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GENEALOGY by Carolyn Feroben

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Continuing  from May 6, 2007 : (Genealogy By Carolyn )

An Account of the Enterprising Spirit That Operated The First Stage in the Valley
By May S Corcoran

Reared in the Green Mountains of Vermont, where love for horses, scenery and human sympathy were his chief characteristics, called to bridgeport, Mariposa county in 1854 by the lure of gold, Henry Washburn soon wearied of an  isolated miner's life and drifted into  the livery stable business in Mariposa.  There he married the beautiful poetess, Miss Jean Bruce, whose father was a prominent druggist, and her dreams lighted his practical views of Yosemite.
(see the Bruce Family Chronicle- by Tom Bruce Phillips)

When in 1866 the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Trees came under state control these dreams assumed definite shape.  Looking toward the growth of transportation facilities, Henry Washburn and his partner, Jack McCready, began expending more money on their horse stock.

In 1870 they built the road from White and Hatch in the Upper Chochilla district to Clark's Station on the Mann Brothers' trail, which the citizens of Mariposa county purchased and presented to the state.

Upon the death of Mr. McCready in 1872, Wash Chapman and William Coffman took over that interest and organized a company that obtained the right to extend a "toll road across the Fremont grant on the southside of the Merced river."

In January, 1875, Messrs. Washburn, Chapman and Coffman purchased Clark's Station from Galen Clark and Edwin Moors, and on May 5, 1875, commenced work on the road from Big Tree Station to Yosemite, which road already existed in a crude way, but which from that time  was glass-like in perfection.

On July 22, 1875, a celebration staged in the valley marked the opening of the "Big Tree Station and Yosemite Valley road."

Henry Washburn's great work was begun.  What he accomplished was simply told by the late Senator Stephen M. White, whose memory as one of  their first and most able members is still enshrined in the parlors of the Native Sons of California.
"I have ridden upon stage coaches off and on for a number of years," said Mr. White, "and was familiar with this method of convayance in the earlier days of California, and I do not believe that I have ever ridden in more comfortable wagons than those which are used to accommodate the Yosemite tourists over this route.  The coaches used by the Wawona stage line are exceedingly comfortable and well equipped.  the stock is good, the drivers (Mariposa boys  chiefly) are courteous."

The personnel of  the management changed to Washburn and Bruce, then to Washburn Brothers, but Henry Washburn remained the outstanding figure, and the  most beautiful element in all his work was the almost reverent loyalty of these Mariposa and Fresno boys to their employer.  "To him," said the later Senator Goucher, "the stable boy, hosteler, driver and guide were as good as the traveling nobility or tourist millionaire.  Such was his  nature that he respected manhood through the humblest garb. The advocating fixed no rule for measuring another's worth."

During the happy decade, 1890-1900, he never missed a summer morning on the porch at Wawona.  The August sun rose very early while frost glistened on treetops and dewdrops sparkled in azaleas,  but never too early for Henry Washburn's graceful farewell to his guests, or the drivers' glad clutch on the ribbons, as dashing up from the barns in perfect precision, horse hoofs beat a quickstep on the rounding road, and galvanic tissues of life  lent to the day a zest no steam carriage can radiate.

A friend to all, his pride centered particularly in one  equipment.  Alert with the spirit of morn, gorgeous in silvered buckles and bits were the horses, gay with new paint and fresh washing the stage coach, but brighter than either the man on the box- George Monroe.  Wide was the brim of his costly sombrero, white gauntlets embroidered in silk, the gloves on his shapely hands, and polished like mirrors his bootlegs."

Of the later, (George Monroe)  Commissioner Ben Trutnan, in an article published 1896 quoted the following words form Mr. Washburn:
"after an experience of nearly forty years and having had as much as fifty regular drivers some seasons, I have never known another such as an all-round reins man as George Monroe.  He was a wonder in every way.  He had names for all the horses, and they all knew their names.  Sometimes he spoke sharply to one or more of them, but generally he addressed them pleasantly.  He seldom used a whip, except to crack it over their heads.  Metaphorically, he spoke daggers, but used none.  He drove over my lines for nearly twenty years and never injured a person.  I always put him on the box when there was a distinguished party to be driven, and fast and showy was expected or necessary, and he never disappointed me or exceeded the limit schedule or fell behind.  Once, coming down the last grade in Mariposa his brake broke short off while his teams were on a clean run, and he dashed the whole outfit into a chaparral clump .  In less than two hours he had the animals extricated, the stage pulled out, and was trotting in to Mariposa. He came into Merced on time; the fourteen passengers made up a purse of $70 for him, and two English ladies abroad sent him acceptable Christmas presents annually until I informed them of his death some years later."

               MONROE, George F.
               November 27, 1886 Mariposa Gazette                               Death of George F. MONROE.

               The never welcome, but none the less inevitable visitor, Death, has again made his appearance in our
               community and with but slight warning laid his icy hand upon one whose familiar face and form will be long
               and well remembered. George F. MONROE, the subject of this notice, was a native of Georgia, and a son of
               Mr. and Mrs. L. A. MONROE. His father came to California early in the fifties, locating first in Calaveras
               County, and thence removing to Mariposa in 1854. His mother arrived the following year, leaving George,
               (then about 11 years of age) at school in Washington D.C. A year later he accompanied his uncle to
               California, coming direct to Mariposa. As a boy he was civil, polite, studious and industrious. As he grew
               to manhood he tired of the monotony of town life, and developing a natural taste for horse breaking, riding
               and driving team, he entered the employment of A. H. WASHBURN & CO., as a Yo Semite guide in 1866. In 1868
               he commenced driving stage for the same company and was in their service up to the date of his illness
               which was only a few days duration. He left the Valley on the 15th inst., for Wawona, and two or three days
               later for the home of his parents on Pea Ridge, where he died on Monday last. He had been complaining for
               some time past and in coming out of the Valley the stage in which he was riding upset by a runaway. He may
               have received some internal injury from the shock, though he was on his feet in an instant and
               instinctively sprang to the heads of the leaders and assisted the driver in disentangling the horses and
               righting the stage. His funeral took place on Wednesday last from the Methodist Church, and his remains
               were followed to their earthly resting place by a large concourse of friends. George was a universal
               favorite among those who knew him boyhood, as well as hundreds of stranger tourist whom he has guided and
               conveyed to and from Yo Semite Valley. He was kind, attentive and obliging to all with whom he came in
               contact, and many a tourist has visited Yo Semite who came specially consigned to the care of " George
               Monroe" by friends who had preceded them over the road. He has also been frequently remembered in
               complimentary letters and occasionally by substantial tokens of gratitude and esteem. The duties of the
               driver of a six horse stage on a mountain road are arduous and responsible. They require a quick eye, a
               skillful hand, a steady nerve and a peculiar knowledge of horses. George possessed all these qualities to a
               remarkable degree. His employers say of him " he never met with any accident, never failed to be on time
               and never cost the company a quarter of a dollar for damages to passengers, horses or vehicles. Whenever
               George was on the box and held the lines, we knew everything was all right. He always did his duty." Can
               any man do any more? To his parents he was a dutiful son, as a child, and in manhood a comfort, solace and
               support to their declining years. The grief stricken couple have the sympathy of their entire circle of
               friends and acquaintances. 

History and Genealogy just go to gether!


Carolyn Feroben
Mariposa County History and Genealogy Research



Sunday May 13, 2007
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