The Story of Frank Rogers in his fight to make Stage Lines go- A High point in Delta History
This story first appeared in the October 3, 1940 issue of the Delta County Independent. It includes a bit of history as well as some humor. Enjoy!
In the early part of the 80’s the North Fork valley had but few settlers, and it was still full of wild game. Among the valley’s settlers was one of its pioneers, a man, Frank Rogers, who spent much of his life helping to develop its resources and bore an influential part in promoting its welfare.
When Mr. Rogers came to the western slope, he found the means of travel was slow and poorly equipped. He immediately returned to Denver to buy wagons and teams and to hire men to operate the freight line between Delta and Paonia. As the trip was slow and most of it had to be made by stage, it was a month before he returned. When he did, he brought with him two stagecoaches.
It was a long, tiresome day’s drive between Delta and Paonia, riding over the narrow, jerky and uncomfortable road.
The road followed and snaked its way closely to the rolling, rampart hillsides. The road crossed the Gunnison river, spanned by a huge log bridge. A few hundred yards beyond this bridge were the mid-way houses or the old army forts, where the stage coaches and the freight wagons stopped for meals. The food was poor. But the passengers found that it was a change to get out of the coach and rest. Every available foot of space in the coaches was usually taken up by baggage.
During the summer the immigrants suffered a great deal from the heat while crossing the dry and barren adobe road between the mid-way houses and Hotchkiss.
The improvement of the roads in the North Fork valley grew rapidly. Rogers extended his stage line south out of Delta into Montrose and later on into Grand Junction. Mr. Rogers worked fast to improve the development of his business. He threw a daily run each way with his coaches and freight wagons. There was talk of an eastern company forming a stage line from Gunnison, across Black Mesa, and into the North Fork Valley, which Rogers took every effort to discourage. Rogers knew that those that patronized the slow-moving freight wagons and the stagecoaches for their express and mail across Black Mesa would be greatly disappointed. He knew that it would be impossible to keep the narrow dirt road open over the high mountain routes during the snowy winter months.
As the cold, snowy months came in the fall, Mr. Rogers found that his freight business was slowed to about half.
After leaving the mid-way houses, which still stand  near Austin, the men, as well as the horses, found the trip long and tiring. In order to make things as comfortable as possible for both his horses and drivers, Mr. Rogers built cabins and stables on top of the large mesa that lays between the long stretch of adobes and Hotchkiss.
In the winter the wind blew fierce and cold across this flat, sagebrush covered mesa. It was known as the supply house; until one day the freight wagon picked up a rider that the stagecoach had gone off and left at the mid-way houses while he was exploring the mountain canyons that opened out into the valley.
“Where are you from?” asked Mike Stewart, one of the drivers. “New York,” was his reply. “I came out to try and teach school.”
“Hey fellows, listen to this. We have a city slicker with us. He’s looking for a job teaching school.”
“Can you beat that,” shouted another and the cold frosty air echoed with a riot of laughter.
It was about eight o’clock when the wagon train arrived at the supply house. The cold mist that had fallen on the last hour of their trip had turned into a heavy sleet and rain.
The men spent a lot of time telling their visitor wild stories of narrow escapes they had encountered by outlaws since being with the freight line.
“Have you been snipe hunting?” asked George Lewis, turning to the young city slicker.
“No. What’s it like?” was the eager reply.
“He’s missed a lot,” said Wayne Wade. “Nothing better than a young fried snipe. What do you say, fellows, we all go hunting tonight?”
And it was a mutual agreement. After the supper dishes were washed, everyone made ready for the hunt.
“We’ll have to scatter out single,” was Mike Stewart’s advice. “You just take a light and a sack. Place your light out in front, sprinkle a little grain along between the sack and light. Then just get off away in the dark and wait. The snipes will soon be around to pick up the grain.”
“Sounds very simple,” said the city slicker.
“And after you’ve thrown the sack over them, you can hardly wait for the skillet to get hot enough to start frying ‘em,” said George Lewis.
“Yes, but fellows, it’s raining outside. I haven’t any coat. You know my things were left on the stage.”
“George, give him that cowhide coat hanging over there that Rogers forgot on his last trip up,” suggested Mike.
“And what’s the danger of those outlaws seeing my light?” asked the city slicker in a weary tone.
“Afraid?” laughed Wayne Wade. “You might get one of those cattle rustlers and bag a reward; then you wouldn’t have to teach school.”
The city slicker had barely gotten out of hearing distance, until all the men had returned to the cabin.
“Poor sucker,” snickered George Lewis.
“Better keep a fire,” suggested Mike. “He’ll be frozen when he gets in.”
At two o’clock Wayne awoke and became alarmed for the city slicker hadn’t returned.
“Aw, go to sleep,” piped Mike. “He’ll surely have brains enough to come in for breakfast.”
But the dawn of the day broke and no city slicker. Two of the men saddled horses and rode out across the mesa. But during the night the rain and sleet had turned into snow and there wasn’t any possible chance to trace the snipe hunter.
It wasn’t until some time in the early afternoon that the freight wagons drew reign. As the drivers dismounted, the first thing that Wayne Wade saw was a large bill posted in front of the Duke Brothers store in Hotchkiss, offering a reward for the capture of the city slicker that knew nothing about snipe hunting.
“Two thousand bucks for this mug for stage robbery, and to think he gets away with my coat,” sneered Wayne, clenching his fist firmly.
As the story was told it was referred to as happening out on Rogers Mesa, the name which the beautiful orchard covered mesa, built up with expensive homes and lovely flower gardens, still carries today.
Museum Director / Curator and Newsletter Editor
Jim Wetzel (970) 874-8721