1822 : First Stagecoach Line Established Out of Detroit

May 31, 2022 all-day

The Detroit Gazette printed this announcement on May 31, 1822 regarding the very first stagecoach run outside of the city and immediate area:

“Judge Clemens … has recently established a stage to leave this City weekly after the arrival of the steamboat and to arrive at the seat of Justice in Macomb Co. on the same day. Seats may be taken at the very low price of one dollar.”

More About Stagecoach routes in Michigan

Christian Clemens established a weekly stagecoach route between Detroit and Mount Clemens (a town that Clemens founded) in 1822. In his article “On the Michigan Stage” (Michigan History magazine, Sept/Oct 2005), LeRoy Barnett cites Clemens’ 1822 route as “the first concrete evidence of a stagecoach running in Michigan.”

Detroit naturally became a hub for stagecoach lines. Several stagecoach routes began in 1826, connecting Detroit to Toledo, Ann Arbor and Pontiac. Service expanded to Niles around 1830 and to Chicago by 1833. A stage connected Detroit to Lansing (established as the capital in 1847) by 1852. Grand Rapids, a hub in the Western part of the state, first became accessible by stage in 1833. Afterwards, service to and from Grand Rapids greatly expanded. By 1856, the city could boast eleven regular stage lines.

Taverns tended to spring up along roads traveled by stagecoaches, or vice versa. Perhaps stage lines sought out places where taverns were located. After all, dust is not a recent development.

Tavern visitors could receive a bed and/or a meal, a forerunner of the now popular bed & breakfast.

In “Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State,” noted historian Willis F. Dunbar notes that “accommodations were crude and often inadequate, but food was abundant and friendliness the rule.”

The Walker Tavern, now part of the Michigan Historical Museum system, provides a connection to that era. Purchased by the Walker family in 1843, it proved a popular stop for stagecoach passengers traveling from Detroit to Chicago.

Stagecoach service declined as railroad service became more readily available. Contrary to popular belief, however, stagecoaches did not completely disappear until the age of the automobile. LeRoy Barnett notes that 37 stagecoach lines were listed in 1897 Michigan gazetteers and that four stagecoach lines were still running in Michigan as late as 1927.

Detroit Gazette, May 31, 1822.

Bill Loomis, Before the Motor City : The Horse Age in Detroit, , Detroit News, November 30, 2014.

Dave Rogers, “Stagecoach Coming! Yup, Pardner, Michigan Had Stagecoaches, Robberies Too“, MyBayCity.com, April 10, 2015.

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