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Pony Express | The Route, The Riders, The Ruins Left Behind

Pony Express Map William Henry Jackson.jpgPublic Domain, Link

Pony Express

What was the Pony Express Overview

The Pony Express was an American express mail service that used relays of horse-mounted riders. It was operated by Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company.

During its 18 months of operation, the Pony Express reduced the time for messages to travel between the east and west US coast to about 10 days. It became the west’s most direct means of east-west communication before the first transcontinental telegraph was established (October 24, 1861), and was vital for tying the new U.S. state of California with the rest of the United States.

How Long Did the Pony Express Last

It operated from April 3, 1860, to October 26, 1861, between Missouri and California.

USA – CIRCA 1960: A postage stamp printed in USA Pony Express Centennial Issue shows Pony Express Rider circa 1960

When Was the First Mail Delivered via the Pony Express

The first westbound Pony Express trip left St. Joseph on April 3, 1860, and arrived 10 days later in Sacramento, California, on April 14.

These letters were sent under cover from the east to St. Joseph, and never directly entered the U.S. mail system.

Today, only a single letter is known to exist from the inaugural westbound trip from St. Joseph to Sacramento.  It was delivered in an envelope embossed with postage that was first issued by the U.S. Post Office in 1855.

Who was the Most Famous Pony Express Rider?

In May 1860, Robert “Pony Bob” Haslam took off on the most legendary ride in Pony Express history. The 20-year-old was scheduled to make his usual 75-mile run from Friday’s Station east to Buckland Station in Nevada.

He came to the United States as a teenager and was hired by Bolivar Roberts, helped build the stations, and was assigned the run from Friday’s Station (State Line) to Buckland 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 was Abraham Lincoln’s Inaugural Address.

Other Famous Pony Express Riders

  • Buffalo Bill
  • Charles Peck Thompson
  • Richard Clarke (frontiersman)
  • Johnny Fry
  • George Monroe
  • Robert Haslam (Pony Express)
  • Jack Keetley
  • Bronco Charlie Miller
  • Joaquin Miller
  • Billy Richardson (Pony Express rider)
  • Joseph Alfred Slade
  • Alexander Toponce
  • William Sloan Tough
  • Elijah Nicholas Wilson

How Many Pony Express Stations Were There

The Pony Express route consisted of almost 200 stations that covered 2,000 miles throughout eight states, which were mostly in Nebraska, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.

Each rider generally rode 75 to 100 miles and changed horses every 10 to 15 miles with the entire route taking about 10 days to cover.

Below are the states on the Pony Express route, the number of stations, and how many miles within each state.

STATE# STATIONS# MILES
California2487
Colorado227
Kansas13151
Missouri32
Nebraska38565
Nevada47417
Utah27263
Wyoming43489
TOTAL1972001

Are There Any Pony Express Stations Left

Most of the original Pony Express stations no longer exist or are in ruins.

One of the last standing Pony Express Stations that is in decent shape is the Hollenberg Pony Express Station in Hanover, Kansas, however, is one of the last standings.

Aerial drone view of Fort Churchill, USA, Ruins of a United States Army fort and a way station on the Pony Express route in Lyon County Nevada.

What Replaced the Pony Express?

Nineteen months after launching the Pony Express, it was replaced by the Pacific Telegraph line. The Pony Express was no longer needed. While it existed, the Pony Express provided a needed service but it was never quite the financial success it was hoped to be.

Where Did the Pony Express Begin and End?

From Missouri to California the Pony Express riders could deliver a letter faster than ever before. The Pony Express was in operation for only 18 months between April 1860 and October 1861. Nevertheless, the Pony Express has become synonymous with the Old West.

How Far Did the Pony Express Riders go in One Day?

Riders would travel 75 to 100 miles a day, switching horses every 10 to 12 miles. The fastest delivery in the history of the Pony Express was seven days and seventeen hours.

How Close Together Were Pony Express Stations?

Pony stations were generally located between 5 to 20 miles apart. The terrain and its effect on horse travel determined the number and the distance between stations. Stations that already existed for the stagecoach line were also used for “The Pony”.

pony express

Pony Express Routes

This route roughly follows today’s US 50 across Nevada and Utah. 

