Pulaski County Fact Book II
Chapter 11 The Lexington and Monticello Stagecoach Line in Kentucky

The stagecoach lines in Kentucky were a vital asset to the people who traveled throughout Kentucky in the Nineteenth Century. Although there were several stagecoach lines in Kentucky, this research paper will deal mainly with the two specific lines: one at Lexington, which was the first stagecoach line in Kentucky. Also, in relation to the development of stage lines, I would like to show the influence that the development of roads and railroads had on stagecoach lines in Kentucky.

"The first regular stagecoach line was established in Central Kentucky shortly after the beginning of the Nineteenth Century." On Wednesday, August 9, 1803, John Kennedy, a resident of Lexington announced that he had started the first regular stagecoach line in Kentucky, and that it would run from Lexington by Winchester and Mount Sterling to the Olympian Springs in Montgomery County, a distance of about forty-seven miles. Bradford’s Kentucky Gazette carried the notice of the first stage line:

Lexington and Olympian Spring Stage: J. Kennedy, respectfully informs the public that he has Commenced running his stagecoach on the line between Lexington and Olympian Springs at Mud Lick every Thursday morning, at four o’clock precisely to arrive at the Springs the same day.

‘Travelers Hall, owned and operated by Robert Bradley, was selected as the first stage officer for Lexington," This is where the stagecoach left each day, and anyone who wished could catch it there.

John Kennedy advertised the beginning of a stagecoach service to Frankfort every Monday and Friday leaving Lexington at day break, from Mr. Bradley’s Inn. Passengers fare was 9 shillings Each, and each passenger was allowed ten pounds of baggage with a charge of one and one-Half cents per extra pound. The condition of the roads that the stagecoaches traveled betweenLexington and Olympian Springs and Frankfort were bad at times. Roads miry, creeks wereFlooded over their banks, and crossings were numerous. Often parties had to "tote" their packsAcross on logs and swim the horses across.

"People who traveled by stagecoach on the Lexington Line had to abide by certain rules for the safety and benefit of all persons concerned. The following rules are typical of the past rules of the stagecoach era:

  1. The names of passengers must be entered on all weigh bill, and stage fare paid before they enter.
  2. Passenger will be permitted to carry fifteen pounds weight in the stage, trunks at owner’s risk.
  3. No trunks or baggage of any kind can be put on in the stage at one office, to be paid for where they are entered.
  4. Stage agents will carefully examine way bills on arrival of stages to see that all entries check with passengers and trunks.
  5. No stage driver will be allowed to receive stage fare, or sign his name to a way bill; but it shall be his duty to take in passengers on the way bill at the stage office or stand.
  6. The mail bags must at all times be carried inside the stage, to avoid injury from rain, or otherwise.
  7. No person whatever is to go on to the stage free, without written authority form the proprietors or agent.
  8. IT shall be the duty of the stage driver to pay strict attention to the accommodation of passengers, and treat them with the utmost politeness.
  9. Only in case of sickness shall a stage driver employ another to perform his duty, under forfeiture of one month’s salary.
  10. All account against the stage company for work, must be attested by the driver who had it done or by some disinterested person.
  11. All stage drivers on approaching a town, village, or hamlet, shall sound his trumpet so as to give timely alarm; also in overtaking or meeting wagons or carts; and if any wagon or cart driver on having timely notice, refuses to give the road, so that the mail is detained, the drivers are to report such wagons or cart drivers to the proprietors of the line.
  12. Stage agents are requested to post these rules in some part of the stage office or building most convenient for passengers and drivers to see.

These rules were made for the comfort and safety of the passengers.

The travelers in the Bluegrass had very little trouble with highway robberies and hold-ups. Even attempted robberies were rare occurrences. This may be attributed to several reasons: The country was too thickly populated, the principal stages carried the United States mail, and the penalty of highway robbery carried with it the death sentence. Another reason was that most of the passengers in the stages carried letters of credit, checks, and bills of exchange, while those in other parts of the United States and in later times in the West carried cash or gold dust.

The Lexington Line benefited the people of the Bluegrass Region by providing better means of travel and communication by bringing more people, trade and wealth into the area, and by helping to indoctrinate other stagecoach lines as to the proper way of better stagecoach operations. The success of this line paved the way for other lines to operate in the area, thereby increasing even more the facilities for travel and trade between the Bluegrass area and other western settlements.


