Generation One

Generation Two

Generation Three

Generation Four

Generation Five

Richard Ormsby

John Ormsby

John Ormsby

John Ormsby

Ezekiel Ormsby

 Generation Six

 Generation Seven

 Generation Eight

 Generation Nine

 Jeremiah Ormsby

 Leonard Ormsby

 Waterman L. Ormsby

 Waterman L. Ormsby

Waterman Lilly Ormsby

1834 - 1919

Father: Waterman Lilly Ormsby, 1st
Mother: Julia Ann
Date of Birth: Dec. 8, 1834
Place of Birth: N.Y. City
First Marriage: May 29, 1856, Eliza Ann Croly
Second Marriage: Carrie Hamilton
Date of Death: Apr. 29, 1919
Place of Death: N.Y. City

First Spouse: Eliza Ann Croly
Date of Death: Sept. 10, 1892


  1. Waterman Lilly Ormsby, 3rd, born Dec. 15, 1857, N.Y. City
  2. Sidney Ormsby, born Dec. 26, 1860, N.Y. City
  3. Senter Ormsby, born Dec. 26, 1860, N.Y. City
  4. Ella Ormsby, born June 28, 1868, N.Y. City

Additional Facts:

New York City Directory, 1890
Ormsby Waterman L. jr. stenographer, Jeff. mkt, h 265 W. 11th

From: "Butterfield Overland Mail" by Wright & Bynum (1955) Huntington Library at San Marino, Calif.
"Waterman L. Ormsby, Jr. was the only through passenger on the first Butterfield Mail Stage in Sept. 1858, as a reporter for the N.Y. Herald"
Also see, "Chronicles of Oklahoma" Spring of 1957

WATERMAN L. ORMSBY (1834-1908)
The Butterfield Overland Mail
By Waterman L. Ormsby, only through passenger on the first westbound stage;
Edited by Lyle H. Wright and Josephine M. Bynum
San Marino, 1942 [The Huntington Library] 179 pp.
In 1858 Ormsby became the first fare-paying transcontinental passenger, and this book consists of vivid dispatches from en route to the New York Herald, of which he was a special correspondent. The route from St. Louis to San Francisco was via Red River, El Paso, Tucson, Fort Yuma, and Los Angeles. The Overland Mail ended with the advent of the Civil War.

California State Historical Landmarks in Los Angeles County
BELLA UNION HOTEL SITE - Near this spot stood the Bella Union Hotel, long a social and political center. Here, on October 7, 1858, the first Butterfield Overland Mail stage from the east arrived 21 days after leaving St. Louis. Warren Hall was the driver, and Waterman Ormsby, a reporter, the only through passenger.
Location: Fletcher Bowron Square, 300 block of N Main, between Temple and Aliso Sts, Los Angeles

Ormsby, Waterman L.. The Butterfield Overland Mail. Huntington Library

Butterfield Overland Mail
Several names were associated with the enterprise, but the major credit goes to one man, New Yorker businessman and financier John Butterfield. After much political log-rolling by Congress, he obtained a $600,000 government contract to establish and run the Overland Mail Company from St. Louis, Missouri, to San Francisco, California. Butterfield had already proven his ability in organization and administration by erecting the first telegraph line between New York City and Buffalo. He had built and managed several passenger stagecoach lines and had constructed the first steam railroad and first street horse railway system in Utica, New York, a city of which he also became the mayor. The American Express Company owes its formation to Butterfield. Here was a man who was uniquely qualified to spearhead the first transcontinental stage line, 2,800 miles from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Coast.

The beginning of the Butterfield Line was officially in St. Louis. However, since the railroad extended west a short distance from the Mississippi, passengers and mail traveled on the train as far as Tipton where they encountered the first of the Butterfield Overland's stations and a new coach. This vehicle was described by a reporter, the only through passenger on the inaugural westbound journey, as "quite expensively built." From Tipton, the route lay southwest through a corner of Arkansas, cutting diagonally across what was then Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), and across a broad expanse of Texas. A swing up the east side of the Pecos River found a favorable crossing point at Pope's Camp, then it was north along the Rio Grande into La Mesilla. From there, the route ran westward on a line roughly paralleling present-day I-10. Stations were spaced from 15 to 20 miles apart. In the arid terrain of then-territorial New Mexico, the stations had to be spaced further apart, either at existing springs or where wells were successfully dug, until the way reached the Gila River and followed it into California. There it wound northward to San Francisco.

The only through passenger on the first westbound stage was Waterman L. Ormsby, a correspondent for the New York Herald. His stories, mailed back to the paper and published in six issues, were later published as a book. Other passengers and some of the many
employees of the Butterfield Overland Mail have left reports of conditions of travel along the way. All describe the stations as meant for utility not comfort. According to one passenger, the floors were "much like the ground outside, only not nearly so clean."