Beginning at St. Joseph, Missouri, the approximately 1,900-mile-long (3,100 km) route roughly followed the Oregon and California Trails to Fort Bridger in Wyoming, and then the Mormon Trail (known as the Hastings Cutoff) to Salt Lake City, Utah. From there, it followed the Central Nevada Route to Carson City, Nevada Territory, before passing over the Sierra and reaching to Sacramento, California. From there mail was transferred to boats to go downriver to San Francisco. On a few instances when the steamer was missed, riders took the mail by horseback to Oakland, California.

Pony Express Stations

Below are the Pony Express Stations located in the Southwest states of California, Nevada, and Utah.

Pony Express

Pony Express Statue in Old Sacramento State Historic Park.

Pony Express Stations in California

California’s gold was very important to the Union, so communication with the state was critical to keep it from seceding, along with the southern states.   The Pony Express helped to keep California in the Union by delivering President Lincoln’s March 4, 1861, inaugural address in 7 days, and 17 hours.

LEGEND:

  • (H) = Home Station (some of these changed over time, as needed)
  • Bold = Station Name on the original U.S. Senate Executive Document, 46th Congress, 3rd Session, I, No. 21 p.7-8 “Contract with Overland Mail Co” “Route 10773”
  • Italics = Station Name listed on the 2010 Map prepared by the National Pony Express Association and produced and printed by the National Parks Service to celebrate the Pony Express Sesquicentennial.

List of Pony Express Stations in California:

  • 167 – Woodford’s    (used only during April 1860)
  • 168 – Fountain Place
  • 169 – Yank’s / Myers / Meyers
  • 170 – Strawberry / Strawberry Valley House   (FYI:  It is reported that Mr. Berry, the station operator, fed the stock straw—but charged for hay!—or, maybe there were, indeed strawberries to be found growing in the area.)
  • 171 –Webster’s / Sugarloaf House / Silverfork
  • 172 – Moss / Moore’s / Riverton / Mess
  • 173 – (H) Sportsman’s Hall / Twelve Mile
  • 174 – Placerville / Hangtown / Old Dry Diggins / Ravine City   (FYI:  During the first several months, a “southern” route, using stations 13-15, was followed to Five Mile House; later, a “northern” route that used stations 16-18 was used.)    On July 1, 1861, Placerville became the Western Terminus.
  • 175 – El Dorado / Mud Springs / Nevada House
  • 176 – Mormon / Mormon Tavern / Sunrise House
  • 177 – Fifteen Mile House
  • 178 – Five Mile / Five Mile House / Mills
  • 179 – Durco / Duroc House
  • 180 – Pleasant Grove / Pleasant Grove House / Shingle Springs
  • 181 – Folsom  (On July 1, 1860, Folsom became the Western Terminus)
  • 182 – (H) Old Sacramento: B.F. Hastings Building – “Western Terminus”
  • 183 – Benicia, Martinez, and Oakland Stations (Water Route:  Sacramento to San Francisco via the American River on a steamboat or, if they missed the boat, overland from Sacramento)
  • 184 – San Francisco Station (Water Route:  Sacramento to San Francisco via the American River on a steamboat or, if they missed the boat, overland from Sacramento)
  • Diamond Springs
  • Pacific House
  • Split Rock
  • Hope Valley / Sorenson’s
  • Phillips

Middlegate Station, Nevada – Situated in between Fallon and Austin, with a population of 17.

Pony Express Stations in Nevada

About 80% of the Pony Express Trail in what is now Nevada is on national resource lands—available to the public.  These Pony Express miles were unforgiving and difficult for riders and station keepers, alike.  

LEGEND:

  • (H) = Home Station (some of these changed over time, as needed)
  • Bold = Station Name on the original U.S. Senate Executive Document, 46th Congress, 3rd Session, I, No. 21 p.7-8 “Contract with Overland Mail Co” “Route 10773”
  • Italics = Station Name listed on the 2010 Map prepared by the National Pony Express Association and produced and printed by the National Parks Service to celebrate the Pony Express Sesquicentennial.
  • * Needs further research if confirm if a station

List of Pony Express Stations in Nevada:

