Western Overland Routes


13 August 2018 Update - The sale is over. Any unsold items have been moved to regular inventory on the census site. Page is here.

Section 1. Routes between Utah and Missouri, 1849 to 1861

For background information, see my one page summary PDF file here
also, Chapters 5 and 7 in MWE book here and here

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Ordering Information - Items that have red stock numbers and "sold" have been sold but prices will remain online as a value guide and reference. Please email me to confirm availability and order by stock number.

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price $2,500


[Salt Lake City Cal. / July 16 (1849)] manuscript California postal district postmark in the hand of Thomas Bullock and “10” rate on folded letter with integral address on silked folded letter to Richmond, Indiana, carried by Babbitt's special contract service

Neither of the two known July 16, 1849 letters show indication of any Babbitt's express fees, Babbitt left Salt Lake City with this mail on July 27 and arrived in Kanesville on September 3.

(MWE Figure 5-2) ex Risvold and Walske

price $6,000


[Salt Lake City Cal. / Oct 11 (1849)] manuscript postmark and “Paid 10” rate on folded letter written by a gold miner passing enroute to California, addressed to Missouri and carried by Babbitt's special contract service, in addition to postage the sender also paid 40 cents for the Babbitt special contract service, John Taylor's mail party, carrying the Babbitt mails, left on October 19 and arrived in Kanesville, Iowa on December 10

(MWE Figure 5-5), ex Risvold and Walske

sold $3,000

[Platte River Ferry, 1850] letter headed "Platte River Ferry 125 miles from Fort Laramie" was written around May 9, 1850, writer of the letter explains that, "I have just been informed by the Captain of this Ferry that he would carry letters back to the States (note: at this point the phrase "at no charge" has been crossed out) as soon as Emigration was past." He also explains that he left Fort Laramie "on the 5th" (of May) and hopes to be in California by mid-July. The emigration ended sometime in September, and the captain of the ferry (Thomas Crover) arranged to have the letter carried back to St Joseph, where it was posted on November 8


(MWE Figure 5-11) ex Risvold and Walske

sold $5,000

[Great Salt Lake City Cal.] manuscript July 11, 1850 postmark and 40 cent rate on folded letter to South Thomaston, Maine, carried by Mormon Express courier John Green

(MWE Figure 5-6) ex Risvold and Walske

price $12,500


[The Mormon Express] July 27, 1850 dateline on folded letter from Ursula Hascall to Col. Andrews in North New Salem, Massachusetts, this was carried by Mormon Express courier John Green operating under the Babbitt special contract, they left Salt Lake City on August 2 and arrived in Kane, Iowa on September 12, 1850, letter mentions throngs of gold seekers their way to California

(MWE Figure 5-7) ex Risvold and Walske

price $12,500


[Salt Lake Deseret November 19, 1850] manuscript postmark and 10˘ due on letter to Sabula, Iowa, the only reported example of this style postmark


The mail left on November 22 with the third Woodson trip - forced back due to heavy snows. Finally left on May 1, 1851 and arrived in Independence on May 31, earliest known contract mail letter from Salt Lake City

(MWE Figure 7-2), ex Risvold and Walske

sold $5,000

[Salt Lake City U.T. July 1, 1851] straight line postmark on cover to New Jersey, incorrectly rated 6c due and re-rated to 5c due with red rate handstamp, first day reduced rates, (3c prepaid, 5c unpaid), carried under the Woodson contract to Independence

(MWE Figure 7-3), ex Risvold and Walske

sold $7,500

[Salt Lake City U.T.] November 1 two line postmark on folded letter to North New Salem, Mass., both 5c due handstamp and 10c ("X") due handstamp, letter held until January 1 due to impassable mountain snows and finally arrived on January 31, 1852, original letter of Irene Hascall who writes a long letter on personal matters, a few interesting extracts from the letter include:

 “...The mail leaves this city for the states every month and arrives the same once every month...Mr. Pomeroy (Francis M.) is not altered much excepting older. he has been through a good many hardships in traveling. He has been to the coast (and) to the mines (California). He says it is perfect confusion. Drinking, gambling, cursing, swearing, murdering, burning and he would not stay there for all the gold there is there...he understands the Spanish (language) and was requested to go by the church (to) trade with the Spaniards...”

ex J. David Baker, Risvold and Walske

price $17,500



[Fort Kearny O. R. (Oregon Route)] fancy eagle and stars ornamented postmark, with manuscript June 22 1852 date, tying 3c dull red (#11) to cover to New Jersey, additional strike to left,  picked up enroute by the Woodson mail carrier on July 1, arrived in Independence around July 8, one of the iconic markings associated with the western mails

(MWE Figure 7-6), ex Risvold and Walske

sold $8,500


[Fort Laramie O.R. crude "Oregon Route"] postmark, with negative "5" due rate and "JUN 15" handstamps on 1852 cover to Michigan, 5 due positioned in the middle of the postmark, on June 1, 1852 mail left Salt Lake City 12 days late, reached Fort Laramie around June 23, Woodson mail carrier collected this letter enroute and reached Independence around July 8

