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Sailor Rope Maker Captain in Nauvoo Legion Bodyguard to Joseph Smith Mormon Battalion Envoy Captain of the 9th 10 of the original 1847 Pioneer Vanguard Company Gold Rush Trading Post Owner Trail Blazer Cattle Drover Major in Utah War Pony Express Rider & Superintendent of Line from Salt Lake to California Stage Station Owner Friend & Missionary to Indians Salt Lake City Policeman Bodyguard to Brigham Young
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Pony Express: Facts & Fiction

Pony Express: Facts & Fiction

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Facts

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● The Pony Express operated from April 3, 1860, to October 26, 1861; the last run was completed Nov. 21, 1861.

● Pony Express motto: “The mail must go through.”

● The oath: “I, ……, do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.”

● Trail length: 1,966 miles, with riders covering about 60-120 miles each.

fig12● At peak, there were 190 stations (65 in the UtahTerritory, which took in Utah, Nevada and western Colorado), 80 riders and 420 horses.

● Average speed: 7 miles per hour.

* Average delivery: 10 days. Riders set a record delivering Lincoln’s inaugural address to California, in seven days and 17 hours.

● Mail cost: $5/half-ounce — about $85/letter in today’s money.

● Longest ride: Bob Haslam rode 380 miles when his relief rider refused to go on because of Indian threats. Haslam found the station keeper killed at another stop.

Fiction

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● Pony Express ads recruiting riders said “orphans preferred.”

“It sounds good in print, but the advertisement didn’t come into existence until 1923 for a magazine cover,” said Pat Hearty of South Jordan, Utah Division president for the National Pony Express Association.

pony express - 13● Buffalo Bill Cody was a Pony Express rider.

“His case is not very good for having been a Pony Express rider,” said Hearty, noting that Cody would have been 14 years old. “He worked for the company, and probably was a messenger for the company as a very young boy. To give him credit, he probably had more to do with keeping the memory of the Pony Express alive than anyone. … He had it as part of his Wild West show.”

● Wild Bill Hickok rode for the Pony Express. Nope, but he was an assistant station tender at Rock Creek Station, Neb.

● Frank T. Hopkins, about whom Disney made the movie “Hidalgo,” rode for the Pony Express.

● Doughnuts were invented because girls wanted to give rider Johnny Fry a treat that’s easy to hold on horseback. This is part of doughnut lore, but it may also be that pastries cook better with the center gone.

Sources: National Pony Express Association, www.xphomestation.com; “Pony Express Trail National Back Country Byway,” brochure about the Utah trail from the Bureau of Land Management; Pony Express National Historic Trail brochure from the National Park Service, BLM and U.S. Forest Service.

 


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