Pony Express – 1860-61 St. Joseph, Missouri – Sacramento, California Also Overland Stage & Freight Route 1858-1868
This monument was constructed by enrollees, U. S. Grazing Division, C. C. C. Camp 116, Company 2529 on August 23, 1940 and sponsored by the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association (#91 of their monuments) it was later adopted by the Sons of Utah Pioneers (#237 of their monuments) and rededicated in 2017.
The development of a central overland mail service between California and the rest of the nation began soon after the gold rush. The settlement of Oregon, California, and Utah made rapid east-west communication essential to the nation. From April 1860 to October 1861, the Pony Express, using a horse and rider relay system to deliver the mail, became the nation’s most direct and fastest means of communication before the completion of the transcontinental telegraph.
“It is important that mail facilities, so indispensable for the diffusion of information… should be afforded to our citizens west of the Rock Mountains.” – U. S. President James K. Polk
Along the entire trail, from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California, “horse stations” were established every 40 to 80 miles, providing riders with meals, lodging, and fresh mounts. “Swing stations” were 8 to 12 miles apart, offering water and a change of horses.
Russell, Majors, and Waddell, owners of the Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Company, employed James E. Bromley to establish and operate Weber Station. The station was located about 5 miles to the southeast, at the mouth of Echo Canyon. Local residents James and William Hennefer or Charles and Louisa Richins would have seen young riders William Page and George Little gallop by on the way to and from “Bromley’s Station.”
Lookout Station Pony Express – 1860-61 St. Joseph, Missouri – Sacramento, California Also Overland Stage & Freight Route 1858-1868
This monument was constructed at Lookout Pass by enrollees, U. S. Grazing Division, C. C. C. Camp G-154, Company 2517 on August 23, 1940 and sponsored by the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association (#86 of their monuments) it was later adopted by the Sons of Utah Pioneers (#235 of their monuments) and rededicated in 2017.
St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California 1860-1861
This monument was constructed September 3, 1934 by citizens of Ibapah and by the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association (it is #47 of their monuments) it was later adopted by the Sons of Utah Pioneers and is located in Ibapah, Utah.
Schellbourne was a mail station and town, located approximately four miles east of this marker in Stage Canyon, nestled in the Schell Creek mountain range. The Pony Express established a mail station and corral there in 1860, providing mail service to the region until 1861, when the Overland Stage company took over the route. A small military post known as Fort Schellbourne joined the station until 1862, protecting the stage line during the conflicts between whites and the Newe (Goshute and Western Shoshone) Indians.
Prospectors discovered silver ore in the mountains immediately to the east of Schellbourne in the early 1870s, and created the Aurum Mining District in 1871. An active mining camp developed with a population of over 500 people. By 1885, the ore had been mostly depleted, with other mining towns like Cherry Creek drawing residents away. The district and adjacent valley were acquired by Uncle Billy” and Eliza Burke as a ranch and hotel. Schellbourne has subsequently operated as the headquarters for various ranches since that time.
Burnt Station 300 Feet West Pony Express – 1860-61 St. Joseph, Missouri – Sacramento, California Overland Stage 1858-1868 Established April, 1859 as an Overland Stage Station. Used later by Pony Express. It was burned and pillaged twice by Indians who killed five keepers and riders, and two soldiers. Rebuilt on this site May, 1861, and on the ridge south of Overland Canyon in 1864.
This monument was constructed by enrollees, U. S. Grazing Division, C. C. C. Camp 116, Company 2529 on August 23, 1940 and sponsored by the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association (#94 of their monuments) it was later adopted by the Sons of Utah Pioneers (#238 of their monuments) and rededicated in 2017.
In 1845, it took six months to get a message from the east coast of the United States to California. By the time it arrived, the news was old. In the late 1850s, a half million people had migrated west, and they wanted up-to-date news from home. Something had to be done to deliver mail faster and to improve communication in the expanding nation.
“The Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company,” a subsidiary of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, announced the formation of the Pony Express on January 27, 1860. They planned to carry letter mail between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California in only ten days. Although the Pony Express was a financially risky enterprise, the company hoped to attract a lucrative contract with the U.S. Postal Service.
Knowing that a healthy horse could run at a full gallop for only 10 to 12 miles, the Pony Express needed stations for its riders to change mounts. They utilized existing stage stations on the eastern end of the route, but needed to build many new station in remote areas across the Great Basin. Alexander Majors said that 400 to 500 mustang horses were purchased, 200 men were hired to manage the station, and 80 riders signed on to begin the run of the Pony Express.
Although the Pony Express captured the admiration, imagination, and hearts of people, it was a financial disaster for its founders. The Pony era, however, was not brought to an end by its financial failure, weather, or even problems with Indians – but by the completion of the Transcontinental Telegraph on October 26, 1861.
“Every neck is stretched, and every eye stained… Across the endless prairie a black spec appears… In a second or two it becomes a horse and rider, rising and falling, rising and falling – sweeping toward us – growing more and more distinct, and the flutter of hoofs comes faintly to the ear – another instant a whoop and a hurrah from our upper deck, a wave of the rider’s hand, but no reply, and man and horse burst past our excited faces, and go winging away like belated fragment of a storm.” – Mark Twain – Roughing It, 1872.
The goal of the Pony Express was to provide speedy and dependable mail service between Missouri and California. Before the first ride, an important task was to develop a shorter route – especially across the wild open spaces between Utah and California. With only two months to prepare, the owners of the Pony Express needed to insure that the mail would get through in a timely manner. to do so meant finding a route that would be more expedient than the established California Trail.
