JACK WILLIAMS’ STAGECOACH @ Cruisin’ Cotesworth — April 15, 2023
This year’s Cruisin’ Cotesworth will feature Jack Williams’ beautiful stagecoach. It is part of the event to serve as a visual aid to remind visitors of the history of the stagecoach in the early development of Carroll County. Here’s a little of that history.
In the early years of Carroll County, there were no roads, but instead only trails or paths through the forest as established by the Indians. As settlers made their way to Carroll County, the paths were widened into roads to accommodate horses and wagons. Soon thereafter, stagecoaches began transporting passengers to their destinations.
One of the first stagecoach routes that passed through Carroll County was operated by L. Sims & Brothers. According to WPA reports, the stagecoaches ran a “well-thought-out” route that ran from Canton to Holly Springs and passed through Carrollton, Grenada, Coffeeville, and Oxford. At Holly Springs, travelers could continue either to a railroad line end at Memphis or to Nashville via LaGrange. A ticket from Memphis to Canton would cost the rider $16.50, which is the equivalent of about $600.00 today.
While L. Sims & Brothers promised comfortable, “Troy-built” coaches and safe, accommodating drivers, reports of the time suggested that there were generally nine persons on the inside, and it was not infrequent that as many as nine “took potluck on top with the driver.” The stagecoaches were drawn by four horses with relays every six miles to allow the horses to be changed. According to a March 5, 1892, Conservative article, at Carrollton, one such relay was at a livery stable that once stood where today’s Methodist Church is located. These stagecoaches were very slow and often a trip of approximately 90 miles from Carrollton to Jackson took 72 hours.
At each stagecoach relay, there soon followed taverns and inns that offered travelers room and board. The arrival of the stagecoach was heralded by the clarion notes of the driver’s bugle, which “was an event of no little importance to the tavern landlord, cooks, hostlers, porters, and others.” According to a 1936 story written by Sallie L. Neal, travelers would arrive at the door of the inn and were heartly welcomed. The operator of the inn would take the traveler in, “supply him with a good meat and drink, show him to a four-poster, heavily curtained and valanced bed, arouse and breakfast him in the morning, and send him on his way rejoicing in being able to travel in a civilized manner in a civilized country.” One such inn near Carrollton was owned and operated by the family of T. S. Wiggins. The inn would later be purchased by J. Z. George for use as a residence, which he named “Cotesworth.”
The urge of travelers to get to their destination more quickly promoted change. While early stagecoaches operated during the day, soon night travel was introduced as the postal service began using the stagecoaches to transport mail overnight. Travelers who once passed the night in a local inn would now often only briefly stop to refresh themselves and then “clamber” into their stagecoach seat. This same desire to arrive faster caused stagecoach travel to slowly be replaced by railroad travel, and the sound of the bugle announcing the stage’s arrival soon faded into history.