The Old Stagecoach Line

Imagine you wanted to take a trip to Tampa this weekend. How would you get there? Would you travel by car, by airplane, or maybe by bus? If we were living a hundred years ago, you might even choose to go by steamship or by train. Now imagine a time when none of those forms of transportation were an option for most destinations. How did people get around Florida in those days? One option was to take the stagecoach line.

Illustration of a stop along the stagecoach line on the King's Road, from Charles W. Bockelman's The King's Road to Florida (1975).

Illustration of a stop along the stagecoach line on the King’s Road in northeastern Florida, from Charles W. Bockelman’s The King’s Road to Florida (1975).

The stagecoach lines in Florida started out as routes for the U.S. Postal Service, which needed to establish good roads for transporting mail from place to place. Railroads and steamships carried the mail whenever possible, but for many frontier post offices in the interior these simply weren’t available yet.

Travelers needed good roads as much as letters did, and over time the Postal Service began turning its routes over to private companies, which built more comfortable horse-drawn coaches to carry both mail and passengers between communities. One of the earliest examples of this was the Concord Stagecoach Line, which connected Tampa and Palatka. The Concord was later purchased by Hubbard L. Hart, who operated steamships along the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers. As steamboat and railroad transportation became more widely available, stage lines were often integrated into the companies that operated them, connecting Florida’s main traffic routes with even the smallest communities.

Broadside announcing Hubbard Hart’s management of the old Concord Stagecoach Line (1855).

Stagecoach lines were a professional affair like modern bus or air lines, with tickets and schedules and regular routes. The ride, however, was anything but smooth. Florida’s rough and varied terrain made any cross-state journey difficult and lengthy. Primitive unpaved roads permitted speeds of only a few miles per hour, and crossing rivers often involved waiting for ferries. Most trips took multiple days, with passengers staying in hotels or boarding houses along the way. The Concord stage line between Tampa and Palatka, for example, stopped at Ocala and Melendez (modern-day Brooksville) overnight.

The stagecoach lines were a handy option for early travelers, but their time grew short once the railroad appeared on the scene. Florida was slow to exploit the “iron horse” at first, but after the Civil War railroads began criss-crossing the state, rendering many of the old stage routes obsolete. Trains simply carried mail and passengers faster and more efficiently than horse-drawn carriages.

A few relics of the stagecoach era can still be found here and there around Florida. Several counties have roads with names like “Old Post Road” or “Stagecoach Road” indicating where stage lines once operated. One community near Wesley Chapel even has the name “Stagecoach Village.” The old Concord Stage Line ran through the area a few miles away, and an explanatory historical marker is located along one of the main streets.

Historical marker for the Concord Stagecoach Road. Photo courtesy of Jeff Miller of the West Paco Historical Society.

Historical marker for the Concord Stagecoach Road. Photo courtesy of Jeff Miller of the West Paco Historical Society.

What former highways pass through your Florida community? Get the conversation started by posting a comment or sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter!

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8 thoughts on “The Old Stagecoach Line

  1. I am 70. When I was a little girl, my great grandmother used to tell me stories about when she was a little girl growing up in Indiana. Apparently, they lived near the stage coach road and had some responsibility in the community. They would go down and wait for the coach to come through, leave its parcels and mail and then they’d watch it leave until they could no longer see it. I thought then and still do that that was pretty cool!

  2. A stage coach stop and hotel existed in Oak Grove – north Okaloosa -then Walton county in the 1830s to 1870s . Stage coach ruts have been found in the old trail leading to Oak Grove . The rail road came here in 1882 and the stage coach service diminished. A 5th Great Grandfather of mine Joab Horne came there in 1828 and received land there for service in the American Rev.

    • My name is Don Perring, I live in Crestview and have been doing detecting for historical places in the county as well as Walton County. I would like to meet you to discuss Oak Grove as I am interested in any information on the stage roads. Thank You 850-689-1731

  3. My great grandfather Allen Scott Dennison was a stagecoach driver for the Concord/Apopka Stagecoach lines, and he drove from Ft. Brooke (Tampa) to Ft. King (Ocala). I believe his father was also a Stage coach driver but I haven’t completed the link yet. One of the notable things about the stagecoach route was at the crossing of Livingston Ave where it crosses I275. The 13 mile creek passed under the roadway and made such a loud racket that it was called Roaring Gulch. This is located where present Day Vandervoort Rd. meets Livingston Ave and the Interstate.

  4. I live in Panama City Fl. A few of my great aunts and and a few of my elderly relatives tell me of a stagecoach line that used to move between Pensacola and southport with a stop just off of what is now Hwy 77 2 miles north of Southport. Is there any kind of proof to substantiate this claim. I am a metal detecting hobbyist and would love to find this area if it does exist.

  5. My grandmother-in-law pasted in 2002 at the age of 96. She used to tell stories of riding stagecoach with her mother fro St. Andrew’s (Panama City) to Mobile. Stopping at Green Springs. Then on to the ferry to cross Mobile Bay.

  6. My great grandparents (Cason’s) lived and worked in a town they called O’lena. I have found a O’leno State Park but not the town. Gr-grandfather ran the grist mill in town and Gr-grandmother worked at the stage coach station issuing tickets and taking care of luggage. If anyone knows any info please let me know. Thank you.

    • Hi Dorothy,

      Thank you for your message. I think I may have some answers for you. There have been two post offices called “Leno” in Florida. One was in Columbia County from 1876 to 1890 – the other was located in Clay County from 1895 to 1918. Based on the timeline of stagecoach lines, I’m thinking your great-grandparents may have been associated with the one in Columbia County. According to maps from the 1880s (like the one I’ve excerpted below), Leno was located in the extreme northeast corner of Township 7 South, Range 17 East. We can use the post office application to get a little more specific if you need to. We offer some tips on researching ghost towns in this YouTube video:

      Leno Map Excerpt

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