Cannonball Stage Route
Operated by a flamboyant and colorful
man named Donald R. "Cannonball" Green, the Cannonball Stage Line connected the
railroad to towns across southwestern Kansas and into the untamed red lands of
Green started his first stage service in Kingman, Kansas in 1876, which
through Pratt to Coldwater and later to Greensburg, a town he helped found in
1886 and was named for him.
Kentucky in 1839, Green was living in Wichita, Kansas before the construction of the
Wichita & Western Railroad.
In 1876, Green
opened a small livery stable in Kingman, Kansas. He had been a champion
stagecoach driver, and he soon founded a stage line to transport people
through the region. He insisted on speed, and his stage line expanded
rapidly. The stage line was named the Cannon Ball, inspired by the old song
Wabash Cannon Ball which was a powerful locomotive.
Green's stage line served areas not
reached by the railroad, and for a few years he also carried the mail from
Wichita to Kingman. One of the contracts of this stage line was to carry the
Wichita Eagle newspaper from Wichita to various towns to the west.
Marshall M. Murdock, founder of the Wichita Eagle was the source for
the agreement and was a close personal friend of Cannonball Green.
Driving a wild stagecoach, Frederic Remington, 1904.
Image available for photo prints & editorial downloads
The stage route, which became
known as the Cannonball Highway, started on what is now Wichita's West
Street and ran west along Maple Street for 11 miles, turned south for 1
mile, then hooked up with what is now U.S. 54 west to Kingman.
Known for their speed, Green's coaches were pulled by teams
of six or eight horses which were changed every eight to ten miles. His
teams and coaches could make the run in about 10 hours, with relay stops
every 20 miles.The coaches were painted yellow and green.
just a driver, Green was an advisor and teacher, sharing with passengers his
knowledge of southwestern Kansas and the
prairie landscape. Green's stage line
grew into 70 vehicles and 1,000 horses covering 1,500 miles of Kansas plains.
Standing some six feet
tall, Green was described as a flamboyant, boastful character
who liked to dominate a crowd
while twirling his diamond-studded watch chains. He was also characterized as a whole-souled genial westerner
who became universally a favorite of the traveling public. He took great
pride in the speed of his coaches and advertised that even "Father Time"
couldn't keep up with the "Cannonball."
In those days, Green said the price of a Concord Coach was
$1,200.00 and mules as high as $400.00 a piece. His coaches covered one hundred miles a
day. In addition to the Concords, the lines were provided with many smaller
stages or coaches; "but when a newspaper editor showed up," he said, "I would always give
him a seat in one of the big coaches ... I
received thousands of dollars worth of advertising from these editors." At
one point, Green's business operated 70 coaches and over 1,000 head of horses.
But the flamboyant Green would also take no flack from
customers. He once ejected
Carrie Nation from his coach after she snatched a
cigar from his mouth and tossed it away.
Cannon Ball Green's
business was exceedingly prosperous from about 1870 to 1880. As small
settlements were springing up across the plains, "Cannonball Green" was
instrumental in the organization of Greensburg, which was named for him.
prosperous days of the Cannonball route wouldn't last; however, as the railroads
moved west, the demand for stage service soon dwindled and Green began to look
for other business endeavors. In 1889, he was elected Kiowa County's first
representative in the Kansas legislature.
Later, in 1898 he took a claim in Oklahoma Territory when the Cherokee
Strip opened and became one of the founders of Pond Creek, as well as a county
Green died in Long Beach, California
in 1922 at the age of 83 and is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery in Wichita,
In 1997, the state renamed a 60-mile
stretch of U.S. 54 from Kingman to Greensburg the Cannonball Stage Line Highway,
honoring Cannonball Green.
of Kansas, updated March, 2017.
All my stages are fast, but the
Cannon Ball 4-In Hand is the FASTEST STAGE IN AMERICA…. Get up and take the
Cannon Ball, then you can tell them East
that you had a fast ride. Should passengers get left, do not blame the drivers,
they have imperative orders to
leave on time and make time.
-- D.R. Green,
Barber County Index, August
Wichita Beacon, August 2, 1922
Wichita Eagle, May 12, 2008
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