As It Was: Animals Provide Early California Transportation

Aug 14, 2018

Shasta, once known as the Queen City of Northern California, was the business and transportation center of pack strings and freight wagons.

Before wagons arrived in Shasta, mule trains carried all supplies north from 1849 to 1851.  It was estimated that more than 2,000 mules passed through Shasta, carrying everything from kegs of whiskey and nails to crates of laying hens, rocking chairs, furniture, lumber, and hydraulic pipe.

When freight wagons arrived in Shasta after August 1851, the Monroe and Co. Stage Service initiated a semi-weekly stage from Sacramento to Shasta.  The three-day trips left from either city on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

The dust that covered everything in summer became axle-deep mud in winter.  Passengers, men and women alike, often had to get out and walk or help shove the stage up a steep hill or out of a muddy hole.  Iron wheels, as well as horse shoes, sparked on rough rocks.

Freight trains especially found the rugged terrain taxing.  Very proud lead horses kept alert to their freighters’ voices and wore bells to warn teams headed the other way.

It was a rare driver or freighter who failed to take great care of his team.

Source: Nielsen, Beatrice W. "The Saga of a Trail." The Covered Wagon, 1968, pp. 4-45.