  • 124 – Eight Mile House / Prairie Gate / Pleasant Valley
  • 125 – Antelope Springs [White Pine County, Nevada]
  • 126 – Spring Valley / Stone House (winter)
  • 127 – Shell Creek (H) / Schell Creek / Fort Schellbourne
  • 128 – Egan Canon / Egan CanyonEgan / Egan’s
  • 129 – Bates’ / Butte / Butte Creek / Robber’s Roost / Butte Station *
  • 130 – Mountain Springs
  • 131 – Ruby Valley (the actual station is now located in the Elko Museum)
  • 132 – Jacob’s Wells / Jacob’s Well
  • 133 – Diamond Springs
  • 134 – Sulphur Springs [Eureka County]
  • 135 – Robert’s Creek (H) 
  • 136 – Camp Station / Grubb’s Well (used from about June 1861 to the Pony’s end) / Grubb’s Well *
  • 137 – Dry Creek (H) 
  • 138 – Simpson’s Park / Simpson Park
  • 139 – Reese / Reese River / Jacobsville / Jacob’s Spring /Jacobsville Station *
  • 140 – Dry Wells / Mount Airy (this station was used during the later months only)
  • 141 – Smith’s Creek (H) 
  • 142 – Castle Rock (this station’s existence is questioned)
  • 143 – Edward’s Creek
  • 144 – Cold Springs (H) / Telegraph / East Gate / Eastgate
  • 145 – Middle Gate / Middlegate / Middle Creek (During the last 7 months of the Pony, the route followed a more direct, “northern” route from Middlegate to Miller’s stations 34-41; the earlier-used, “southern” route included stations 25-33.)
  • 146 – West GateWestgate
  • 147 – Sand Springs / Mountain Well
  • 148 – Sand Hill
  • 149 – Carson Sink / Sink of Carson
  • 150 – Honey Lake / William’s / Smith’s
  • 151 – Desert / Hooten Wells / Hooten Well Station *
  • 152 – Buckland’s (H) (used at first, until Indian Wars started) [Lyon County, Nevada]
  • 153 – Fort Churchill (H) (used after Indian Wars started) [Lyon County, Nevada]
  • 154 – Fairview
  • 155 – Mountain Wells / Mountain Well
  • 156 – Stillwater / Salt Well
  • 157 – Old River
  • 158 – Bisby’sBusby’s
  • 159 – Nevada / Nevada / Nevada City / Dayton / Chinatown / Spafford’s Hall
  • 160 – Ragtown
  • 161 – Desert Wells / Desert Well
  • 162 – Miller’s / Reed’s
  • 163 – Dayton *
  • 164 – Carson City (H) / Carson
  • 165 – Genoa / Old Mormon [Douglas County, Nevada]
  • 166 – Friday’s (H) / Lakeside
  • Alpine Ranch Station *
  • Cape Horn
  • Clugage’s (mention of this station was only found on the government contract)
  • Deep Creek Station *
  • Rock Spring (summer)
  • Van Sickle’s
 
Pony Express

Pony Express station is located at Simpson Springs Utah. 

Pony Express Stations in Utah

LEGEND:

  • (H) = Home Station (some of these changed over time, as needed)
  • Bold = Station Name on the original U.S. Senate Executive Document, 46th Congress, 3rd Session, I, No. 21 p.7-8 “Contract with Overland Mail Co” “Route 10773”
  • Italics = Station Name listed on the 2010 Map prepared by the National Pony Express Association and produced and printed by the National Parks Service to celebrate the Pony Express Sesquicentennial.

List of Pony Express Stations in Utah:

