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BERINGER

THE PASSING OF A SIERRA KNIGHT

BY BEN C. TRUMAN

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F all the notable California you to San Diego, but they were

characters of thirty-five and celebrated more or less throughout

forty years ago there was none the country; for they had driven so courtly, so gallant, so picturesque Grant and Sherman, Hayes and or so generally intelligent as the Garfield, Blaine and Colfax, CamKnight of the Lash, and especially eron and Richardson, Mark Twain of the Sierra. But the stage drivers and Artemus Ward, Carl Schurz of those days have all or nearly all and Edwin Forrest, Julia Dean passed over the last divide, and and Grace Greenwood, and thouhave left none to succeed them, ex- sands of other eminent persons. cept that the evolution has not done The stage driver of the days alaway with perfectly safe and satis- luded to almost always an factory driving. Such Jehus as Foss Apollo, and the best dresser on the the elder and Foss the younger, road; his clothes being dark and Baldy Green and Hank Monk, Billy made to order, his hat a creamHamilton and Buffalo Jim, Hill colored felt, and his gauntlets the Beechy and George Monroe, Chero- finest worn in any land; his boots kee Bill and E. W. Church, and fitted like gloves, his shirt was spotscores more of their kind, were not lessly clean, his cravat was always only known intimately from Siski- genteelly adjusted, and he used a

was

whip of a regular shape and perfect- stretch is a continuous succession ness, designed and manufactured by of the letter S, winding in and out Main & Winchester. He was greatly in many places so sharply as to respected by all who traveled, and make the turns seem nearly imposadmired by every woman who knew sible or thrillingly dangerous and him; because he was chivalrous and to make the three teams of horses punctillious, reliant and kind. He form the three sides of the letter. was the oracle of the barn, the inn The General sat with the driver, and the station; a good talker, gen- of course, and was in ecstacies all erally, and a superb listener. He the way, as he had never witnessed smoked only the best cigars, was such a splendid exhibition of mounextremely moderate in the use of tain driving before. George Monroe intoxicants when on duty, and was was also in a paroxysm of joy. He never profane in the presence of was not very light; but his features travelers. He read the Sacramento were as regular as those of a Greek, Union religiously; he loved his and his figure was perfect. His horses better than he did his old dress was a combination of Old folks at home, really, and he swore Mexican and the newest American by Wells, Fargo & Co.

adaptation; his hat a creamy-white, There are just as good and just half-stiff, half-limp, and his gauntas reliable drivers in the Sierras to- lets, costly ones, given him by a day as there were forty years ago. distinguished tourist. But here all similarity ceases. The As he sat there, with his six lines dress of the stage driver of the pres- and long whip, with one foot on the ent day differs in no respect from brake and the other braced against that of the freighter-a limp light the footboard, he arrested the athat, tan or canvas shoes, woolen tention of the illustrious American shirt and overalls, cheap gloves, and soldier and traveler by his side, for generally a rather slouchy appear- he appeared to have as perfect conance and unobtrusive manner. He trol of Henry Washburn's selected has very little to say; merely ans- horses as if the whole turnout were wers when spoken to, and on the an automaton. He would throw whole betrays diffidence or indiffer- those six animals from one side to ence.

the other to avoid a stone or a In all the galleries of Sierra chuck hole as if they were a Knights, from Shasta to Tehachapi, machine a single quadruped; George Monroe, a Mariposa County sometimes a hub would just gently mulatto, was the monarch of all; scrape the bank on the upper side, and when General Grant visited the and in a moment afterward infinitYosemite Valley nearly a quarter esimally overlap the precipice on of a century ago, he accom- the down side. Crack! went his panied, from Merced to Wawona whip, every once in a while, and by Henry Washburn (lately de- down would go the teams on a rapceased), one of the proprietors of turous canter, and around the sharp the Yosemite Stage and Turnpike curves and over plank culverts, and Company; and from that point to up again on a clean run—the crack the Valley, the General and his of the whips making piccolo party were driven by Monroe, then screeches amidst the thunders of about twenty-six, and conceded to the coach and the rushing waters. be the best man that ever held the Had the reins been electric ribbons reins over six horses along that ex- or delicate galvanic threads, or tistremely beautiful twenty-six miles sues of life, they could not have of road.

more adequately or omnipotently As is well known by all visitors conveyed the thoughts and designs to the Yosemite, by Wawona, this of the handsome Jehu to the equine

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sextette, whose dilating nostrils and crack it over their heads. Metapalpitating bodies told of a move- phorically, he spoke daggers, but ment that had probably never been used none. He drove over my lines equaled since the daring son of Nim- for nearly twenty years and never shi drove furiously six thousand injured a person. I always put him years ago.

