American History and Genealogy Project


Stage-Coach and Railway Statistics

It may not be generally known that the person who projected and established stage-coaches in America, and he who projected and established rail-coaches in England, are of tin: same name; but such has been ascertained to be the fact.

Levi Pease, who removed from Somers, Ct., to Shrewsbury, Mass., about 1794, as may be known by reference to the history of Shrewsbury, established the first line of stages. It extended from Somers to Boston. It was commenced and prosecuted under great disadvantages; but the indomitable energy of the enterprising projector and proprietor enabled him to succeed. His interest in the matter prompted him to petition the legislature of Massachusetts for a turnpike road, which was granted; and was the first charter of the kind that was granted in that State.

His friends, deeming the scheme somewhat visionary, endeavored to dissuade him from it ; but his conceptions of the public wants rendered their opposition unavailing. The fact of his having made several trips without a single passenger was used as an argument against his undertaking. But the argument was fully met, as was shown by the result, by his expressed conviction that as soon as it should be known that the conveyance could be depended on, it would be patronized. Be died Jan. 28, 1824, aged 81.

By a Manchester (England) paper, (copied from the Durham Chronicle,) which was sent to the writer by an acquaintance in Darlington, it appears that Edward Pease, a citizen of Darlington, and a member of the Society of Friends is entitled to the credit and honor of designing, introducing, and establishing, in despite of the most formidable difficulties, the railway system, which has excited the wonder and the imitation of the whole world.

Although not noticed by any public demonstration, the Stockton and Darlington railway attained its majority, and was opened to the public, on the 27th of September, 1825. The line originally projected was to embrace twenty-three miles; and how great a work, and how experimental it was deemed, is truly inferred by the corporate Beal of the company, "Periculum privatum, utilitas publica." But for the means and judgment of its first promoters it would, in all probability, never have been executed; for £100 was then subscribed much more slowly than £1000 or £10,000 now, when the importance and safety of such undertakings have been proved to the world. This railway has been conducted in a great measure by members of the Society of Friends ; and with them have sat at the board, for several years, members of the Church of England, Roman Catholics, Independents, &c.; yet it is said that they never divided upon a question but once. The board has long desisted from publishing accounts. "We are therefore unable to give any statistics, but have our approximate notions of the progress of this railway, which has set the example to the world. The twenty-three miles have become eighty. It was expected to convey 80,000 tons of coals to Darlington and other towns, per annum, and a contingent of 10,000 tons for export at Stockton. The 80,000 have been more than doubled, while the 10,000, we are told, has reached nearly 1,000,000. Goods were little thought of, coaches not at all; but goods are said to be over 100,000 tons per annum, and passengers about 400,000 per annum.

The first railway coach was drawn by steam at Darlington, on the 26th September, 1824. It was called "The Experiment;" it was in shape like an omnibus ; and it is believed, that, with one exception, all who rode in it on that day, are yet living. It appears that by the subscription of Mr. Pease, his perseverance, &c, who, for a limited period, when the company's credit with their bankers failed, bore the whole weight of its pecuniary expenditure on his shoulders, aided by a few individuals, was this pioneer railway completed; and there is one remarkable fact attending it from its commencement in Parliament to its completion, that no director ever received one shilling for his services till the shareholders had received five per cent, or upwards.

A year or two since, Mr. Pease was living at Darlington, aged 80 years or upwards, and in good health and mental vigor.

This Edward Pease is a relative of John Pease, a celebrated preacher, and of Joseph Pease, who was for some time member of Parliament, and of Elizabeth Pease, who is known as something of a philanthropist. They are all Friends and all residents of Darlington.

Fred. S. Pease
Albany, May 1, 1848.

Source: The New England Historical & Genealogical Register, Published Quarterly Under The Direction Of The New England Historic, Genealogical Society, Rev. William Cogswell, D. D., Editor. Volume I., Boston, Samuel G. Drake, Publisher, 1847, Coolidge & Wiley, Printers, 12 Water Street, Boston.

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