Cheryl Anne Stapp
Calamity in Jackson
Years after the railroad came to Ione, the stagecoach was still a primary transportation mode in Amador County, and horses used for staging operations, unbroken to the saddle, were still high-strung. In November 1900 a dire accident occurred, involving a baggage wagon owned by the Raggio Brothers Stage Line, who serviced the route between Jackson and the rail station at Ione.
On a Sunday evening, as the baggage wagon was coming around the corner of an old tool house near Jackson, one of the horses inexplicably became frightened. An experienced driver was handling the reins, but he couldn’t hold the team. The horses began to run . . . and ran right into a barbed wire fence.
The already frightened horse, kicking and thrashing to get away from the needle-sharp spikes, sent the wagon smashing against a supporting post, with a loud crack. Boards and baggage flew everywhere; the driver landed on the ground, the harness broke, and one of the lines parted at the horse’s bit. The panicked animal, finding itself free, turned and ran back nearly two miles to Martell Station, the main terminal for stagecoaches servicing the Amador County gold mines.
That was where they caught him. Help from town was called by telephone—a relatively new but welcome convenience—another wagon was taken out, and the baggage and broken wagon brought in. Both horses were somewhat injured, but luckily the driver was not hurt.
Five years later, a rail line was built between Ione and Jackson, and the Martell Station was transformed into a busy railroad depot. By 1921 a new generation, enthralled with mechanized transportation, considered horse-powered stagecoaches and their perils as part of a picturesque past.