Society of the Old West

From early westward expansion through the early 20th Century.

It was April 3,1860, at St. Joseph, Missouri.  The first Pony Express rider, Johnny Fry,  streaked out westward towards California, 60 days after the decision to establish mail service between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California.  Originally the trip took twelve days but was reduced to nine days, because of the speed of the young riders. The wages paid were $125/month.  Riders were expected to go 30 to 70 miles per day.  Many of the stations were destroyed and the ponies stolen, the crews murdered by Indians, however, only one mail rider was killed by Indians during the pony Express's 19 months existence.  Many were wounded in their ride.  On April 18, 1860, A rider leaving San Francisco to head east was killed. Traveling at a great speed at night, the rider’s horse stumbled over an ox lying in the road, throwing the rider. The horse fell upon the rider badly crushing him. He died a short time later. In July of 1860 rider was killed while trying to cross the Platte River in Nebraska. The mail was never recovered.  In August 1860, a rider is presumed dead when only his horse arrived at the Carson City station.

Benjamin Ficklin, an employee for the firm, set up the route into five divisions and hired superintendents to run each division. Stationkeepers, stocktenders and riders were hired along the route. Over 400 horses are purchased and relay stations are built and staffed 10-15 miles apart. At relay stations, riders would change horses. Home stations were 90-120 miles apart where riders would change and rest. In March it had been announced the rider would leave St. Joseph and Sacramento on April 3rd and deliver the mail in a record ten days.

The enterprise was owned and operated by the firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell.

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