on the box when there was a disJohn Russell Young once tinguished party to be driven, and ferred to General Grant as the fast and showy driving was exSphinx. But there was another be- pected or necessary, and he never side him that day, for Monroe never disappointed me or exceeded the spoke a word nor turned his head. limit scheduled or fell behind. Once The two were a “Sitting Colossi” in he drove a party from the valley flesh and blood. After the stop at to Madera, à distance of seventy Inspiration Point, however, they miles, in eleven hours, and in two

, mutually relaxed and indulged in hours afterward, in an emergency, conversation until the Valley was took the reins and drove back to reached, when Monroe handed the Wawona. Once, coming down the lines and the whip to the General, last grade into Mariposa, his brake but maintained his seat and foot broke short off while his teams at the brake. In a few years after- were on a clean run, and he dashed ward, Monroe took President and the whole outfit into a chaparral Mrs. Hayes over the same route, clump; in less than two hours he and treated them to some of his had the animals extricated, the most artistic driving. Many distin- stage pulled out, and was trotting guished people have been taken into into Mariposa; he came into Merthe Yosemite Valley by this famous ced on time; the fourteen passendriver, notably Blaine, Garfield, gers made up a purse of seventy Sherman, Dana, the Duke of Cum- dollars for him, and the two Engberland, Dr. Russell, Arthur Sulli- lish ladies aboard sent him acceptvan, George Augustus Sala, Mar- able Christmas presents annually quis of Salisbury, Lady Franklin, until I informed them of his death Lillie Langtry, Princess Louise, and some years later." may others.

The last days of Monroe cast sadOne evening, some years ago, I ness among all who knew him. He was chatting with Henry Wash- had driven daily between Wawona burn about Sierra drivers, and he and the Valley every season for said:

many years without an accident of "After an experience of nearly any kind. No obstacle in the way forty years, and having had as of a fallen tree, fire or sliding rock many as fifty regular drivers some ever deterred or dismayed him. He season, I have never known knew his horses so well, and they other such an all-round reinsman as knew him so well, that they would George Monroe. Just as there are do anything he asked them to do, the greatest of soldiers and sailors, and many a time he has taken them artists and mechanics at times, so carefully over a fallen tree two feet there are greater stage drivers than or more in diameter, without injury their fellows—and George Monroe to animal, harness or vehicle. Thouwas the greatest of all. He was a sands of people have telegraphed wonder in every way.

He had to reserve seats on his stage or names for all his horses, and they have staid

at Wawona to all knew their names. Sometimes drive with him. He was dangerhe spoke sharply to one or more ously, I may say mortally injured, of them, but generally he addressed at last while riding a fractious mule them pleasantly. He seldom that threw him and rolled over on never used the whip, except to him. The next day he was placed

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on a bed made in his own stage, still living and driving over the drawn by his own six horses,

own six horses, Yosemite route is E. W. Church, which, by the way, became unman- who is known by tens of thousands ageable or partly so at the hands of San Franciscans, as he drove beof a new driver, until George drew tween Truckee and Tahoe twentyhimself up, although in dreadful eight years. Church is extremely pain, and talked them out of their proud of the fact that he took Presidisorder. When he arrived at Wa- dent and Mrs. Hayes from Truckee wona, the Washburns lifted him to Tahoe, and that he has taken out of the stage and put him in one nearly all the Governors and Conof the best rooms of their hotel, gressmen of California and Nevada, and gave him as much care and hundreds of newspaper men of the medical aid as if he were one of two States, and many others, intheir family. He was in great pain, cluding many of the finest ladies of but all he said was: “I've driven for San Francisco, between the two the last time, but don't tell my above-named places. This veteran mother.” In a few days, however, whip once said to me: he became impatient to be taken to “There was a time in my life his mother, and was carried down when, I believe, I knew every stone to Mariposa, where he died in her and rut between Truckee and Taarms in a few hours. Although he hoe blindfolded, and my horses was a mulatto, or quadroon, and knew as much as I did. Staging an especial favorite with tourists, in the Sierras is a great art; and he was greatly liked by the other the reason there is seldom or no acdrivers; and Fort Monroe, between cidents is because the drivers have Chinquapin and Inspiration Point, been well-trained elsewhere, and is named after him.

are men of experience and skill, Among a few old Sierra drivers caution and sobriety.

caution and sobriety. Every particle of harness and running gear has been examined before starting; the drivers have absolute control of their teams and vehicles, and a perfect knowledge of the laws of stage motion governs all their acts. One of the most reliable, patient and pleasant of all the Sierra drivers now living—and he looks ten years younger than he is—is Tom Gordon, who would be termed a little fellow if seen on Broadway, but who is as compact as a game-cock; he reminds one of General Grant in face and figure—and is quite as reserved as that illustrious person. Computing the miles and hours Tom has driven during the past twentyfive years, I make it about 40,000 hours; much of this time being in May, June, July, August and September. During these hours he has driven at least 150,000 miles, which would have given him a trip of six times around the earth.”

Another splendid driver, and a George Monroe, Yosemite driver.

great favorite with all who ride

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