Buffalo Bill's Wild West
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Abbot-Downing Concord Coach


Photograph courtesy of the New Hampshire Historical
Society, 30 Park Street, Concord, N.H. 03301.

The photograph of this coach was taken in the yard of the Abbot-Downing Company, by W. G. Kimball, July 4, 1895. Col. William F. Cody ("Buffalo Bill") held the ribbons, and John F. Burke, the celebrated driver, sat beside him. The coach was built by the Abbot-Downing Company in 1863; shipped from Boston in the clipper ship "General Grant," February 18, 1864, to Louis McLane, San Francisco, President of the "Pioneer State Company," of California. It was one of thirty-two similar coaches shipped to him "round the horn" in 1863-64. It has been across the ocean with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, visiting all the principal cities in Europe; across the Mediterranean Sea twice, and after an absence of 32 years it comes home to Concord, New Hampshire, where it was built, and was exhibited by the Wild West Show, July 4, 1895, to an audience of 20,000 people, who greeted it with unbounded applause. Seven employees of the Abbot-Downing Company rode in the coach, whose average term of service with them is 47 years. This coach has on it the same wheels that were made for it 34 years ago.

The following are names of the most prominent persons who rode in the old "Deadwood Coach" while it was in Europe in 1887-90, as given us by Colonel William F. Cody; Prince and Princess of Wales, President Carnot of France, Emperor of Germany, King of Sweden, King of Italy, Queen of Belgium, Marquis of Butte, King of Belgium, King of Greece, King of Denmark, Marquis of Lorne, Duke of York.

The Wild West Parade

The parade of the Wild West organization at 9:30 was a feature of the day's programme which awakened the heartiest enthusiasm of thousands who lined the route of march. As an indication of the magnitude of the Wild West show the parade was a startling object lesson; and the wonder and admiration of the throng deepened as the several divisions of the parade passed in review. The crowd was dense and every plazza, stoop, burbstone, fence-top, and balcony was converted into a temporary reviewing stand, while standing room was at a premium all along the line. The crowd was an appreciative one and applause was frequent, the cow-boy band coming in for a share at the very head of the line, while the appearance of Colonel Cody (Buffalo Bill) was the signal for an outburst of enthusiastic cheers.

The celebrated scout is growing gray, but be bestrode his spirited charger with all the dash and vigor which carried him over the plains and across vast stretches of hostile country. He is a most commanding figure and the spontaneous tribute of praise which he so gracefully and modestly acknowledged was the genuine American enthusiasm for a MAN.

As escort for the renowned plainsman rode the United Calvary of the World, a troop of picked horsemen from the mounted service of America, Great Britain, France and Germany. Above them waved the twined colors of the United States and England and over the wedded staffs perched a white dove, an emblem of peace.

Rivaling Buffalo Bill in its claim upon the popular fancy was the "Deadwood Mail," the old coach which was built by the Abbot-Downing Company and which left this city 27 years ago to plunge into the most checkered career with which the name of Concord was ever associated. The old coach was warmly welcomed home.

Inside the coach bore Major Lewis Downing, Jr., president of the Abbot-Downing Company, and Hiram Rolfe, James C. Chesley, R. F. Leavitt, Charles P. Virgin, J. J. Milis and George Williams, veteran employees of the Abbot-Downing shops, whose average term of service under this employ is 47 years. These men were godfathers to the "Deadwood Mail" and before the parade the interesting group was photographed by Kimball in the yard of the Abbot-Downing Company shop.

In the reminiscent mood which the associations of the hour invoked, Mr. Smith, declared that he had ironed that identical coach 27 years ago and that he stood ready to substantiate his claim. Producing a pocket knife which he said he had made himself and which, Major Burke said, would be sufficient evidence on the plains to convict a man of murder, Mr. Chesley scraped away the rust from the running gear (the paint had long disappeared) and disclosed the telltale initials.

Buffalo Bill regards the old coach as one of the prime attractions of the Wild West show; and well he may. It's battered sides, it'spaintless panels, it's missing boot, it's rusty iron are eloquent of hard knocks. The vicissitudes of it's career are marvellous. In the day of it's prosperity, glistenig with new paint and varnish, bedecked with gold leaf, every strap new and shining, it traversed the most deadly mail route in the West, from Cheyenne to Deadwood, via Laramie, and through a country alive with the banditti of the plains. The coach was drawn by six horses and carried 18 passengers, two on the box beside the driver, six on top and three quarters of a dozen inside.


The bravest man held the post of honor and the occupant of a driver's seat on the "Deadwood Mail" fought his way to the coveted position and defended his right to it with the vigilance and daring of a feudal king beset by plotting nobles now buried. The old coach here received its "baptism of fire," and during the ensuing summer passed through a variety of similar experiences, being frequently attacked. One of the most terrific of these raids was made by the Sioux Indians, but the assault was successfully repelled, although the two leading horses were killed. Several commerical travelers next suffered from a successful ambush, on which occasion a Mr. Liebman of Chicago was killed, and his companion shot through the shoulder.

After this stormy period it was fitted up as a treasure coach, and naturally bacame an object of renewed interest to the robbers; but owning to the strong force of what are known as "shotgun messengers" who accompanied the coach, it was a long time before the bandits succeeded in accomplishing their purpose. Among the most prominent of these messengers were Scott Davis, a splend scout, and of the self-appointed undertakers of many of the lawless characters of the neighborhood; Boone May, a worthy brother - a twin in courage if not in birth. Few men have had more desperate encounters than he, and the transgressors of the law have had many occasion to feel the results of his keen eye and strong arm whenever it has become necessary to face men who are prepared to "die with their boots on." Still another of these border heroes (for such they must be justly termed) is Gail Hill, now deputy sheriff of Deadwood, and his frequent companion was Jesse Brown, an old-time Indian fighter who has a record of incident and adventure that would make a book. These men constituted a sextette of as brave fellows could be found on the frontier, and their names are all well known in that part of the country.

At last however, some of them came to grief. The bandits themselves, were old fighters. The shrewdness of one party was offset by that of the other, and on an unlucky day the celebrated Cold Spring tragedy occurred. The station had been captured, and the road agents secretly occupied the place. The stage arrived in its usual manner, and without suspicion of danger, the driver Gene Barnett halted at the stable door. An instant afterward a volley was delivered that killed Hughey Stevenson, sent the buckshot through the body of Gail Hill, and dangerously wounded two other of the guards. The bandits then captured the outfit, amounting to some $60,000 in gold. On another accasion the coach was attacked, and when the driver was killed, saved by a woman -MARTHA CANARY, better known as "Calamity Jane." Amid the fire of attack, she seized the lines, and whipping up the team, safely brought the coach to her destination.

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