Pony express

The Daring Concept, The Pony Express

The Pony Express route from St Joseph Missouri to Sacramento
The Pony Express route from St Joseph Missouri to Sacramento
A Station along the Way
A Station along the Way
Station in good repair
Station in good repair
Ruins of a station
Ruins of a station
Plaque commemorating the Pony Express
Plaque commemorating the Pony Express
Reenactment at St Joseph......All photos courtesy Flickr.
Reenactment at St Joseph......All photos courtesy Flickr.

The Amazing Short Story of the Pony Express

Mention the Pony Express and many people will conjure up pictures of Wild West Shows with Buffalo Bill. The truth about the Pony Express is very short. As I write the 150th Anniversary is now in 2010. The Service ran from St. Jo Missouri to Sacramento CA a diistance of a smidgeon under 2000 miles which its teams of horses covered in ten days.

This amazing service was never successful financially and came to an abrupt halt when the Telegraph service was extended beyond the Missouri, which meant no contest with the galloping ponies. The news that Abraham Lincoln had been elected president was carried to the West Coast using the Pony Express in 1860.

A leather saddle bag called a Mochila carried 20 lbs of mail in four pockets called cantinas. The Mochila was thrown over the horses back and was designed to fit over the horn of any saddle, the change over was completed in moments as a fresh rider vaulted onto the horses back. Only one set of mail was ever lost but several riders perished in the line of duty.

The riders were all young men between eighteen to twenty years old and very light weight. They had to be capable of galloping 75 miles at approx twelve miles an hour with four or five changes of pony. Not surprisingly the ponies, for they were only about 14 hands, were of very high quality stock with a lot of mustang blood. The young men had to swear an oath of exemplary behaviour and each were given leather bound bible.

The riders carried arms at all times. By and large they were left alone by the Indians as they carried nothing of value to them. One rider was captured and killed by Indians but the pony escaped and the mail saved. These brave lads were paid between $100 to $125 per month. The station keepers were paid $50 to $100 per month. Many stations remain in remote positions in Utah, Nebraska and Nevada.

Mark twain who caught a brief glimpse of a Pony Express Rider and wrote about it years later in his book "Roughing It". Buffalo Bill included a scene about it in his Wild West Show which was viewed by the Queen of England, the Kaiser of Russia and the Pope all got to watch the show.

This institution flourished for a short time (78 weeks) around 1860 but has never been forgotten. St Josephs Missourri has a reenactment each year. Many other towns along the way also celebrate the excitement and glamour. The stations or their ruins still punctuate the tortuous route bringing back memories of steaming horses and dusty riders. The mail, wrapped in oiled silk for protection had to be got through. Even at the initial cost of $5 for half an ounce of mail which is equivalent to $100 these days failed to make it pay.

The Pony Express will not be forgotten as it demonstrated the American spirit so strong in those days of challenge and daring.

The Amazing Pony Express

More Images of the Famous Pony Express

A Letter stamped for the Pony Express.
A Letter stamped for the Pony Express.
Ruined Station
Ruined Station
Ruined Station
Ruined Station
The Mochila or Saddle bag
The Mochila or Saddle bag
Marker for the Ancient Route
Marker for the Ancient Route

More by this Author


Comments 40 comments

Putz Ballard profile image

Putz Ballard 6 years ago

Wonderful hub thamnk you for sharing. I loved the photographs especially the old cabin.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Thanks Putz. It is an amazing story, glad you enjoyed it. Thanks or coming by.


FGual profile image

FGual 6 years ago from USA

Thank you for writing this great story. I lived in nearby Kansas City and visited old St.Joseph a few times. Beautiful views of the muddy Missouri along the bluffs. It was tough livin in them days.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Wonderfully written hub and great pictures. Thank you so much.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England

Gypsy Willow thank you for sharing this part of your Countries History. It was a very informative read. The photographs enhance the hard work you obviously put into this hub.


Linda Myshrall 6 years ago

My favorite so far as this one really sends the mind to wandering. I had the privelege of working in St. Joe for a short bit of time, but unfortunately I missed the re-enactment... Something to look forward to in the future! The pictures were fantastic on this too. Thumbs up!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hi FGual thanks for the comment. It is stirring history isn't it?


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hi Hello hello thanks for joining me on a trip along this trail. Exciting history isn't it?


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hi D.A.L. I appreciate your kind comment. It was fun researching this hub. Although I live near the old route and had often seen the marker, I really didn't know much about it. It is a standing joke in our local Post Office that we always ask for a fast pony when sending a letter to Europe.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hey Linda, thanks for the kind comment. The very name conjures up pictures of the old Wild West doesn't it?


