To help satisfy the requirement of being close to the courthouse, W. W. McDonald bought Lot 4 of Block 6 in the Original Town of Waynesville in 1854. This is where the building stands. Sometime between 1854 and 1860, W. W. also acquired Lot 2, which is behind (east) the Old Stagecoach Stop (see Summary of Chain of Title).
This location was excellent for two reasons. First, it was just east of the courthouse square. Secondly, the property was located on the St. Louis to Springfield Road. Located on what geographers call the interior ridge, mastodons had migrated on this ancient pathway. Later, it was a trade route of the Native Americans and white traders. In the middle of the 19th century, it bore stagecoach passengers and the stagecoaches carried the mail. These characteristics added up to a good business location and opportunity for McDonald.
Certainly not coincidentally, W. W. McDonald also assumed the duties of Postmaster on August 5, 1856. David B. Lawrence owned Lot 4 from 1850 until 1854 and was also the Postmaster for that period of time. In an interview with Mary Bob Manes Barb, she told of playing in an old walnut log playhouse adjacent to the Old Stagecoach Stop that her family called the "post office". This was in 1917 to 1919. It seems it stood just to the south of the present OSS but further back on the lot. This playhouse might have been the post office of D. B. Lawrence on Lot 4 beginning in 1850 and then McDonald's post office. If you are running a stage stop and the stage is carrying the U. S. Mail, being the Postmaster would not only make sense but provide some extra income. McDonald's tenure as Postmaster ended in 1859 and was passed on to B. G. Lingow, who was the town doctor and owned a drugstore, which was a large building on the opposite (west) side of the town square. Correspondence with the United States Post Office Historian has produced no location documents for the Waynesville Post Office prior to the end of the Civil War.
Although the Pacific Railroad of Missouri was inching its way along the interior ridge in a southwesterly direction from St. Louis to Springfield, it had not made it to Pulaski County. The railroad, due to disruption of construction by the Civil War, did not make its way through Pulaski County until 1869.
A northern railroad route had been completed as far as Tipton, Missouri in Moniteau County. John Butterfield won a contract from the U. S. Post Office to pick up mail, as well as passengers, at the terminus in Tipton in 1858. This was the beginning of the famous Butterfield Overland Mail Company that delivered the mail and passengers to California.
Less famous was the contract awarded to the company of Burden and Woodson for a stage route along the state road from St. James to Springfield. They made the run three times a week. In Pulaski County, the stage stopped at Little Piney, Pine Bluff, Greenville, Waynesville, Colley, and Bellefonte (see map). After an overnight stop near Lebanon, the stage continued on to Springfield. The route took two days to run and ran three times a week.
Burden and Woodson may have been a short lived company. At the least, it did not advertise locally. No local advertisements or other documents have been found. Another company, O. Tuller & Co., began service through Waynesville immediately after the War of Rebellion was over (see announcement). Within two years, Owen Tuller merged his company or took on another partner(s) to form a stage line known as Tuller and Parker (see dissolution announcement). This, in turn, may have become the Southwestern Stage Company by 1868, owned by Parker and Smith (see advertisement). Through the research efforts of John Bradbury, Senior Manuscript Specialist, Western Historical Manuscript Collection, Rolla Branch, we have these newspaper announcements and the "Rules and Regulations of the South-Western Stage Co." (see Rules).
These companies used the widely employed Concord Coach (see related Newsletter article on stages), which were made by the Abbott-Downing Company of New Hampshire. The Concord was the finest coach in the world, both in workmanship and appearance. The Concord carried from six to nine passengers inside with additional space on top. The Celebrity Wagon, also known as a "mud wagon", was lighter and used for rough sections of a route. It also could carry nine passengers who were protected from the elements by leather or duck curtains.
A stagecoach stop must have been a welcome sight for travelers in the nineteenth century. Imagine the stifling heat and choking dust in summer. The sucking mud of the river bottom roads was termed quicksand by some.
In this earliest period of the Old Stagecoach Stop, which we believe was called The Waynesville House, W. W. McDonald's days must have been full. He was fulfilling his duties as Postmaster, Circuit Clerk, County Clerk, and running the tavern. He also became acknowledged as a lawyer. This must have been done by reading the law with a practicing attorney, which was the custom of the day. Our guess is this practicing lawyer was V. B. Hill.
W. W. was also active in improving the educational opportunies in the county. Waynesville was the first place in the county to make a move toward higher education. In 1857, there was passed by the Legislature and approved by the governor, on January 30, 1860, "An Act to Incorporate the Waynesville Academy". It provided "that William W. McDonald, Jesse A. Rayl, . . .[29 other names] . . . and such other persons as may become stockholders in said corporation . . . the trustees of the Waynesville Academy." Land was purchased and lumber stacked at the site, but no Academy was built. The oncoming war pushed education off the roster of concerns and the materials were sold at auction. It is clear from this that W. W. was committed to the county and its improvement.
The 1860 Federal Census shows W. W. as 39 years old, his wife Mary Jane as 28 years of age, and three young girls as the rest of the family. With McDonald's occupation listed as Clerk, three other persons were listed as living in the building at this time, bringing the total occupancy to eight.
It was during this time that W. W. also decided to buy some of the cheap land for sale by the government. In 1860, he bought two different 40 acre parcels. One was near the head of McCourtney Hollow and north of Melinda McDonald's. Another 40 acre parcel is a curious purchase. It was in what is now Richland, at the present intersection of Highways 7 and 133 and what became the railroad tracks in 1869. Was this a speculative buy, anticipating the growth of Richland with the railroad? There was no Richland in 1860. It doesn't seem likely. The railroad in 1860 was still charted to run through Waynesville. Why a piece of property that far removed is a mystery. There were also two parcels of land bought by William McDonald (no "W" for a middle initial) in 1856-57. One parcel was 319 acres and the size of the other is not noted. The location of these purchases (Township 35, Range 10, Sections 31 and 32) are around McCortney Hollow and adjacent to the land of John McDonald, who was W.W's brother.
With three young girls, ages three months to seven years, a blossoming political career, and real estate, things must have looked rosy for the McDonalds. However, a firestorm was about to sweep the land. It had been smoldering on the western border of Missouri for years. When Abraham Lincoln was elected in November of 1860, the fire began to rage. Now a party occupied the White House which held the view that "the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom". Secession was sure to come.
It would be a couple of years before W. W. McDonald would act on his loyalty. As many men did during the War of Rebellion, he apparently tried to steer clear of both sides. The time would come when he would have to decide.
When riding the stagecoach, there were some commonly accepted courtesies and rules to follow as a considerate passenger:
Don't grease your hair because travel is dusty.
Spit on the leeward side or you will have spit in your face.
Take small change to pay for expensives.
Don't point out where murderers have been committed, especially if there are women passengers.
If you have a bottle, pass it around.
In very cold weather, abstain entirely from liquor when on the road because you will freeze twice as fast under its influence.
Don't swear or lop over on neighbors when sleeping.
When the driver asks you to get off and walk, do so without grumbling.
If the team runs away, sit still and take your chances.