part from The Overland Stage to California
Frank A Root & William Elsey Connelley

FRANK A ROOT became messenger for the Overland Stage Line in 1863. He'd been the assistant postmaster at Atchison for two years, and prior to that had been employed in a printing office for ten years when he was offered the job, and he was to start in just a couple of days!

His first thought was, "Can I stand such a trip?" And his first trip on the "Overland" as messenger turned out to be the hardest two weeks' work he felt he'd ever done. It was a long and tedious outdoor ride from Atchison, Kansas to Denver, Colorado. A ride of 653 miles with little sleep or rest. While it was almost an impossibility, at first, to sleep on the stagecoach, he made up for all losses later, by taking a Rip Van Winkle snooze when he reached the Denver, the west end of his first journey.

His first trip from Atchison to Denver was a startling one in several respects. He knew that there would be all kinds of dangers: exposure to winter weather, occasional robberies by highwaymen, and assults from hostile Indians scattered about on the plains. But he didn't know that it was the custom of the drivers, when approaching a station at night, to send out a terrible yell. This was done to wake up the stock tender so that the next team would be all harnessed and ready to go. His first thought was of Indians on the war path. Being new on the job, he kept quiet, not wanting to appear afraid. He soon discovered it was just the "Ah-whooh-wah" yell of the driver.

Frank Root's career as a messenger encompassed 32 trips between the Missouri and the Rockies, and riding a distance of over 22,500 miles. He was encouraged years later to write out his reminiscences and put them into book form. This he did in 1901, and his book, The Overland Stage to California remains one of the best histories on stagecoaching in the west.

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