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Taking the Stage out of Red Bluff in 1873


In a letter written to his cousin in Massachusetts, Joel Shepard describes a stage ride in 1873. He wrote, “As we leave Red Bluff (Calif.) we strike out into a wilderness of mountains through which the Sacramento and Pit Rivers come rushing with inexpressible force.  For awhile we follow the windings of the rivers, now cross on the rude ferry board, now zigzag (or, as the drivers express it, ‘jack knifing’) up a precipitous height of perhaps a thousand feet …when … it looks as though a single misstep of the horses would plunge us headlong into the fury.

“Now ... rushing down, down, turning a sharp corner, perhaps a long spiral curve but always at such a fearful pace that one … shudders and thinks ‘this is the end,’ but (at) …the bottom the voice of the … driver is heard. ‘Steady there boys,’ and in an instant we are again moving slow and the panting horses preparing for another long and strong pull… these drivers … (are) as fearless and accurate in handling the reins as the looms that weave out cloth…”

Source: Shepard, Joel A. "Joel Anson Shepard Letters to His Cousin Zilpha Shepard." Siskiyou Pioneer, The 9.2 (2012): 89-93. Print.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.