One of the most colorful chapters in American history.
By Clyde E. Weeks, Jr. – Written April 1958
The story behind this want ad placed in a San Francisco newspaper early in 1860 is the saga of the Pony Express and the band of fast horses and heroic riders who traveled 650,000 miles during a one-and-a half- year period across a continent of largely unexplored wilderness.
April 3, 1958, is the 98th anniversary of the day the first rider on a blooded racehorse galloped from the old Pike’s Peak Livery Stable at St. Joseph, Mo., where throngs of people had gathered to witness the inauguration of the Pony Express. At the same time a snow-white charger galloped out of Sacramento, Calif., eastward bound.
All along the route thousands of well-wishers waved the speedy mounts and fearless riders on their way – and the anxiously awaited news of their arrival.
Just nine days and 23 hours after the first rider had left St. Joseph, the last rider entered Sacramento at a dead run, paring all previous records between the Atlantic and Pacific coast by 11 days. Among the first 85 pieces carried from the east was a message of congratulations from President Buchanan, telegraphed from Washington, D.C., to St. Joseph.
The last rider from the west arrived in St. Joseph 11 days and 12 hours from the time the first rider had left Sacramento.
The mail-carrying venture which fired the imagination of the entire country grew out of the need for faster and more dependable communication between the east and the fast-growing west.
The first settlers in the rough western country sent back messages to loved ones in the east by plodding wagon trams which moved only a few miles a day, taking months to cross the mountains and plains. In September, 1850, Utah was created a territory, but the news, conveyed by ship to San Francisco and thence by mounted messenger to Salt Lake City, was not received until January, 1851.