"The Monticello to Burnside stage line was put into operation on July 17, 1896." This line was privately owned by C.H. Burton. The Lexington Line was not privately owned by one person. From 1896 to 1900 this stagecoach line made six trips daily between Monticello and Burnside, which was a distance of twenty-two miles one way.

The stagecoach, colored red and straw, contained three seats and held a total of nine passengers. If there were more than nine wanting to ride, they could put at least six persons plus the driver on top. The baggage was put on the top and on the back of the coach. At the top of the coach above the door it had the name of the line which was "Burnside to Monticello." This coach, driven by Charles H. Burton, made its last run in 1911.

The road between Monticello and Burnside was very good. This Turnpike type road, composed of a thin layer of crushed stone, was a great improvement over the old dirt roads which stages had to travel in many other parts of Kentucky. Each time the stage made a run, it had to cross the South Fork River at Burnside by ferry. So the roads had to be kept in good condition at all times.

On this line between Monticello and Burnside no robberies were made, except a few thefts once in awhile. During the stagecoach days in Kentucky, if a robbery was attempted and the robbers were caught, the penalty was death, so very few robberies were attempted.

Charles H. Burton was the last man to drive a stagecoach in Kentucky. His son, J.C. Burton has this stagecoach in his possession, and has it on exhibit. Anyone who wishes to see it may do so.

The stagecoach lines were running perfectly until railroad building began. Then the railroads started taking over the stagecoach business, because railroads providing the people with a faster means of travel whereas the stagecoach was slow.

The coming of the railroad to a section helped insure the development of that area. Communities sprang up along the railroad track. Stagecoach roads paralleled the railroads in connecting these communities. The coming of the railroad and its subsequent operation helped give value to the property, including its own.

When railways were first commenced, every owner of property seemed to look upon them as things to be kept at a distance as much as possible, and seriously detrimental to the value of house and land. Now applications are constantly made to railway companies to erect stations on their lines in order to increase the accommodation they afford as much as possible in advertising property to be leased or sold, it is usually described as being within a mile of a railway station; close to a station, with many good service of trains, within a short distance of two railways, with frequent trains.

"Owners of stage lines, were bitter opponents of the railroad, foreseeing that their business might be weakened. As indeed, it was in many cases, ruined by the new enterprise." Most of the stagecoach lines became bankrupt due to the establishment of railroads in their areas. This was the case with the Monticello to Burnside Line and also the Lexington Line. The Lexington Line was put partly out of operation on March 6, 1830, when the Lexington and Ohio railroad was organized. Whereas, the Monticello to Burnside Line was put out of operation in 1908 with the establishment of the Southern Railroad.

Economic demand, however, overcame all objectives, and on March 6, 1830, the Lexington and Ohio railroad was organized. The model for this plan was the result of the investigation of a committee appointed to travel East and ascertain the method of constructing a railroad. By their report, stone was quarried and dressed with one straight edge, to be set upward and closely together, forming exact parallel double lines of curbing. On the face of this, curbing the flat rails were laid more or less in the pattern formed by the rock.

"On the Lexington and Ohio Railroad, the first cars were built on the model of the stagecoaches and drawn by horses. And through the years the railroad progressed until it took over the stagecoach lines." This was the beginning of the railroad era in Kentucky and the time when most stage lines were put out of operation. Yet, the Monticello to Burnside line was started years later. The Lexington and Ohio railroad was the first railroad line put into operation in Kentucky. With this event the railroad era had begun in Kentucky.

Thus, I have traced briefly the development of the two major stagecoach lines in Kentucky from their earliest history to the time when the railroads came, and the golden era of the stagecoach declined.

The stagecoach did play an important part in the history of the settlement of Kentucky and was a great asset to the people in this area by providing better means of travel and communication, by bringing more people, trade and wealth into the area, and by helping to indoctrinate other stagecoach lines as to the proper way of better stagecoach operations. Even though we have more modern and more rapid means of travel now, we have lost the days of exciting and vigorous travel by coach; we have lost a part of our great American heritage … the stagecoach.



Chapter Twelve



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