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One of the Last of the Stage Drivers

There are signs for two historical markers on Highway 120 as you approach this old Gold Rush town: one for the "Mark Twain-Bret Harte Trail" and one for the town's original Wells Fargo & Co. express office. The first is easy enough to find. It's got a substantial base and a nice space right on the roadside. Where was the second one?

There's not a lot of town to poke around in, but I spent a few minutes looking. No Wells Fargo plaque did I find, nor did I locate a building with the helpful legend "Wells Fargo." The closest thing I found was the plaque above, on a building that some sites name as the Wells Fargo building. The plaque memorializes Eddie Webb, a Merced County native who in the late 1950s was sort of a minor celebrity. He drove a stage coach on foothill routes west of Yosemite at the turn of the 20th century. But his fame derived from the fact that later in life he refurbished old stagecoaches for use on movie and TV westerns. He shows up in a couple of entertainment features written by the old United Press International wire service in 1958 and '59. 

Webb died in 1962, not too long after the plaque above was dedicated. Although one of his obituaries called him "the last" of the old-time stage drivers, the plaque below was correct -- he was "one of the last."

Perhaps the last was his brother, Joe Webb, who died in 1980 at the age of 1985. Among Joe Webb's claims was that he drove the very last passenger stage coach trip into Yosemite Valley, in 1909. Maybe there's a plaque to Joe Webb out there somewhere, too. 

Here's the text for the plaque above:

To Honor Eddie Webb

Born December 17, 1880, in Snelling, Calif. One of the last of the stage drivers, Eddie made the haul from Chinese [Camp] to the Coulterville, Groveland areas from 1898-1902 and drove the first mail stage over the new Shawmut Road. 

Dedicated by Matuca Chapter No. 1849

E Clampus Vitius

May 6, 1961 

 

 

 

 

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