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As It Was: Trip from Sacramento to Portland Exceeds Six Days

A motorist obeying all speed zones can drive nonstop from Portland to Sacramento in 9 hours and 30 minutes.  Coffee, rest area, and lunch breaks might add another hour to the trip.  Compare that with 1860, when the first stage line opened between the two cities, offering a trip of six days and seven hours to cover the 710-mile route.

To provide service along the route, the company used 35 drivers, 28 coaches, 30 stage wagons, and 500 horses.  The stages had four- and six-horse hitches and 60 relay stations.

In California, the proprietors of the Oregon Stage Line advertised daily departures from Sacramento, passing through Marysville and connecting by rail in Oroville with the Oregon line. 

A promotional flyer said, “Travelers avoid risk of ocean travel” and pass through “the most BEAUTIFUL and attractive, as well as some of the most BOLD, GRAND and PICTURESQUE SCENERY” on the Continent.”

The stage headed to Portland from Oroville and overnighted in Yreka and Jacksonville “for passengers to rest.”  Those who opted to lay over could resume their seats within a 30-day period.

It may have been slow, but the one-way fare was only $50.

Source: Potter, Miles F. Oregon's Golden Years. Caldwell, Idaho, The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1976.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.