Usually ten minutes were allowed for a stop at the stations, with only a few providing accommodations for feeding passengers. When the horses or mules had been changed, the stage was underway again. The wagons did stop morning, noon, and night for meals.

Almost everyone agreed the food was abominable. Ormsby said, "...the fare, though rough, is better than could be expected so far from civilized districts. It consists of bread, tea, and fried steaks of bacon, venison, antelope, or mule flesh ­ the latter tough enough. Milk, butter, vegetables were only met with towards the two ends of the trip." He reported another meal of shortcake, coffee, dried beef and raw onions. Often there were not enough plates or tin cups to serve the passengers.

Reports from the First Butterfield Stage to California

Waterman L. Ormsby, a reporter for the New York Herald, was the only through passenger on the first East-West run of the Butterfield Stage. He sent periodic dispatches to the paper describing his journey.

Tipton is mentioned in his first dispatch of September 16, l858:

"At Tipton, Moniteau County, Mo., the end of the Pacific Railroad, the bags are first placed on the coaches of the Overland Mail Company. We left St. Louis this morning at eight o'clock, and are to leave Tipton at 6 p.m. Thus far we are up to time. I shall mail you this at Tipton, and after that will write as the journey will permit. If I can write in the wagons with not less convenience than I have written this in the cars, you will hear from me regularly."

In his letter of September 20 written near the Red River in Indian Territory, he describes the scene at Tipton when the first mail was loaded on the Overland Stage: "My last letter was written on the Pacific Railroad, near the western terminus, and left us in anticipation of meeting the first overland mail stage at Tipton, about one hundred and sixty miles from St. Louis...Since that time we have traveled day and night, across hills, mountains, and plains, as fast as four horses with constant relays could carry us.. .To gain thirty-two hours, as we have on the already close time table of the Overland Mail Company has not given us much time to go easy over the stones. I have given up several attempts to write, out of sheer despair, and perhaps your printers will wish I had given up this...The only sleep I have had since last Thursday morning has been snatched in the wagons, on roads which out-Connecticut Connecticut. Yet the new scenes which constantly meet the view, the variegated aspect of the country, the curious characters to be met, and the novelty of roughing it overland are, I think, quite a recompense for any slight inconvenience which may be experienced. But, to the details of our journey.

"The Pacific Railroad train, carrying the first overland mail, arrived at Tipton, the western terminus of the road, situated in Moniteau County, Mo., at precisely one minute after six o'clock p.m. of Thursday, the 16th inst., being several minutes behind time. We there found the first coach ready, the six horses all harnessed and hitched, and Mr. John Butterfield, Jr., impatient to be off.

"The town contains but a few hundred inhabitants, and all these seemed to have turned out for the occasion, though they made no demonstration on account of it. The place is, however, but a few months old, having been built since the completion of this end of the line, and doubtless excitements are too rare to be appreciated. They looked on with astonishment as the baggage and packages were being rapidly transferred from the cars to the coach. The latter was entirely new and had not yet held a load of passengers... The time occupied in shifting the baggage and passengers was just nine minutes, at which time the cry of "Ml aboard;' and the merry crack of young John Butterfield's whip, denoted we were off. I took a note of the "following distinguished persons present;' as worthy of a place in history: Mr. John Butterfield, president of the Overland Mail Company; John Butterfield, Jr., on the box; Judge Wheeler, lady, and two children, of Fort Smith; Mr. T.R. Corbin, of Washington; and the correspondent of the Herald. It had been decided to take no passengers but the last named gentleman, on the first trip, but Mr. Butterfield made an exception in favor of Judge Wheeler, agreeing to take him to Fort Smith, where he intended to go himself. You will perceive, therefore, that your correspondent was the only through passenger who started in the first overland coach for San Francisco, as all the rest of the party dropped off by the time we reached Fort Smith. Not a cheer was raised as the coach drove off, the only adieu being, "Good bye, John;' addressed to John, Jr., by one of the crowd. Had they have been wild Indians they could not have exhibited less emotion.

"Our road for the first few miles was very fair, coursing through several small prairies, where for the firsttime I noticed those travelling hotels so commonly seen in the western country. These are large covered wagons, in which the owner and his family, sometimes numbering as high as a dozen, emigrate from place to place, travelling in the daytime, and camping near wood, water, and grass at night. . We rode along at a somewhat rapid pace, because John, Jr. was determined that the overland mail should go through his section on time: and, though his father kept calling out, "Be careful, John:' he assured him that it was "all right" and drove on.

"The first stopping place was at "Shackleford's" about seven miles distant, and we seemed hardly to have become comfortably seated in the coach before our attention was attracted to the illumination of our destination--a recognition of the occasion which seemed quite cheering after the apparent previous neglect...

"This locality is called Syracuse and is principally owned by T.R. Brayton and Mr. Shackleford, who have done much to establish the route through this section. The Pacific Railroad Company is building a depot here, and the western terminus will shortly be extended to it."

Ormsby Family Tree