The Pony Express

dawna

First Sergeant
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
canada
The pony express was developed by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors. Plans for the pony express were spurred by the impending cloud of the Civil War and the need for faster communication with California and the West. The pony express consisted of relays of men riding fast ponies or horses that carried letters and small packages across a 1,966-mile (3,164-kilometer) trail. The service opened officially on April 3, 1860, when riders left simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. The first westbound trip was made in 9 days and 23 hours and the eastbound journey in 11 days and 12 hours. The pony riders covered 250 miles in a 24-hour day as compared with 100 to 125 miles by the stage coaches.

Prior to the start of the pony express, there were three mail routes to California. The first was a steamship voyage from New York, then crossing the Isthmus of Panama by canoe and mule, and next connecting with another steamship run to San Francisco. This journey took 22 days but was used to carry the bulk of western mail prior to the Pony Express. The other two mail service options used wagon routes and stagecoach lines. The central route was used mainly for local mail. It ran from Independence, Missouri, along the Platte River, through South Pass, Salt Lake City, Carson City, and on to Sacramento with a total travel time of 21? days. The third option, the Butterfield Overland Mail Company route, followed an oxbow-shaped path some 600 miles south of the Central Route, taking up to three weeks to arrive in Southern California.

During the critical early days of the Civil War, the pony express helped to preserve the Union by providing rapid communication between California and Washington, D.C. Both the North and the South wanted California to join them. For the Union, the State provided needed material resources and a far-western base of operations against the Confederacy. The control of California by the South could have stalemated the Federal Government west of the Rocky Mountains where half a million people then lived.

Eventually, the pony express had more than 100 stations, 80 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. The express route was extremely hazardous, but only one mail delivery was ever lost. The service lasted only 19 months until October 24, 1861, when the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line ended the need for its existence. Although California relied upon news via the pony express during the early days of the Civil War, the horse line was never a financial success, leading its founders to bankruptcy. However, the drama surrounding the pony express made it a part of the legend of the American West.
 

dawna

First Sergeant
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
canada
Gary:

Although Kit Carson wasn't an actual rider for the Pony Express, the city named in his honour housed one of their relay stations. "Buffalo Bill" Cody was one of the more famous riders of the Pony Express:

Carson City, founded in 1858 and named for Kit Carson, was the prosperous social and supply center for the nearby mining settlements of the Comstock Lode in the mid-1800's. In 1864 it became Nevada's capital. In 1860, there was only one street that was little more than a double row of saloons, a few assay offices, a general store, and the hotel that was the relay station for the Pony Express located between 4th and 5th Streets, near the original Ormsby House.

Riders

The first rider from St. Joseph, Missouri - "Alex Carlisle, Charles Cliff, Gus Cliff, Johnny Fry, Jack H. Keetley, William Richardson and Henry Wallace - seven riders in all - have been named as the lad in the saddle of the bright bay mare (or the little sorrel, or the jet-black horse - take your choice), said to be named Sylph, which galloped out of town at 7:15 p.m., April 3, 1860. His identification, not quite settled a century later, has been sifted down by process of literary attrition to a draw between Johnny Fry and William Richardson. The patient reader may study the arguments of their respective advocates, ably presented in various publications and books, then decide for himself, perhaps with the aid of a flipped coin." Roy Bloss in his book Pony Express - The Great Gamble

A larger number of eye-witnesses that Johnny Fry was the first westbound rider tips the scale in his favor. He most likely deserves the honor.

Johnny Fry (also spelled Frye and Frey) was a well known rider in local horse races. It is said that young women would watch for him to make his Pony Express run past their homes and would hand him cakes and cookies, thus the invention of doughnuts.

Fry was little more than a boy when he entered the pony service. He was a native of Missouri. Though small in stature, weighing less than 120 pounds, he was every inch a man. Fry's division ran from St. Joseph to Seneca, Kansas, a distance of eighty miles, which he covered at an average speed of twelve and a half miles per hour, including all stops.

When the war started, Fry enlisted in the Union army under General Blunt. His military career was cut short in 1863 when he fell in a hand-to-hand fight with Confederate guerrillas at Baxter Springs, Kansas. In this his last fight, Fry is said to have killed five of his assailants before being struck down. Johnny Fry's name is on the monument in the Baxter Springs Cemetary dedicated to the Union soldiers and scouts who were killed there in August 1863.

Gordon Frye writes, "My grandfather's (the grandson of Johnny Frye's brother) records show that the family spelled the name variously as Fry, Frey, and Frye. Presently the family spells the name Frye."

"Pony Bob" Haslam, was one of the most daring, resourceful, and best known riders on the route. He was hired by Bolivar Roberts, helped build the stations, and was assigned the run from Friday's Station at the foot of Lake Tahoe to Buckland’s Station near Fort Churchill 75 miles to the east. Perhaps his greatest ride, 120 miles in 8 hours and 20 minutes while wounded, was an important contribution to the fastest trip ever made by the Pony Express. The message carried: Lincoln's Inaugural Address.

When the completion of the telegraph line from the Missouri River to Sacramento put the Pony Express out of business, Haslam continued on his old run as an employee of Wells, Fargo & Company, which operated its own enterprise between San Francisco and Virginia City.

He later served as a Deputy United States Marshall in Salt Lake City. In his final years he worked in the Hotel Congress in Chicago. He made a personal business card with a sketch of himself as a Pony Express rider at the age of twenty and entertained guests with stories of his adventures. He died there in 1912, at the age of 72 years.

Pony Bob Haslam is credited with having made the longest round trip ride of the Pony Express. He had received the east bound mail (probably the May 10th mail from San Francisco) at Friday's Station. At Buckland's Station his relief rider was so badly frightened over the Indian threat that he refused to take the mail. Haslam agreed to take the mail all the way to Smith's Creek for a total distance of 190 miles without a rest. After a rest of nine hours, he retraced his route with the westbound mail. At Cold Springs he found that Indians had raided the place killing the station keeper and running off all of the stock. Finally he reached Buckland's Station, making the 380-mile round trip the longest on record.

Another Famous Rider was William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, born February 26, 1845, in Iowa. At 15, Cody was a Pony Express rider and given a short 45-mile run from Julesburg to the west. After some months he was transferred to Slade's Division in Wyoming, where he made the longest non-stop ride from Red Buttes Station to Rocky Ridge Station and back when he found that his relief rider had been killed. The distance of 322 miles over one of the most dangerous portions of the entire trail was completed in 21 hours 40 minutes using 21 horses.
 

johan_steele

Regimental Armorer
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
South of the North 40
The distance of 322 miles over one of the most dangerous portions of the entire trail was completed in 21 hours 40 minutes using 21 horses.

For those of you who have ridden not horses before... that is one heck of a ride. About 15 miles per hour I think across that country and managing to switch horses 21 times... frankly my butt is sore just thinking about it!
 

gary

Captain
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Thank you Dawna.
beerchug.gif



(Message edited by Gary on November 07, 2004)
 

dawna

First Sergeant
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
canada
Gary & Shane:

I've managed 9 hours in the saddle with three 5 minute vet checks when I was competing years ago in endurance riding, and this past summer I was in the saddle daily for 7 hour stretches when I rode the Adirondacks in N.Y. That is my limit, and always has been. The men of the Pony Express were tough, resilient cowboys and they have my utmost respect and admiration.

Dawna
 
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