Stagecoach riders once traveled through, stayed in SV

By : 
Mary Jo Dathe
Surrounded by cheering youngsters and welcoming adults, "the stagecoach is coming" was an exciting event!  Spirited, but tired, horses pulled up to a hotel in a suffocating cloud of dust.  Long before the Southern Minnesota railroad laid its tracks, stagecoaches were Spring Valley's best means of travel and communication.
Long-time resident Arnold Molstad had a keen interest in our local history and he once marked out the stagecoach routes that ran through town. Two routes merged on the corner of Main and Broadway where hotels were located on the corners of the intersection.  One route came in from the southeast along Territorial Road past the Catholic cemetery to South Section Avenue, on north to Jefferson Street where it stopped at the Hart Hotel.  It then ran north to the diagonal rode we call North Broadway (Highways 63 & 16), on through the countryside to Hamilton, a thriving village east of Racine. The other made a jog, then headed west to Austin.
Spring Valley boasted several hotels in the early years. Historian John Halbkat listed the first hotel in 1855 as a "roughly hewn log structure" near the present site of City Hall, operated by Myron Conklin.  In 1857 Hiram and George Farmer erected a frame hotel on North Broadway (present site of Essig Insurance Agency) called the Central House & Farmers Home, which remained standing until 1889 when the present brick building was built as the First State Bank.  On South Broadway where our present community center is located, the Valley House sat with O.G. Belden, operator, and across the corner, Henry Schraut offered rooms above his bakery and restaurant.
Abner and Jane Hart operated a two-story hotel that stood on East Jefferson at the north end of Vine Avenue (our present paved and busy alley) next to an insurance office. There were hitching rails, a pump for fresh water for thirsty travelers and their steeds, and a wide bench for resting. 
Where the present Commercial House apartments are on Broadway, early on that was the site of the Sheridan House.  In 1874 William Ewing tore it down and built the Commercial House, the brick building still standing there today.  The Fillmore County history of 1882 mentions two hotels of note: the Commercial House kept by J.T. Johnson and the aforementioned Valley House.
The county history also recorded "events of interest" including this one in 1858, a mishap: Quite a serious accident happened to one of Mr. A.M. Walker's stages as it neared Fillmore Village on Feb. 3.  In attempting to cross a small stream, the wheel of the stage came in contact with a large boulder. The stage was instantly thrown upon its side, forcing one of the wheel horses down with it. The horse being held down by the tongue, and fore part of the stage and hampered by the harness, drowned.  There were three passengers in the coach who luckily escaped without further injury than an unsought wash and good dunking.
Stagecoaches were vital links in mail delivery.  We know mail once came only every two weeks via horseback from Decorah, later from Chatfield three times a week, and finally daily delivery by the stage coach that ran from La Crosse to Austin.
The Lime Springs 1968 Centennial History presented notes from 1870 to 1880 that read as follows: For many years Harry Moore drove the stage to Spring Valley, and he advertised his regular run on posters prominently displayed in the business houses: " Tri-weekly mail and passenger stage running between Lime Springs and Spring Valley, leaving Lime Springs Wednesday and Friday at 1 p.m., calling at Canfield, Cherry Grove and Etna; arriving Spring Valley 6 p.m.  Making connections with trains, does not leave until trains are in.  Fare $1.50.  Baggage attended to and express goods and freight carried on moderate terms.  Leave reservations at Lime Springs with A.M. Pettit and Spring Valley at the Commercial House or Post Office.  A good covered rig and careful driver, Harry J. Moore, Prop."