The Pony Express

Do you remember my “Face to Face” post? As much as I appreciate technology, learning and appreciating the history around me by visiting in person is my favorite! Dad, on vacations as a child, would point out places of significance as we drove to our destination. Basically anything historical fascinated me! Recently, I’ve taken mini field trips to all the fantastic places my own state has to offer. A weekend trip to St. Joseph this last weekend proved why history can come to life with “face to face” visits. Come along with me!


Do you write and mail letters? Send postcards? Receiving letters and cards excite me today! Choosing post cards while on vacation was, and still is, something I love to do. Pen pals were popular when I was growing up. At church we would write and send letters to missionaries across the world. Teaching the parts of a letter was expected at the elementary level. Now, abbreviated text messages are usually delivered within 5 seconds. We can communicate with the world in minutes and seconds. News can be read on a tiny screen with a swipe of a finger.

Step back with me over 150 years ago. It was 1860. A crowd had gathered along a dusty main street of St. Joseph, Missouri. A cannon boomed and a young wiry man on a horse quickly left a stable. He carried a lightweight leather bag (mochila) as he raced to the bank of the Missouri River to be ferried across the river for his great delivery ride! Have you ever asked a young person if they’ve heard of the Pony Express?

Before the telegraph there was a need for faster communication. A steam-clipper ship traveling around South America and Cape Horn took an average of six months delivery time (via the Isthmus of Panama only 4 weeks). Covered wagons along the Oregon or California Trail took four to five months. Even a stagecoach, via the southern route, took 21-25 days. Three businessmen (Alexander Majors, William H. Russell, and William B. Waddell) decided to create a straighter route to the west using a different delivery method-horses (they called their new business the Central Overland California and Pike’s Peak Express Company-simply, the Pony Express).

The company had set up more than 150 stations along an 8-state route. Each station stood about 10 to 15 miles apart. A fresh horse would be supplied at each station; a new rider every 80-100 miles. A superintendent was hired for each five sections the trail was split. How could such an operation make money? It was their goal to earn a million-dollar contract from the federal government (worth $29 million today). Lost money could be recuperated with this contract. Eighty riders and four hundred horses were wanted. The average Pony Express rider was around 21 years old (the oldest likely in his 40’s). Thin and wiry riders were preferred. They made between $100-$150 each month (with free room and board, but comfort it was not). An oath had to be made to not fight with other employees, drink alcohol, or swear (would you be eligible 😉?).

Separating facts from legend can be difficult as several, like “Broncho Charlie” Miller claimed he rode at age 11. Two famous “Bills” associated with the Pony Express were “Wild Bill” Hickok and “Buffalo Bill” Cody. A few historians’ doubt Cody’s claim about being a rider; but undoubtedly, he made the Pony Express famous in his Wild West show. Other famous riders include Johnny Fry (the first rider to leave St. Joseph, Missouri) and “Pony Bob” Haslam (made the longest ride ever-380 miles in 78 hours). Adventures and danger certainly lurked for all drivers. Some lost their lives. Facts and legends have blended.

In March of 1861, the Pony Express carried the text of Lincoln’s Inaugural Address from Nebraska to California in the record time of 7 days and 17 hours. On April 12th, the Civil War began. The Pony Express remained deep in debt and telegraph lines were built to connect the U.S. from coast to coast. By October 1861 messages could travel from New York to San Francisco in minutes. The Pony Express ended just 18 months after it began. The final messages were delivered on November 20th. They never received the million-dollar grant (although the company was asked to continue mail service between St. Joseph and Salt Lake City, receiving $500,000). (John Micklos, 2016) It was too little, too late. Times had changed.

 “Cell phones and texting 
didn’t exist back then, 
The Pony Express used
fast horses and men.” 

Faith and Finley Tour the 50!-K.L Hale 

While we were in St. Joseph we visited the Patee House (National Landmark and hotel that had served as the Pony Express Headquarters) and the house in which Jesse James was shot and killed. Does your state have fascinating history? What is in your own backyard to explore? I want to thank Michelle and Cindy-Directors at the Pony Express Museum, for their hospitality and gifts to share with students (and my t-shirts!). The Missouri Department of Tourism has donated many Missouri Travel Guides to give. The caves and the Battlefield will also make donations. I’m so thankful for the face-to-face connections and the kindness of all who are helping me on this journey!

Have faith 💚


Enjoy some pics from the trip!

References

(Pony Express National Museum, 2020)

John Micklos, J. (2016). Bold Riders The Story of the Pony Express. North Mankato: Capstone Press.

Pony Express National Museum. (2020). Retrieved from Pony Express National Museum: http://www.ponyexpress.org

The Pony Express National Museum. (2021, July 18). Preserving the Legacy and the Legend. St. Joseph, MIssouri, USA: Pony Express National Museum.

“The Pony Express Museum, Inc., is a private nonprofit organization created in 1990 to interpret, preserve, and promote the legend and legacy of the Pony Express as it originated in St. Joseph, Missouri.”

