With a click of the mouse, you can send an e-mail to practically anyone around the world. Within seconds, your recipient can acknowledge receipt.
Now, imagine you lived in the middle of nowhere and had to ride your horse – or worst, yet, walk – into town one day a week to see if you received anything in the mail.
What if you were the one sending the letter from 1,000 miles away? Important news in the letter? Good luck. In the 1800s, it likely took months to get a letter delivered.
In 1860, that changed. The firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell created the Pony Express. The plan was to reduce mail delivery from St. joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, to about 10 days. The 1,900-mile route could be covered at a pace of about 190 miles per day.
The history of the Pony Express is shared with visitors at the Pony Express National Museum in St. Joseph.
The museum allows a close-up look at the creation of the Pony Express, its operation, and its eventual downfall.
The museum kicks off the tour with a scene of the first rider preparing to leave the Pikes Peak Stables in downtown St. Joe.
A glimpse of the back office planning by the founders is on display. William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell are portrayed as they plan the Express’ operation.
A diorama shows the terrain changes riders faced. From the open plains of Kansas and Nebraska to the snow-packed mountains of the Sierra Nevada, Pony Express riders faced a series of natural elements – tornadoes, grass fires and blizzards. In addition, they faced hostile action from other people – Native Americans and non-Natives.
The museum has a nice exhibit of a pioneer family moving west, drawn by a team of oxen.
A Pony Express relay station is on site. You can check out the interior. Relay stations housed fresh horses and riders. They were spaced about 10 miles apart along the route. A horse could make it between stations in a full gallop over that mileage. The service eventually had more than 100 relay stations and about 500 horses.
A variety of saddles can be viewed.
The end of the road for the Pony Express came in about a year. In 1861, the telegraph system was established across the nation. Messages could be sent within minutes, so the need for Pony Express-delivered information faded. So, almost as quickly as the Pony Express became part of progress, it was gone.
The Pony Express story lives on in St. Joe, though. And it’s a good story. The Pony Express will be remembered for its mail delivery service – including carrying President Lincoln’s 1861 inaugural address from Fort Kearny (Nebraska) to California, where it was shared with people in the west.
Perhaps, the most famous alumnus of the Pony Express was Buffalo Bill Cody. Buffalo Bill was one of the 80 riders for the Pony Express, before he eventually launched his Wild West show.
The museum doesn’t take a long time to tour. It also has a children’s play area, where they can dress in pioneer-era outfits.
We recommend the museum when in St. Joseph.
For more information, please visit the museum’s website at http://ponyexpress.org/.
Disclaimer: Thanks to the St. Joseph Visitors Bureau for the complimentary tickets. However, all opinions and views are ours.