Parentless and homeless, John entered the city of Saint Joseph, MO with downcast eyes and a scampering heart, unsettled but full of energy. He had reached the edge of the western frontier with no plans for the future. He felt the beckoning of open spaces and wild land deep in the marrow of his bones, yet he had no means to act. He knew he just needed one break, and he would prove himself.
He picked up a discarded newspaper on the street. It was crumpled up and abandoned; he could sympathize. John carefully unfurled the paper and glanced at the headings to pick out the words he could read.
Now here was something that interested him: Central Overland California and Pike’s Peak Express Company were announcing a new opportunity. He could understand from the writing that they were looking for horse riders and the pay looked good. Being a hopeful young man on the edge of the frontier, John knew that big success usually involved big risks. He decided to take the risk and seek out this new venture to get more information.
After asking around town, John found the stables where the operation was going to be headquartered. Once the men inside saw John’s eagerness and fit, young figure; they handed him a Bible and hired him on the spot.
John joined the over 200 other riders that would make up The Pony Express. John was responsible for riding 75-100 miles at a time. Every 10-15 miles, he would have a new mount at a relay station. At the end of his route, he would hand off the mochila with the mail to the next rider and wait for the Eastward bound mail to arrive for him to return to his home station. Due to their efforts, the mail could travel from Saint Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA in 10 days.
John and the other riders faced severe hardships on their journeys. Flash floods, prairie fires, buffalo stampedes, Indian uprisings, blizzards and many other harsh conditions were a part of the job.
What an adventure our John had, and he became quite a celebrity around the town of Saint Joseph. However, The Pony Express became unnecessary when the transcontinental telegraph was finished on October 24, 1861. After only 18 months of operation, The Pony Express gave John a headstart for his future, and he sure did have a lot of great stories to tell.
- Wild Bill Hickock & Buffalo Bill Cody (of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show) both worked for The Pony Express.
- At the end of its operation, TPE was completely bankrupt.
- Who do you think gave the inaugural speech for the first ride? Why none other than M. Jeff Thompson, Mayor of Saint Joseph at the time. I didn’t recognize the name until I saw his nickname earned during the Civil War… Swamp Fox. That’s a whole legend entirely to itself. Saint Joseph certainly has some interesting history.
- Like everything about the Wild West, it is hard to tell the fact from the fiction about The Pony Express. However, each rider was given a Bible.
What they believe is the original Pony Express station now holds an informative museum. Here are some of the highlights…
The Pony Express Museum…
Our John in training as he looks on at the first rider leaving St. Joseph…
Our John testing how the mochila works…
Finally, a replica of a station that our John would have used (about the same square footage as our RV)
Next up, Independence and Kansas City!