1877 - Martha Summerhayes
From San Diego to Yuma
Arizona, not San Diego, was my destination, so we took a hasty breakfast at the hotel and boarded the stage, which, filled with passengers was waiting before the door.
The driver waited for no ceremonies, muttered something about being late, cracked his whip, and away we went. I tried to stow myself and my little boy and my belongings away comfortably, but the road was rough and the coach swayed, and I gave it up. There were passengers on top of the coach, and passengers inside the coach. One woman who was totally deaf, and some miners and blacksmiths, and a few other men, the flotsam and jetsam of the Western countries, who come from no one knoweth whence, and who go, no one knoweth whither, who have no trade or profession and are sometimes even without a name.
They seemed to want to be kind to me. Harry got very stage-sick and gave us much trouble, and they all helped me to hold him. Night came. I do not remember that we made any stops at all; if we did, I have forgotten them. The night on that stagecoach can be better imagined than described. I do not know of any adjectives that I could apply to it. Just before dawn, we stopped to change horses and driver, and as the day began to break, we felt ourselves going down somewhere at a terrific speed.
The great Concord coach slipped, and slid and swayed on its huge springs as we rounded the curves.
The road was narrow and appeared to be cut out of solid rock, which seemed to be as smooth as soapstone; the four horses were put to their speed, and down and around and away we went. I drew in my breath as I looked out and over into the abyss on my left. Death and destruction seemed to be the end awaiting us all. Everybody was limp, when we reached the bottom - that is, I was limp, and I suppose the others were. The stage-driver knew I was frightened, because I sat still and looked white and he came and lifted me out. He lived in a small cabin at the bottom of the mountain; I talked with him some. "The fact is," he said, "we are an hour late this morning; we always make it a point to 'do it' before dawn, so the passengers can't see anything; they are almost sure to get stampeded if we come down by daylight."
I mentioned this road afterwards in San Francisco, and learned that it was a famous road, cut out of the side of a solid mountain of rock; long talked of, long desired, and finally built, at great expense, by the state and the county together; that they always had the same man to drive over it, and that they never did it by daylight. I did not inquire if there had ever been any accidents. I seemed to have learned all I wanted to know about it.
After a little rest and a breakfast at a sort of roadhouse, a relay of horses was taken, and we travelled one more day over a flat country, to the end of the stage-route. Jack was to meet me. Already from the stage I had espied the post ambulance and two blue uniforms. Out jumped Major Ernest and Jack. I remember thinking how straight and how well they looked. I had forgotten really how army men did look, I had been so long away.
Recollections of Army Life of a New England Woman
Reprint of the 2nd ed. (1911) Salem, Mass.