With what is atypical quick action for Congress, a bill designating the Butterfield Overland Trail as a National Historic Trail was approved Thursday (Dec. 22) by the U.S. House of Representatives just one day after approval in the U.S. Senate. The bill awaits President Joe Biden’s signature.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., began working on the legislation promoting the Butterfield Overland Trail during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“This is a long-overdue recognition for the Butterfield Trail. Designating it as a National Historic Trail will preserve the story of westward expansion and Arkansas’s significant role in the growth and development of our country. This is the result of the vision of Arkansans passionate and determined to achieve this designation. I’m proud to champion this initiative and get it across the finish line,” Boozman said Thursday following House passage..
The route, operated from 1858-1861 by the Butterfield Overland Mail Company and also known as the Butterfield Stage, was used to transport U.S. mail and passengers between St. Louis, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; and San Francisco, California, serving as the route of the longest stagecoach operation in history. It became known as the “ox-bow route” due to its curved path comprised of approximately 3,553 miles of trail routes in eight states: Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
The routes from St. Louis and Memphis merged in Fort Smith, and the Butterfield Overland Express stagecoaches traveled through much of Arkansas. Stagecoaches made stops between Memphis and Fort Smith in St. Francis, Prairie, Lonoke, Faulkner, Conway, Pope, Yell, Logan and Franklin counties. The northwestern route that came out of Missouri included stops in Benton, Washington and Crawford counties.
Four segments of the roads the Butterfield Overland Express traveled over in Arkansas have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Potts home, a well-preserved Arkansas way station for the Butterfield Express, is still standing in Pope County and is maintained as the Potts Inn Museum by the Pope County Historical Foundation.