  • 96 – Needle Rock / The Needles
  • 97 – (H) Head of Echo Canyon / Echo Canyon / Echo / Castle Rock / Frenchies
  • 98 – Half Way / Halfway / Emory / Daniels     (FYI:  Mr. Daniels, the station keeper, maybe was the source of the story (maybe true?) of the XP brand on the horses.  Local thieves kept stealing his station horses and then selling them back to the Pony Express!  So, he decided to brand them “XP” so that they could be identified.)
  • 99 – Weber / Bromley’s / Pulpit Rock / Hanging Rock / Echo
  • 100 – Brimville Emergency Station / Henneforville / Henefer
  • 101 – East Canyon / East Canyon / Dixie Hollow / Dixie Creek / Big Mountain / Snyder’s Mill 
  •  102 – Carson House / Dutchman’s Flat
  • 103 – Wheaton Springs / Winston Springs / Bauchmann’s
  • 104 – Mountain Dale / Mountain Dell / Hanks / Big Canyon Creek
  • 105 – (H) Salt Lake / Salt Lake House
  • 106 – Trader’s Rest / Traveler’s Rest
  • 107 – Rockwell / Rockwell’s
  • 108 – Dug Out / Dugout / Joe’s Dugout / Seven Mile / Joe Butcher’s
  • 109 – Camp Floyd – John Carson’s Inn / Fort Crittenden / Fairfield / Cedar City
  • 110 – East Rush Valley / Pass / East Faust / Five Mile
  • 111 – (H) Bush Valley / Rush Valley / Meadow Creek / Faust / Meady Creek
  • 112 – Point Lookout / Lookout Pass / Jackson’s / General Johnson’s
  • 113 – Government Creek / Government Road Junction / Davis
  • 114 – (H) Simpson’s Springs / Simpson Springs / Egans Springs / Lost Springs / Pleasant Springs
  • 115 – Riverbed / River Bed / Red Bed
  • 116 – Dugway / Shortcut Pass
  • 117 – Blackrock / Black Rock / Blackrock Springs / Rock House
  • 118 – (H) Fish Springs / Fish Creek / Fresh Springs / Smith Springs
  • 119 – Boyd’s / Butte / Desert
  • 120 – Willow Springs / Six Mile House / Mountain Springs / Willow Creek (original XP Station is still standing)
  • 122 – Canyon / Burnt / Overland / Round / Round Fort
  • 123 – (H) Deep Creek / Deep Springs / Ibapah / Egans

Middlegate Station, Nevada – Situated in between Fallon and Austin, with a population of 17.

Pony Express Rider Oath

I, … , do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.

The oath above was used to swear in Pony Express Riders.

Pony Express Riders

There is not an “official” list of the Pony Express riders and the list below has been compiled from various sources from newspapers to family histories.

These brave riders were young men (boys) and grown men who had a sense of adventure and tackled inclement weather and harsh conditions.

