”Knights of the Whip” history comes to life

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Visitors to the Sacramento Valley Museum in Williams last Saturday took a step back into time to the days of the 49ers, the old pioneers, and the noble profession of the stagecoach driver.
Historian Lee Dummel spoke in character as real life “Knight of the Whip,” William Bull Meek, during a special presentation on the history of stagecoaches.

Historian Lee Dummel spoke in character as real life “Knight of the Whip,” William Bull Meek, during a special presentation on the history of stagecoaches.
“The stagecoach is probably the most iconic symbol of the Old West,” said Dummel, a member of the Oregon-California Trails Association. “There have been many books published, and there have been many movies made about stagecoaches. Almost every western had stagecoaches in them.”

“The stagecoach is probably the most iconic symbol of the Old West,” said Dummel, a member of the Oregon-California Trails Association. “There have been many books published, and there have been many movies made about stagecoaches. Almost every western had stagecoaches in them.”
Mary Schaefer, a member of the Stirling City Historical Society, also spoke in character as several of the rare women stagecoach drivers, including infamous Sadie Orchard and Amy Morrison.

Mary Schaefer, a member of the Stirling City Historical Society, also spoke in character as several of the rare women stagecoach drivers, including infamous Sadie Orchard and Amy Morrison.
Stagecoaches were the most prolific way to transport people and merchandise in the days before the railroad, and both men and women braved the elements and desperadoes as they traversed from the East to the West, especially during the days of the Gold Rush.

Stagecoaches were the most prolific way to transport people and merchandise in the days before the railroad, and both men and women braved the elements and desperadoes as they traversed from the East to the West, especially during the days of the Gold Rush.
Although crude horse-drawn coaches existed in the days of the Roman Empire, stagecoach lines rose in England in the 1700s, and were brought to the American colonies by the English, Dummel said.

Although crude horse-drawn coaches existed in the days of the Roman Empire, stagecoach lines rose in England in the 1700s, and were brought to the American colonies by the English, Dummel said.
With rougher terrain, American stagecoaches took on a heartier built, and could transport up 12 people and a cache of goods. They operated in the Old West mostly from the 1840s to the 1880s, and were lifelines to the western territories, Dummel said.

Dummel’s character, Bull Meek, as he was known, was a pioneer “knight of the whip” in the Yuba County area, who drove freight wagons over the Henness Pass in his youth, and served for many years as a Wells Fargo agent in Camptomville.
Meek, who died in 1936 at the age of 79, was also a historian whose mission was to preserve the history of the stagecoach and Old West.

Meek, who died in 1936 at the age of 79, was also a historian whose mission was to preserve the history of the stagecoach and Old West.
Although most stage drivers were men, it was not exclusive.

Although most stage drivers were men, it was not exclusive.
Charley Parkhurst, born Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst (1812–1879), was known as One-Eyed Charley or Six-Horse Charley. She was discovered to be a woman only upon her death, Dummel said.

Charley Parkhurst, born Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst (1812–1879), was known as One-Eyed Charley or Six-Horse Charley. She was discovered to be a woman only upon her death, Dummel said.
Sadie Orchard was another fascinating character, as Schaefer portrayed. Orchard owned several brothels, as well as a stage line in New Mexico, and was known to take the reigns of the horses when occasions demanded.

Sadie Orchard was another fascinating character, as Schaefer portrayed. Orchard owned several brothels, as well as a stage line in New Mexico, and was known to take the reigns of the horses when occasions demanded.
Orchard’s coach line ran passengers and fright between the rail station at Lake Valley, New Mexico, and the mining towns of Hillsboro and Kingston.

Orchard’s coach line ran passengers and fright between the rail station at Lake Valley, New Mexico, and the mining towns of Hillsboro and Kingston.
Former slave Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary, was the first African-American woman star route mail carrier in the United States. She also owned a restaurant and a laundry.

Former slave Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary, was the first African-American woman star route mail carrier in the United States. She also owned a restaurant and a laundry.
“She was an amazing woman,” Schaefer said.

“She was an amazing woman,” Schaefer said.
About a dozen people attended the presentation.

About a dozen people attended the presentation.
“It was very interesting, and I learned a lot about stagecoaches, ” said Theresa Bright, who, along with her husband and other visitors, watched an extensive slide show compiled from the many photographs of stagecoaches that remain in existence.

“It was very interesting, and I learned a lot about stagecoaches, ” said Theresa Bright, who, along with her husband and other visitors, watched an extensive slide show compiled from the many photographs of stagecoaches that remain in existence.
The collection included two photographs from the 1880s of actual stage robberies.

The collection included two photographs from the 1880s of actual stage robberies.
Bright and her husband Ron, of Williams, lived in New Mexico for three years when he worked for the U.S. Forest Service, and both were particularly interested in the history of the stage lines that operated in that area.

Bright and her husband Ron, of Williams, lived in New Mexico for three years when he worked for the U.S. Forest Service, and both were particularly interested in the history of the stage lines that operated in that area.
Theresa Bright said that while she didn’t know positively before Saturday’s presentation that woman took to such difficult work, she certainly was not surprised.

Theresa Bright said that while she didn’t know positively before Saturday’s presentation that woman took to such difficult work, she certainly was not surprised.
“There were a lot of women in the Wild West that were pretty tough,” she said.

“There were a lot of women in the Wild West that were pretty tough,” she said.
Sacramento Valley Museum President Arno Martini said he was delighted to bring the stagecoach presentation to Williams.

Sacramento Valley Museum President Arno Martini said he was delighted to bring the stagecoach presentation to Williams.
Martini has known Dummel for several years, and has worked with him on several historical projects in Northern California.

Martini has known Dummel for several years, and has worked with him on several historical projects in Northern California.
“I enjoy the old history of the area, and the geology,” Martini said.

“I enjoy the old history of the area, and the geology,” Martini said.
Martini said he hopes to find the location and do an archaeological dig of several historical sites in this area, including an old stage stop.

Martini said he hopes to find the location and do an archaeological dig of several historical sites in this area, including an old stage stop.
“I’m currently working on getting permission to get on the ranch,” he said. “I really think we can find something.”

“I’m currently working on getting permission to get on the ranch,” he said. “I really think we can find something.”
He also hopes to bring other historical presentations to the museum for the public to enjoy.

He also hopes to bring other historical presentations to the museum for the public to enjoy.
Dummel, a former law enforcement officer, does several from the Old West era, including one on firearms, Martini said. ■

Dummel, a former law enforcement officer, does several from the Old West era, including one on firearms, Martini said. ■