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Stage Roads

Stagecoach service began as road networks were extended from town to town across the state. The stagecoach reached its height of popularity during the period of private turnpikes and plank roads. Numerous stage companies obtained franchises and provided regular service throughout southern Wisconsin and neighboring states. Stagecoaches traveled along established roads, including military roads, territorial roads, and local roads.

The first stage service between Milwaukee and Chicago was begun in 1836 by Lathrop and Johnson. The stage was an open lumber wagon and the trip took one-and-one-half days, with an overnight stop in Kenosha. Other companies soon followed, providing both passenger and freight transportation. The majority of stage companies had obtained contracts from the federal government for transporting the US mail in addition to passengers and freight.

As the stagecoach system gained popularity, it expanded into all areas of the state. Stagecoach service remained an important secondary link to more remote areas of the state until the late 19th century, when the expanding railroads offered faster and more comfortable travel to extended areas of the state. As railroad interests grew, less attention was paid to Wisconsin's roads.

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