St. Joseph Missouri Is Birthplace Of Famous Horse Ride
The Pony Express began 150 years ago in Saint Joseph Missouri, a 2000 mile trail ride on horseback to deliver the mail to Sacramento California.
This year is the 150th anniversary of the first ride of the Pony Express and traveling its route, a National Park Service Historic Trail, exposes the wide-open spaces of eight massive western states to travelers who have little concept of a time when communication was measured in months rather than nanoseconds.
St. Joseph Missouri and the Pony Express
The key Pony Express sites include the Patee House Museum. An elegant hotel with bathrooms and running water when it opened in 1858, the Patee House served as the business office for the Pony Express. Riders were said to have ridden horses right into the hotel to pick up the mail. A railroad mail car at the Patee House allows guests to see where the mail was sorted and ready to hand-off to officials in St. Joseph as soon as the train arrived. While at the Patee House, visit the adjacent house where Jesse James was shot in the back on an Easter Sunday afternoon.
Three blocks away are the original stables of the Pony Express, built in 1858. A huge map shows the path most riders took. There’s also a reproduction relay station, where riders stopped and switched horses. Exhibits explain why different horses were needed in different parts of the country and why the saddlebag, called a mochila, was designed as it was. Children can sort mail under the pressure of a stopwatch and dress up in period costumes.
Also in St. Joseph is the Mount Mora Cemetery, the final resting place of two Pony Express riders, Charlie Cliff and James Benjamin Hamilton
The Pony Express Trail crosses eight western states on its 2000 mile journey to Sacramento.
Pony Express In Kansas
From St. Jo, riders crossed the Missouri River by ferry and headed into Kansas, where the only relay station in its original site remains. It’s called the Hollenberg Station near the little town of Hanover, and nearby is an original Pony Express Barn in Marysville Kansas.
Pony Express Trail in Nebraska
There are more miles of Pony Express Trail in Nebraska than any other state. Rock Creek Station near Fairbury is a reconstructed relay station for the Pony Express, but a nice little interpretive facility, and it is located on the authentic site. Nearby, wagon ruts are still visible from the Oregon and Mormon Trail – pretty impressive potholes considering they are more than 160 years old.
It’s not an official stop on the Pony Express Trail, but the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument in Kearney explains numerous trails west that crossed near here, from Native American pathways to the first transcontinental railroad.
The little town of Gothenberg has an original Pony Express station in the city park. It has been moved from its original location, and most of the time it is locked. But most summer weekends, volunteers open it up and let visitors look around. Of approximately 190 relay stations, this is the last remaining building.
Although they are not specifically on the Pony Express Trail, a couple of significant sites in western Nebraska include the Chimney Rock National Historic Site and the Courthouse and Jail Rocks near Bridgeport, and Scotts Bluff National Monument near Gering. All of these places tell of the challenges, conflicts, sacrifices, and hardships for natives and pioneers as the United States expanded west. Wagon ruts from the Oregon and Mormon Trail are visible in many places here.
Pony Express Trail in Colorado
Pony Express riders traveled roughly 16 miles in what is now the state of Colorado and at seven miles an hour, they were here less than two hours. Today’s travelers can do it in 15 minutes but do it anyway, for an authentic experience.
Pony Express Trail in Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California
In Caspar Wyoming, both the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center and Fort Caspar have exhibits devoted to the Pony Express. While few records remain and details are sketchy at best all along with the Pony Express, the fewest artifacts and information remains in Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. However, travelers who enjoy the history of the American West will also enjoy stops in Fort Laramie and South Pass Wyoming; in Fairfield and Simpson Springs Utah; and at Fort Churchill in Silver Springs Nevada.
Several markers along the roadside relate stories of Pony Express riders all the way to Sacramento, where today the Old Sacramento State Park includes the B.F. Hastings Building, the western terminus of the Pony Express.
Have Mail Delivered By The Pony Express Today
Each June members of the National Pony Express Association re-ride the route in its entirety. For $5, the public may send mail along, receiving a special stamp that it was carried on the Pony Express. To have a letter carried via Pony Express rider, send all of the appropriate names/addresses and a check for $5 made payable to the Missouri Chapter of the National Pony Express Association.
While in St. Joseph Missouri, travelers may also enjoy a visit to the Jesse James Home and Museum.