The Coburn Mystery: Chapter 45

By June Morrall

After the Levy brothers came to town, the trouble down at Pebble Beach typically went like this: The locals ripped up the gate blocking the entrance. Loren Coburn sent one of his men to fix it. Oh, and by this time, the locals were calling Loren “the Czar.” That was the usual script.

When County Roadmaster Charles Pinkham showed up to remove the gate on a Sunday, Coburn challenged his authority. Pinkham refused to step down.

The next day, Monday, Coburn rode to Redwood City and got a signed warrant for Joe Levy, citing the prominent businesman as an illegal gate basher, a misdemeanor. Levy heard about it while he was working in Pescadero (news of the warrant was sent to the Western Union office in his general store.) Levy immediately rode over to the courthouse and asked Justice Welch if he could have some time before pleading; he was released on his own recognizance.

(Just imagine the stories, the juicy gossip, that was going around about that place, Pebble Beach.)

On October 17, 1891, the People v Levy, also known as that Pescadero case, was heard in court. Joe Levy defended his actions by stating that he traveled all over the road, which had been used by the public for two decades, a road Coburn obstructed with his fence and gate. Levy was acquitted.

Loren’s confrontation with Joe led to more confrontations. In the spring of 1892 Loren jumped into the stage business and bought two big Mt. Hamilton coaches, each with an 11-passenger capacity. The route he chose for his People’s Stage Co. covered San Mateo-Half Moon Bay-Pescadero and would put him head-to-head with the Levys who owned the competitor stageline.

The Levy’s owned a general store in Half Moon Bay—-and there was no surprise when Loren’s new stage company lost time there. Things just weren’t done on schedule when the coaches roared into town.

Coburn didn’t let it bother him. This was a war between the stages. He planned on running three stages on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

They may have called it a “stage war,” but in the end Coburn and the Levy’s played an expensive fare war. In May 1892, Loren charged $1.50 from Pescadero to San Mateo. A month later passengers payed $.95. The stage wars ended when Loren Coburn’s People Stage lines hiked their prices back up to the old rates.

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