Settlements and homesteads between Utah and California were rare prior to the Pony Express. Fortunately for Russell, Majors, and Waddell, recent explorations southwest of Salt Lake City and work already in progress by other private companies provided the means to shave nearly 300 miles off the Humboldt River Route.
In the mid-1850s, a Mormon settler named Howard Egan scouted and developed a trail across the Utah west desert to drive his cattle between Salt Lake City and the markets in California. Learning about Egan’s route, entrepreneur George Chorpenning, who had previously developed three different routes along the Humboldt River, quickly realized the value this new route would have for his mail and freight business. Together, Chorpenning and Egan began building the road and developing provisioned way stations for passenger stagecoaches, freight wagons, and transporting mail.
Learning about Chorpenning and Egan’s roadwork, U.S. Topographical Engineer Captain James H. Simpson spent a few weeks in the late fall of 1858 exploring the desert area southwest of the Great Salt Lake. The following spring the U.S. Army ordered Simpson to survey the entire route as a potential road for transporting supplies to its outpost at Camp Floyd. On Simpson’s recommendation, in 1859 and 1860, the Army made some route adjustments and vastly improved the road and the water holes located along it for use by military freight wagons.
When the Pony Express began its first run in early April of 1860, only a handful of way stations existed across the new Central Overland Route. These first stations were toughly 20 to 25 miles apart. Pony Express riders would have to push their mustangs 50 to 70 miles between stations at Salt Lake City, Faust, Willow Springs, and Deep Creek until the new 10-mile relay stations were in place. With only two months to prepare , those new replay stations often began with nothing more than a tent canopy for the station keeper and a makeshift corral for the horses.
When the Pony Express began its first run
Only The Finest Horsemen
Both speed and stamina were required of the horse and rider team as they relayed mail back and forth between Dt. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California in 10 days or less.
Pony Express rider Thomas O. King recalled: “[the Express] required the best riders, [those] physically able to stand the strains of endurance by day or night and in all kinds of weather and other dangers.”
Eighty tough, experienced youths were hired to ride either active and nimble western mustangs or the best-blooded American racing horses money could buy. Upon seeing his first express rider while en route to Salt Lake City in 1860, British explorer Sir Richard Burton wrote: “They ride 100 miles at a time – about eight per hour – with four changes of horses, and return to their stations the next day.”
Express riders had to be able to stay in the saddle over grueling distances – with or without relief. Nick Wilson, who had ridden in Nevada and Utah, recalled: “Not many riders could stand the long, fast riding at first, but after about two weeks they would get hardened to it… When we started out, we were not to turn back no matter what happened, until we had delivered the mail at the next station… We must be ready to start back at half a minutes’ notice, day or night, rain or shine, Indians or no Indians.”
“Not only were they remarkable for lightness of weight and energy, but their service required continual vigilance, bravery, and agility. Among their number were skillful guides, scouts, and couriers, accustomed to adventures and hardships on the plains – men of strong wills and wonderful powers of endurance.” – Alexander Majors, 1893 memoirs.
The Pony Express relied on fearless young men to carry letters and news across the country on horseback. Riders set a breakneck page, changing horses every 10 miles at swing stations along the dangerous route. Two of those stations were located in East Canyon.
At one of the East Canyon stations, Mr. Bauchmann, the station attendant would spring to his feet at the sound of the approaching rider’s horn. The rider would pull a lightweight mail pouch, called a mochila, off his exhausted horse and throw it over the saddle of a well-fed, rested horse. Bauchmann had the rider back on the trail within a few minutes, regardless of weather or time of day, with a biscuit to feast on.
Bauchmann’s Station, also knows as East Canyon Station, Carson House and Dutchman’s Flat.
Toughened men like Bauchmann lived in almost uninhabitable swing stations. The structures were built near water, but provided little protection from weather, animals, or dangerous people on the wild frontier.
In later years, a rancher renovated the structure and made the rustic cabin his home. It has since been moved 100 yards south on the private property.
Blackrock Station Pony Express 1860-61 St. Joseph, Mo. – Sacramento, Cal. Also Overland Stage & Freight Route 1858-1868
This monument constructed by enrollees of U. S. Grazing Division, C. C. C. Camp G-116, Company 2529.
Note: The above is a replica of the marker placed in 1940 (replica placed in 2017). However, no records prior to 1862 show a station here. This includes the 1861 Pony Express Schedule. In 1862, this new station was built by the Central Overland Stage & Freight and used by others.
This is Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association historic marker #90 and Sons of Utah Pioneers historic marker #236, located along the pony express trail in Utah’s west desert and erected August 23, 1940.
Fort Bridger, Wyoming was established in 1843 by Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez. It served as a trading post for those who were traveling westward along the Oregon Trail, as well as LDS Pioneers, the Pony Express, the Lincoln Highway, and the transcontinental railroad. The fort was also commonly used to trade with the local Native Americans.
The fort was not very glamorous, it was even a disappointment to most travelers. It was simply two log cabins about 40 feet in length connected by a fence to hold horses. Most visitors complained about insufficient supplies and it being over priced. They did, however, have a blacksmith’s that many travelers took advantage of.
By 1858, Fort Bridger became a military outpost. Today, Fort Bridger is a historic site. Jim Bridger’s trading post is reconstructed, along with other historic buildings from the military. There is also a museum with gift shops available for visitors.