  1. James Alcott
  2. Andrew Ole Anderson
  3. J.W. Anderson
  4. John Anson
  5. Henry Avis
  6. Rodney Babbit
  7. Lafayette Ball
  8. James Banks
  9. James Barnell
  10. Jim Baughn
  11. Marve Beardsley
  12. James Beatley
  13. Charles Becker
  14. John Bedford
  15. Thomas Bedford
  16. Martin Bengtson
  17. James Bently
  18. Asher Bigelow
  19. Charles Billman
  20. G.R. Gills
  21. “Black Sam”
  22. “Black Tom”
  23. Lafayette Bolwinkle
  24. Bond
  25. “Boston”
  26. William Boulton
  27. John Brandenburger
  28. Thomas H. Brentz, Judge
  29. James Brink
  30. Hugh Brown
  31. James Brown
  32. James Bucklin
  33. David Burnett
  34. Ed Bush
  35. Henry Butterfield
  36. William Campbell
  37. James Carlin
  38. Gustavas Carlton
  39. Alexander Carlyle
  40. William Carr
  41. William Carrigan
  42. James Carter
  43. Michael Casey
  44. William Cates
  45. James Clark
  46. John Clark
  47. Richard Clarke
  48. Richard Cleve
  49. Charles Cliff
  50. Gustavus Cliff
  51. William Frederick Cody aka “Buffalo Bill’
  52. Buck Cole
  53. Bill Corbett
  54. Edward Covington
  55. James Cowan
  56. Jack Crawford
  57. W. Crowninshield
  58. James Cumbo
  59. Louis Dean
  60. James Dennis
  61. William Dennis
  62. Frank Derrick
  63. Alex Diffenbacher
  64. Thomas Dobson
  65. J. Dodge
  66. Joseph Donovan
  67. W.E. Dorrington
  68. Calvin Downs
  69. Tommy Drum
  70. Daniel Drumheller
  71. James Dunlap
  72. William Eckels
  73. Major Howard Egan
  74. Howard Ransom Egan
  75. Richard Erastus Egan
  76. Thomas J. Elliott
  77. J.K. Elllis
  78. Charles Enos
  79. George Fair
  80. H.H. Faust
  81. Josiah Faylor
  82. B. F. Ficklin
  83. Johnny Fischer
  84. John Fisher
  85. William Fisher
  86. Thomas Flynn
  87. Jimmie Foreman
  88. Johnny Fry
  89. William Fulkerson
  90. Abram Fuller
  91. George Gardner
  92. James Gentry
  93. James Gilson
  94. Samuel Gilson
  95. Jim Gleason
  96. Frank Gould
  97. “Irish Tom” Grady
  98. Dick Grey
  99. Gotth Haist
  100. Martin Hall
  101. Parley Hall
  102. Sam Hall
  103. Billy Hailton
  104. James “Bean” Hamilton
  105. Sam Hamilton
  106. Robert H. Haslam
  107. Theodore Hawkins
  108. Reese Hawley
  109. Sam Haws
  110. Frank Helvey
  111. Levi Hensel
  112. William Hickman
  113. Lucius Ludosky Hickok
  114. Charles Higginbotham
  115. Benjamin Holladay
  116. Jesse Holladay
  117. Martin Hogan
  118. Clark Huntington
  119. Lester Huntington
  120. William James
  121. David Jay
  122. William Jenkins
  123. Jennings
  124. Samuel Jobe
  125. William Jones
  126. Jack Keetley
  127. Hiram Kelley
  128. Jay Kelley
  129. Mike Kelly
  130. Thomas King
  131. John Koerner
  132. Harry LaMont
  133. Thomas Landon
  134. George Larkin
  135. William Lawson
  136. Charles Larzelere
  137. Bow Legs
  138. James Madison Lenhart
  139. Geroge Leonard
  140. George Little
  141. N.N. Lytle
  142. Joseph Malcom
  143. Robert Martin
  144. Philip Mass (Messero)
  145. Elijah Maxfield
  146. Montgomery Maze
  147. Silas McAulas (Macaulas)
  148. Emmet McCain
  149. J.G. McCall
  150. Charlie McCarty
  151. James McDonald
  152. Pat McEneany
  153. David McLaughlin
  154. James McNaughton
  155. William McNaughton
  156. Lorenzo Meacona
  157. J.P. Mellen
  158. Howard Mifflin
  159. Charlie Miller
  160. James Monahan
  161. James Alexander Moore
  162. John Mussy
  163. Jeramiah Murphy
  164. Newton Myrick
  165. Paul Obershaw
  166. Mathew Orr
  167. Robert Orr
  168. G. Packard
  169. William Page
  170. Charles Parks
  171. Charles Parks
  172. John Paul
  173. “Mochila Joe” Paxton
  174. Dick Penny
  175. George Perkins
  176. Joseph Perkins
  177. Edward Pollinger
  178. William A. Poor
  179. Charles Pridham
  180. Thomas Ranahan
  181. Theodore Rand
  182. James Randalll
  183. Charles Reynolds
  184. Thomas Reynolds
  185. William Minor Richards
  186. H. Richards
  187. Johnson W. Richardson
  188. Sewell Ridley
  189. Bartholomew Riles
  190. Jonathan Rinehart
  191. Don Rising
  192. Harry Roff
  193. Edward Rush
  194. John Rutsel
  195. Thomas Ryan
  196. Robert Sanders
  197. F.H. Saunders
  198. G.G. Sangiovanni
  199. George Scovell
  200. Henry Clay Scrafford
  201. John Seebeck
  202. Jack Selman
  203. Joseph Serish
  204. James Shanks
  205. John Sinclair
  206. George Smethurst
  207. John Sprague
  208. George Spurr
  209. Edward Sterling
  210. William Streeper
  211. Robert Stricklen
  212. William Strohm
  213. William H. Strope
  214. John Sugget
  215. George Talcott
  216. Billy Tate
  217. George Thatcher
  218. J.J. Thomas
  219. Bill Thompson
  220. Charles Thompson
  221. James Thompson
  222. Alexander Toponce
  223. Elias Littleton Tough
  224. William Tough
  225. George Towne
  226. Bill Trotter
  227. Henry Tuckett
  228. Warren Upson
  229. John Wade
  230. Henry Wallace
  231. A. B. Waller
  232. Jun Waller
  233. John Watson
  234. Daniel Wescott
  235. Michael Whalen
  236. George Wheat
  237. “Whipsaw”
  238. J. Williams
  239. H.C. Wills
  240. Thomas Thornhill Willson
  241. Elijah Nicholas Wilson
  242. Slim Wilson
  243. Ira Wines
  244. Joseph Barney Wintle
  245. Henry Worley
  246. James Worthington
  247. Amos Wright
  248. George Wright
  249. Jose Zowgaltz

 

Pony Express Stops in Nevada

Shoes were thrown into a tree on Highway 50 Nevada the loneliest road in America old Pony Express Trail

References Used

Pony Express

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