Historic American Buildings Survey photograph by Henry F. Withey of Major Gordon’s Station, June 1, 1936: View from southeast.
File No. HABS CAL,19-ELIZ.V,1-1.
Major Gordon's Station was erected circa 1859 by Aneas Gordon along the Butterfield Overland stagecoach route on San Francisquito Road (aka San Francisquito Canyon Road), four miles southwest of Elizabeth Lake and 20 miles north of the future town of Saugus.
It was located at what is now 38839 San Francisquito Canyon Road, just southwest of Green Valley. It was razed in the 1960s. See map below.
According to historian Bonnie Ketterl Kane of the Ridge Route Communities Historical Society, Aneas Gordon had previously operated Gordon's Ferry on the Kern River, near present-day Bakersfield. An overhead cable was used to move a ferry, large enough to carry a coach and six or more horses, across the river. The next stop along the route south out of San Francisco was Fort Tejon (est. 1854).
Gordon sold the ferry in 1859 to Joseph Gale and apparently came to the Elizabeth Lake area at that time. According to Kane: "In 'Saga of El Tejon,' Lopez said that 'old' Major Gordon did not stay long at Gordon Station after the stages began running. He sold to Luke Smith and moved to Santa Paula where he died about 1875. Luke Smith then dies and the stop becomes known as 'Widow Smith's.' She sells to Tom Delano, who again calls the stop 'Gordon's Station.'"
It should be noted that Harris Newmark said he stopped at Gordon's Station in 1856. It's possible Newmark had the year mixed up, inasmuch as he wrote his reminiscences from memory, 60 years later.
On the other hand, it's possible the names "Major Gordon's" and "Widow Smith's" were interchangeable. Historian Kirby Sanders, a career journalist and author of "Driver's Guide to the Butterfield Overland Mail Route" (2008), offers the following:
While it appears that "Major Gordon's Station" and the Butterfield "Widow Smith's Station" are likely at or near the same place, there also appears to be some confusion in the naming of the place over different dates.
Goddard Bailey, a United States Post Office postal inspector based in San Francisco, made the first trip of the Butterfield Overland Mail from San Francisco to Saint Louis, Mo., commencing Sept. 15, 1858. He was charged with supplying an official report to Postmaster General Aaron V. Brown with an official on the stations and the distances between them. The report was filed in October 1858.
In the report, Bailey clearly identifies this station as being "Widow Smith's" and identifies its location as being 24 miles from "French John's" and a further 10 miles onward to "King's"[a][b].
Waterman Ormsby, in his 1858 description of the east-to-west journey of the first Butterfield run, does not specifically mention this station[c].
Roscoe and Margaret Conkling, in their Butterfield study published in 1947, also indicate that "the names of two others, John F. Gordon, and a Mr. Wilburn" were also associated with this station[d].
What appears to be at issue is the date and order of transfer between Anaeas Gordon and Luke Smith. The matter of reference by Harris Newmark to a stop at Gordon's Station in 1856 could also relate to a stop at Widow Smith's, using a more familiar vernacular ("Major Gordon") at the time he wrote his memoir.
None of the above is intended as a criticism of others' contributions and research. Rather, it is merely to point out an historical anomaly in the record an anomaly we would all be well served to sort out.
February 5, 2013
a. Bailey, Goddard. "California Arrival of the Overland Mail Itinerary of the Route," as reported in the New York Times, Oct. 14, 1858.
b. Bailey, Goddard. Report to Postmaster General A.V. Brown. Full itinerary as reported by De Bow's Review and Industrial Resources, Statistics etc.; published by De Bow's Review, New Orleans and Washington City, 1858. See specifically "Internal Improvements - 1. Wagon Road to the Pacific," pp 719-721.
c. Ormsby, Waterman L. "The Butterfield Overland Mail (Only Through Passenger on the First Westbound Stage)," original publications, New York Herald, Sept. 26 to Nov. 19, 1858; republished by Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, Calif., 1942-1998.
d. Conkling, Roscoe P. and Margaret B. "The Butterfield Overland Mail, 1857