Collect • Preserve • Interpret
   Facebook    Twitter    Pinterest    Instagram    YouTube    Subscribe
Wyoming State Museum
Barrett Building
2301 Central Avenue
Cheyenne, Wy 82002
(307) 777-7022

Previous Featured Artifacts



Treasure Box from the Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage

Category: Transportation

In 1875, the Wyoming Territorial Legislature passed a bill authorizing the creation of a stage service between the city of Cheyenne and the Black Hills of Dakota Territory. Gold had recently been discovered there and Cheyenne city leaders were eager to cash in on the rush of people heading north hoping to strike it rich. At 7:00 a.m. on February 3, 1876, the first coach of the newly formed Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage, Mail and Express Line pulled up in front of Cheyenne’s Inter Ocean Hotel to pick up seven passengers. The trip was advertised to take five days. The stage company, started by William Brown and his son-in-law Frank Yates, was purchased days later on February 12, by the Gilmer and Salisbury Stage Company. The Gilmer and Salisbury Company ran stage lines throughout the West.

The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage ran from Cheyenne north to Fort Laramie and from there to Custer City in the Black Hills. Deadwood was added to the line later in 1876. From early in the company’s brief history, its stagecoaches were a target of robbers. Prospectors headed to Deadwood in the coach usually had money to help get them started in their new career. Gold was regularly shipped to Cheyenne from the mines of the Black Hills and one shipment in January 1877 was estimated to be worth $30,000 ($679,000 in 2012).

The Gilmer and Salisbury Stage Company had run coaches further west for a number of years, and was no stranger to the needs of a stage line. The treasure box seen here was first used on company coaches in Nevada and California before being installed in one of the Cheyenne to Deadwood coaches. On the Cheyenne and Black Hills route, however, boxes such as this seemed to do little to deter robberies, so a new safe was built by a company in Cincinnati and installed in August, 1877. It was mentioned in the Cheyenne Daily Leader.

“This iron box, or safe, was manufactured recently in Cincinnati for the special use of this company. . . . Its size is 16x30 inches. The sides, end, top and bottom are three inches thick, leaving a space 10x24 inches for the storage of valuables. The latest style Yale lock is used, and the manufacturer warrants that the safe cannot be opened inside of six days by any means except knowledge of the combination.”

It did not live up to expectations. One was stolen in a coach robbery at Canyon Springs in 1878, and the thieves were said to have opened it within two hours.

This box was donated to the museum by Russell Thorpe whose father bought the Cheyenne to Black Hills stage line in May, 1883, and ran it until 1887. It measures 19” wide by 8.5” tall by 9.5” deep. Faintly visible on the top of the box are the letters “G.S.” for Gilmer and Salisbury Stage Company, a reminder of this artifact’s widespread use across the American West.

Written by Jim Allison