The Pony Express route ran from St Joseph Missouri to Sacramento California and covered 1,996 miles. It took the riders on average ten days to make this long trek.
This mail service only lasted 18 months from April 3, 1860 to October 26, 1961. The telegraph wires which provided such quick means of communication meant the death for the Pony Express.
When it began in 1860 the charge for delivery was $5.00 per ounce. Later it was reduced to $1.00 per ounce. The riders carried up to 20 pounds of mail. Because speed was so important, most of the riders were small weighing between 100 and 125 pounds. Average age was 20.
The city of Gothenburg, Nebraska has the original station that was used by the riders. This cabin was first built in 1854 on the Oregon Trail and used as a trading post. The Pony Espress used the cabin as a station from during the short time it was in operation. Used after that as a Overland Trail Stage Station and then a storage building, in 1931 the cabin was taken down and restored in Gothenburgh. Mrs. C.A Williams bought the cabin and donated it to the city.
We visited the cabin site on our road trip west.
The Pony Express was founded, owned and operated by the freighting firm of William H. Russell, Alexander Majors and William B. Waddell. There is a plague at the site remembering the founders. The Gold Rush of 1849, The Mormon journey to Utah in 1849 and the pioneers who moved west on the Oregon Trail in the 1840s created a need for a fast mail service.
Shortly after the Pony Express began Congress authorized the building of a transcontinental telegraph line connecting California to the East. On October 26, 1861 San Francisco was in direct contact with New York City. The last Pony Express letters completed their journey to California in November 1861.
Although it was only in service for 18 months, the legend of the riders have become a part of our American culture. In 1960 the post office issued a stamp in honor of the riders.
As a history nut, it was a great feeling to know I had stepped inside the cabin where many of the Pony Express riders had also been. I closed my eyes and just imagined one of them walking up to me and saying “hi.”