Winter Travel over the Siskiyous on a Stagecoach
Friday August 5, 2005
By Maryann Mason
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
In modern cars we comfortably travel paved roads over mountain passes in minutes. But in the 1800s, mountain travel over dirt roads was not for the faint-of-heart, especially in winter.
In December 1892, Sarah Williams went home to visit her sick mother in Siskiyou County, California. Later Sarah wrote about the frightening stagecoach ride she took to get there.
While traveling a mountain road to Callahan, the snow was so deep that several male passengers took turns standing on the coach step, leaning toward the bank to keep the stage from plunging into a ravine on the other side. Since it was very cold, the stage driver and the men on the step took turns drinking whiskey to keep warm. By the time they reached the summit, they were drunk.
When Sarah was offered whiskey she replied, "I would rather freeze than touch intoxicating liquor." Being the only sober passenger as the coach descended the mountain road, Sarah took the reins, driving four horses for the first time.
Safely in Callahan, exhausted and numb from the cold, she told the men, "I have demonstrated a woman can endure cold without taking whiskey!" She then rushed home to see her dying mother.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Maryann Mason, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
White, Sarah (nee Sarah E Williams). "Stage Coach Days," Siskiyou Pioneer in Folklore, Fact, and Fiction. Siskiyou County Historical Society. 1948.