Cabs and Buses Licensed and Numbered read an Idaho Statesman headline on Aug. 26, 1893, but these were not the kind of vehicles that now drive along Boise streets. They were horse-drawn cabs and buses, and the licensing was one of the first actions taken by the new administration of Mayor Peter Sonna.
By 1909, automobiles were replacing stagecoaches in many parts of the state. The Mackay, Challis & Idaho Stage Co. ran an ad in the Challis Silver Messenger on April 20 that year, announcing that four horse Concord coaches run daily between Mackay and Challis. This is the most direct route to Bayhorse, Clayton, Robinson, Custer, Bonanza, and Stanley Basin. ... Stages carry passengers, mail and express, and make close connection with branch stage lines.
The Concord coach was the finest horse-drawn stagecoach of the 19th century, but it was about to become obsolete. Just one week later the Silver Messenger reported, The M.C. & I. Stage Co. last Friday made their first trip from Mackay to Challis in one of their new autos of the Buick type. It held six passengers, including the Buick agent and the driver. The trip took five hours. When the Buick needed new tires, service had to be suspended for two days. Those rugged mountain roads had taken their toll, and flat tires were the curse of all early motorists.
That same month, the Idaho World of Idaho City reported, The stage companys auto, a Stanley steamer, three seated, now makes regular trips from Boise to this place, coming up Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and remaining here overnight. The first trip was made Monday, arriving here at 12:15 and carrying nine people, including Mr. Beggs, superintendent of the stage company, and his chauffeur and machinist. The auto was on the road four hours and five minutes, including a stop of fifteen minutes at the halfway house. It went on to Quartzburg that afternoon, returning to this place in the evening. The auto arrived here Wednesday at 12:30 but had no passengers. Business was better in June, when daily full loads of seven passengers were reported. In Colorado in 1909, a fleet of Stanley steamer buses ran regularly between Denver and the Stanley Hotel at Estes Park, built in 1907 by F.O. Stanley, builder of Stanley steamers.
In 1912, Al Ostner of Boise, son of Charles Ostner, the pioneer artist who carved the equestrian statue of George Washington in the Statehouse, was operating the Idaho Stage Line. In August 1915, the Twin Falls Times noted the start of another new auto stage line owned by M. Silva of Shoshone. It left Twin Falls on Tuesdays and Fridays at 8 a.m. for Shoshone via Blue Lakes and Jerome, and returned at 2 p.m., arriving at 5 p.m. The story did not mention the make of car.
Polks Boise City Directory for 1917-1918 lists three stage lines: Trask Brothers, Inc., Ray H. Trask, pres., A.B. Trask, secy. Auto stage lines, 112 N. 12th., Barber Stage (Price Scribner) 8221/2 Main, and Idaho City Stage Line (Boise Basin Stage Co.) 237 S. 10th.
The Trask Brothers were the largest bus company in Idaho in the early 1920s, offering regular service between Boise and Twin Falls, using 12-passenger Cadillac cars. The trip, which left Boise at 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., took five and a half hours, with stops in Mountain Home, Glenns Ferry, King Hill, Bliss, Gooding, Hagerman, Buhl, and Filer with lunch or dinner stops in Hagerman. A curious feature of the companys service was that the bus would pick you up at your home for no extra charge. That worked in the 1920s when Boise was much smaller and geographically compact, but passengers had to call in advance, much as we call for a taxicab today. A charming reminder of the size of Boise at the time is that the Trasks telephone number was 2.
In March 1923, the Trasks and W.A. ONeil bought the Horseshoe Bend auto stage line from E.J. Shelley and began Cadillac service to connect with Idaho Northern trains, both going to and coming from McCall. Trask & ONeil were partners in this operation.
Next week: the end of an era. Gasoline-powered buses replace electric street cars and electric interurban railways in the Boise valley and across the nation.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.