John Vonderlin: 1890s: A War Not Between MEN but Between Stages

Story by John Vonderlin

Email John: [email protected]

Hi June,
A while ago I posted about the phenomena of “opposition stages” in the Old West. Here’s an article from the June 18th, 1892, issue of “The San Francisco Call,” that describes the Coastside’s version of this bareknuckled style of free enterprise. Not surprisingly, it involves Loren Coburn and Pebble Beach. Enjoy. John

Not Between the People but Between
Rival Stage Line Men.
On the shore not far from Pigeon Point in San Mateo Ceunty and distant about one mile and a half from Pescadero is situated what is known as the pebble beach, which has been visited by thousands during lie past 80 years and is as almost well known to the traveling people as the Yosemite Valley and the wonderful big trees. As previously stated this pebble beach has been visited by thousands of people and each one has carried away from there from two to three cigarboxes filled with pebbles, some of which are really handsome and are turned over to lapidaries and jewelers to be converted into articles of jewelry. Among these pebbles are found opals, cornelians and a sort of milk stone. Notwithstanding the fact that so many of these pebbles have been removed, the supply does not appear to be in the least affected, and any one who saw the beach 30 years ago and goes to it now, cannot notice that a handful had been taken. This beach, and an agate beach close by, a singing beach some distance away, the Pigeon Point lighthouse and some beautiful drives in the mountains on the road to Redwood City, are the chief attractions around the ancient town of Pescadero.
One of the large land-owners in that part of San Mateo County is a Mr. Coburn, and the  pebble and agate beaches are on the border of the land around which he has a fence. For some reason or other he is not on the best of terms with the people, or rather some of the people of Pescadero and not long ago the people who run the regular line of stages from San Mateo station to Pescadero via Spanishtown, and to the same point from Redwood City via Honda, and he had a falling out. The exact nature of the quarrel has not been made public, this much is known, that Coburn is determined to establish an opposition stage line via Spanishtown. Coburn owns a large number of horses, and he procured several light and easy-riding covered wagons, which he placed on the road, and put them in charge of the famous driver, Baldy Green, who for many years was the crack rein-handler on the line between Virginia City and Carson. With a view to knock out the old line, Coburn cut the fare down from the regulation price, $2 50, to 50 cents, and he made the announcement that if the regular line went lower then that he would carry passengers without cost and furnish each passenger a noonday meal at Spanishtown. This action on his part had the effect to make the old-line people come down to the Coburn prices in the matter of fare on the Spanishtown line, and in the Redwood City-Honda line the fare came down to $1.50, although there is no opposition, but travel fell off so that something had to be done to meet the cut on the other route to Pescadero.
Previous to the establishment of this opposition there was a line of carriages that carried passengers from the hotel to the pebble and agate beaches, charging 40 cents for the round trip. Coburn has established a line of carriages there, and cut the roundfare trip down to 25 cents. He is having a new road built by which the distance to these beaches will be reduced, and this will soon be opened. He also declares that no teams except those in charge of his men shall be permitted to cross his lands. This virtually shuts out all others who are engaged in the carrying business, and those who wish to visit the beaches must ride in Coburn’s carriages. On last Wednesday Coburn served written notice on a livery stable man named Farley, the owner of the opposition coaches and carriages, to the effect that no more trespassing would be permitted on the Coburn grounds. Coburn has also declared that he will have his wish respected, and that if it is not he will have shotgun sentries at the gates, and that they will be instructed to keep intruders out.  On the other hand, it is claimed that Coburn has no control over the beaches, and that steps will be taken to reach them by another route than that over his lands, and that if he attempts to prevent people from visiting them, there will be serious trouble. Thus the matter stands at present. The two lines of coaches via Spanish town are not making money, but the people who visit Pescadero are saving some by the reduction in the fares.