Barlow and Sanderson Stagecoach treks to Rio Grande County Museum


Photos by Lyndsie The Barlow and Sanderson Stagecoach will be housed at the Rio Grande County Museum.

RIO GRANDE COUNTY — For the first time in almost 65 years, the Barlow and Sanderson Stagecoach has made a trek across the San Luis Valley to the Rio Grande County Museum. The museum and the City of Monte Vista reached an agreement to store the stagecoach on a long-term loan agreement with the stipulation that the city would retain ownership.

The stagecoach was built in 1871 when stagecoaches were a common form of transportation. Before the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad made its way into the San Luis valley, Barlow and Sanderson Stagecoaches brought passengers, mail, and other supplies to the western communities of the San Luis Valley and had their main office in Del Norte.

The stagecoach is a mud wagon design used to transport mail, luggage and supplies unlike the fancier versions that would have brought people from the trail stations into the western towns. It was built by Abbot-Downing Stage Company, one of the most popular stage crafters of the 19th Century.

In 1959, the owners of the stage, Monte Vista Commercial Club, later known as the Monte Vista Chamber relinquished ownership to the Colorado Historical Society, now known as History Colorado. In 1994, the stage received state historical designation and was moved from its Monte Vista location to the Fort Garland Museum. The museum put the stagecoach on display and tried to restore it to its former glory but due to a mishap with the color of paint, it was then disqualified from its historical designation in 2014 and returned to Monte Vista where it has resided in storage until today.

Now, the stagecoach will call the Rio Grande County Museum home and will be inside the building to ensure the stagecoach remains historically intact. The museum will be seeking funding for restoration of the stage and will use resources to bring in experts to help with restoration efforts.

“We are very excited to host the stagecoach. I do not think the greater San Luis Valley knows the historical significance of this particular coach. It is why we are all here. Literally. This stagecoach would have brought in all our pioneers from Albert Pfeiffer to notable historical figures like Buffalo Bill and more. It was one that may have been held up by the Leroy Brothers. It played a significant role in our history, and we thank the City of Monte Vista for working with us to preserve this precious piece of history,” said Rio Grande County Museum Director Lyndsie Ferrell.

Now, with the stagecoach in house, the museum is returning their focus to the Barlow and Sanderson Office restoration project they started with local historian Suzanne Off last year.

“Our goal is to ultimately reunite the two artifacts once again and create a display at the museum our entire San Luis Valley community can be proud of,” stated Ferrell.

The museum will reopen to the public in mid-April and has plans for a grand reopening event on May 20 in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the historical designation of the Old Spanish Trail. More details about the event will be announced soon.