(MWE Figure 7-4), ex Risvold and Walske

price $3,000


[Fort Laramie O.R. crude "Oregon Route"] postmark and negative "5" due rate on 1852 cover to Albany, NY, letter (no longer present) was dated "near Fort Laramie, Oregon Route 5 July (1852)

ex Risvold and Walske


[Salt Lake City U.T, 1853] black
July 1 postmark on folded letter 1853 from a Mormon couple, Rufus & Olive Fisher, who had arrived the previous October, the letter mentions, "the mail was unable to go out until the first of May for the snow ... we have a fine son born the 7th of January, his name is Francis Murry .. the President of the seventies still respect your standing and wishes me to investigate what your mind is whether you intend to come up and maintain your standing"

ex Walske


[Fort Laramie N.T. (Nebraska Territory)] July 15, 1853 blue postmark and "Paid 3" rate on folded letter to New York, letter in German from a private in the 6th US Infantry who was later killed in August 1854 Grattan massacre, letter (translation) includes, "On the 15th of this month we were sent under danger of life in a small canoe across the extremely swollen Platte River against about 2,000 Sioux Indians who had fired on one of our noncommissioned officers ... 5 had to pay with their lives and about 4 with deadly wounds - we made 2 prisoners.....," address leaf aged and some discoloration

ex Risvold and Walske

price $1,000


[Fort Laramie N.T. (Nebraska Territory)] June 15, 1853 blue postmark and "5" due rate on folded letter to Maine, a good trail letter dated "26 miles below Fort Laramie, June 4, 1854" includes "there are a great many cattle going through this season the roads on both sides of the River are crowded with stock , we passed Chimney Rock June the 1st we are now amongst the Sou (Sioux) Indians ...," minor closed tear at left below the postmark

ex Vogel and Risvold

price $400


[Fort Laramie, N.T., 1858] blue Nebraska Territory postmark and "Free" handstamp on folded cover to the Ordnance Department in Washington, DC., docket as having contained an 1858 letter from Lt. G.W. Hazzard, very fine

(MWE Figure 7-14) ex Risvold and Walske

price $1,500


[Salt Lake City to Scotland, 1855] blue  “Salt Lake City, Utah, Sep 1” datestamp cover Ayr, Scotland, St. Petersburg, matching "Paid 24" rate handstamp, red "Paid America Liverpool 8 OC 55" entry and Ayr arrival backstamp, carried under the Magraw contract to Independence

(MWE Figure 7-7) ex Risvold and Walske

sold $5,000

[Salt Lake City to Russia, 1856] “Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov 1” datestamp on 1856 cover St. Petersburg, Russia, sheet margin pair of 12c black (#17) tied overpaying 21c British Open Mail rate by US packet, it was carried in the arduous Feramorz Little overland mail to Independence, which left Salt Lake City on December 10 and arrived on February 27 - almost 80 days in transit due to snow conditions, London transit backstamp, Prussian Closed Mail datestamp and Russian arrival backstamps, cover reduced irregularly at top and minor faults, an outstanding use

(MWE Figure 7-10), ex Risvold and Walske

price $1,250


[Salt Lake City to Liverpool, 1860] black  “Salt Lake City, Utah, Sep 1” datestamp on cover Liverpool, matching "24" due rate handstamp, New York Aug 1 exchange datestamp and Liverpool 12 August arrival, "1/-" due handstamp

With a 37-day transit to Liverpool, this letter shows how efficient communications had become by this date.

(MWE Figure 7-7) ex Risvold and Walske


[Fort Bridger, Wyoming, 1857] manuscript December 1 (1857) postmark while Utah Territory on legal size, Capt. Jesse Gove correspondence cover to his wife at Concord, New Hampshire, double rate prepaid with pair 3c orange brown (#11) with matching pen cancels, cover with original wax seal on reverse, refolded at both sides, a rare marking

(MWE Figure 7-12) ex Risvold and Walske

sold $27,500

[Fort Bridger, U.T. Straight Line] bold "March 1 1858" dated two line postmark tying 3c dull red (#26) to fresh cover from Genl. Fitz Porter to his wife in New York City, signed by Stanley Ashbrook in 1949 who correctly notes, "A very RARE Cover in superb Condition," one of two known of this marking and the only one with an adhesive, a highlight of the collection

(MWE Figure 7-13) ex Baughman, Risvold and Walske

price $650


[Camp Floyd, U.T.] August 17, 1860 postmark tying 3c dull red (#26) to cover addressed to a Lieut. Shunk, endorsed at bottom left "on the march from Camp Floyd, U.T. to Fort Leavenworth, K.T." original letter signed by Thomas Barrett includes "Lieut. Perkins had a fight with the Indians, 3 men of the Artillery wounded and 12 Indians killed & wounded," cover faults at top right

The COC&PP collected the letter on its eastbound trip that left Placerville on August 29 and arrived in Salt Lake City around September 6. It was then transferred to the eastbound stage to St Joseph that left on Friday, September 7 and was delivered in transit at Fort Laramie around September 18

(MWE Figure 7-31) ex Risvold and Walske

Richard Frajola (July 29, 2018)