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago

I'll be making a road trip this May from Chicago to Seattle; it will be my second time following this particular route, and I am looking forward to it more than I can say........... not just the landscape this time, but the fact that there is gold on the other side of this rainbow.......... meaning my son will be at the end of the drive! ;-)

This looks like a "great" route for the next trip............. love driving. Thanks for this.......... you've given me a new "trail" to explore!

Kaie


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hello Kaie, I hope you have a wonderful trip. Your journey will take you over many miles of desert which is great in a modern capsule with aircon and a reliable engine. Must have been different for these brave young men on a galloping pony. Thanks for coming by.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 6 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon

I love this hub. I have always heard about the Pony Express, but never really understood what it was about. Thank you for the description of who did it, what they carried and some information about the tools of the trade. What I found most amazing is that anyone could ride a galloping pony for 75 miles. That seems impossible, but they picked the right age group for that job. Truly astounding.


keiranthapa profile image

keiranthapa 6 years ago from Darjeeling

great hub.


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

Very good hub, and yes, the Pony Express was such a beautiful Frontier life story that's still alive today. Probably also for the idea of freedom involved. Thumbs up!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hi Alexander, riding like that must have been a blast. These wiry guys were fit and brave and had the best ponies. Sure conjures up the Wild West doesn't it? Thanks for riding the trail!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hi keiranthapa, thanks for coming by, glad you enjoyed it.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hello hypnodude, It is inspiring isn't it? Amazing what went on in the inhospitable desert in times gone by.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

Was it really 2000 miles? Jeeeesus... very impressive. All for a salary equivalent to $2.000 today. Not the best deal, but well done to those boys :-)


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

The whole deal blows my mind. What a spirit of adventure they had! Amazing story isn't it? Thanks for visiting!


Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 6 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

Great story and pictures. Thank you so much


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Thank you for visiting Granny's House.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

This topic has always fascinated me. Great job!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hi habee, I live in Nevada and often see monuments scattered around, usually out in the desert. The whole idea fascinated me too. I never realised it was so short lived and the telegraph was its demise. Thanks for the visit.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

This story is quite interesting. I enjoyed reading about the Pony Express. Good writing! Your last line is great. Thanks!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hey James, thanks for the visit and reading right through to the last words! I appreciate it.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

I wish I could have ridden this when I was younger! Thank you!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Me too, thanks for dropping by Micky!


Ginn Navarre profile image

Ginn Navarre 6 years ago

Enjoyed this, for there is a place in my heart for these people for I lived on the Butter field stage route for many years. My next door neighbor was the old Butterfield stage stop which is now part of the Calif state park.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Wow Ginn, history must seem very real to you. Would it even be possible today to find these people? Thanks for the comment.


Jason R. Manning profile image

Jason R. Manning 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

What a great part of the American past. True interpretation of blood, sweat and tears. Great read and wonderful pictures.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Thanks for dropping by Jason. The amazing feats should never be forgotten. The riders and horses must have been so tough. As a horse rider myself, I cannot imagine covering the distances required in all winds and weathers. Quite awe inspiring!!


platinumOwl4 profile image

platinumOwl4 4 years ago

This is a manifcent article. I happened to see an Old John Wayne Movie depicting the demise of the pony express. Just a you say the Telegraph came in and it was over. The cell phone is creating problems for the postal service now.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 4 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Talk about history repeating itself! So glad you stopped by and enjoyed the hub. So many changes happening so fast. Thanks for your visit (in cyberspace).


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

Truly beautiful and has to have the up up and away.

Thank you for sharing.

Take care;

Eddy.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 4 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Thank you Eddy.I am glad yo enjoy my hubs.


Mr Archer profile image

Mr Archer 4 years ago from Missouri

I live in Missouri, am fascinated by history, yet failed to know as much as you about something which began in my own state. Very detailed, great pictures, and overall well done hub. Thanks for giving me more information about this. I never knew it only existed for that short of time.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 4 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hi Mr Archer

I love history and coming to the USA has given me more to investigate. The short duration was a big surprise to me too. Thanks for the visit.


wilderness profile image

wilderness 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

Now I'm jealous. On a recent trip between Las Vegas and Idaho we found a rest stop where there used to be a pony express station. The sign is the same as that in your first photo, but there were no buildings left. I wish we could have seen the cabin or even ruins of an old cabin.

The pony express was an interesting interlude in our history, and you have done well in giving a look at just what it was. Thank you.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 3 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Until I researched this hub I didn't realize how short lived was this chapter of American history. Interesting time though. Thanks for the kind comment.

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