33 thoughts on “The Pony Express

  1. atimetoshare.me

    I have grown very fond of history. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen so many dramatic changes in my 79 years. Did you know that Calamity Jane was also a pony express rider. Apparently she was able to pass for a man and certainly a lightweight. Cool that the women of the old west were willing to do men’s jobs and were paid the same too. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Kathy! I failed to mention Calamity Jane and they did have a picture of her. Absolutely love her story and life. I’m a huge western fan~and she was as tough as they come~what a sharp shooter. I have a wonderful memory of visiting her (And Wild Bill’s) graves in Deadwood. The Old West is fascinating. The changes you have lived through are so interesting. And day to day the changes keep flowing. Thank you for your support always! 💚❤️💛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. atimetoshare.me

        I wrote a play for my children’s theatre about ten years ago called “Wild West Women & a Few Good Men.” I featured Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Belle Starr Buffalo Bill’s wife. I did a lot of research on these women and what they endured during these difficult times. These were just a few Of the women of that time, but I know there were many who gave up their comfortable lives back east to forge an unknown land into what we know today. They were not only strong and courageous, but women of faith. I would love to have known them. Paul is my cowboy. He would’ve loved living during that time.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes Karla, the world’s communication has changed so fast in such a short time. Even the telephone that sat on a table or wall are barely still around any more, going into history with just this current generation. Next year they will have mind linking, talking to family or a friend just by thinking about them. Mmm, now if I could just do that with chocolate 😀 ❤️ 🙏🏽 🦋 😂 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mark! Hmmm, mind linking. Now that could be scary! But then my kids, grandkids, and family would really know they’re always on my mind for sure! The chocolate link sounds yummy 🤤. It’s always good to “see” you! 💚🙏🏻🌈🍃

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Our children need to disconnect from technology and go out and touch history. The story of the pony express is a vital one for your country and should be remembered. I Wonder how many children know about it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Pam. It’s interesting. It really depends on the parent’s interest in SPECIFIC history. In regard to teaching, Missouri adopted the “Show-Me Standards” in 1996 and we have Grade-Level Expectations (GLE’s) that were updated in 2016. Just my little book alone can be a resource for at least 15 GLE’s, grades K-3 (and even up to 5th grade if those kids still love poetry with great pics and history). Our GLE’s give room for teachers to work thematically to address the themes. Social Studies becomes the focus for E.L.A.–all written and reading integration. The best teachers for us in this area? Lewis and Clark! I could take the Pony Express theme alone and create so many lessons in social studies, math, science, and definitely, English Language Arts. I’m hoping by visiting schools that a new fact might be learned that would stir interest–for both teacher and the student! I love the wiggle room that our GLE’s provide for the overall standards being taught. Thank you for your support and thoughtful question! Take care my friend!

      Like

  4. Jean McDonald

    Dear friend! I thank God everyday for introducing us! You’ve added so much to my life & thought process! when you guys were in St. Joe you were about an hour and a half from where we live! St. Joe is where we go when i need a day in the city! wonderful town! when i was going thru cancer treatments there were 2 ladies in town that i knew who didn’ know each other . They ( not knowing what the other was doing) would send me cards every other week & it worked that they did alternating weeks so every week I received a hi card not a get well or anything like that but a wonderful card or a piece of construction paper covered in stickers! I really looked forward to those cards! They always arrived just when I needed them. This taught me that when God puts in your heart to send a specific card to someone that you may not know well they must need it & His timing is always perfect so don’t hesitate or over think just do it! it’s never failed yet! It also is so nice to have that piece of paper in your hand that you can reread & reread! Hopefully we will get to Branson this fall so we can hug each other & spend some time together! Love & hugs precious friend!☕🍵🙏💖💝

    On Tue, Jul 20, 2021 at 12:32 PM Flannel with Faith wrote:

    > K.L. Hale posted: ” Do you remember my “Face to Face” post? As much as I > appreciate technology, learning and appreciating the history around me by > visiting in person is my favorite! Dad, on vacations as a child, would > point out places of significance as we drove to our de” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Vicki, thank you so much for sharing! I’m so thankful God put you in my life too.
      I didn’t know we were so close to you! I’m so glad you had those angels sending you encouraging cards. Hearing your story of what you overcame gave me the memory of us sitting on the motorcycles with the Breast Cancer Riders. I’ve always admired you and used you as an example of being an overcomer! We were just speaking of you the other day (Kim was wondering about you two as she hasn’t seen you yet!). I love Fall and hope to see you when the cool breezes blow and the colors change! Take care of yourself. Love and hugs, 🤍💚🤗

      Like

  5. I’ve lived in several areas of our state that came into being because they were on stagecoach routes— first becoming small stopping points to change horses then later to offer respites for passages only to grow as trains took the place of stagecoaches— and now they are complete towns and cities with state highways and interstates— I think I like the stagecoaches better 🥲🥰

    Liked by 1 person

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