Utah History to Go
The Pony Express Added a Colorful Chapter in Utah History
Overland Migrations
Bartleson-Bidwell party
Nancy Kelsey
Bryant-Rusell Party
Harlan Young Party
Hastings Cutoff
Donner Party
This is the Place
Mormon History
Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company
Handcart Companies
A Girl Triumphed Over Handcart Tradegy
Many Mormon Immigrants Delayed Their Journey
Settlement and Exploration
Colonization of Utah
Salt Lake City
The Founding and Naming of Moab
Hole-in-the-Rock Trek Remains an Epic Experience
What Made the Mormon Landscape Unique?
Snowslides Devastated Northern Utah in 1875
A Fatal Snowslide in Provo Canyon
Those Pioneering African Americans
The Lives of Six Pioneer Girls
He Was an Outsider in Utah But Not For Long
Forty-Niners in Salt Lake Valley
Utah Farmer and the Pike's Peak Gold Rush
Emma Lee Endured Many Hardships in Pioneer Utah
Alice Parker Isom Faced Challenges WIth True Grit
19th Century Utah Women Spun Yarn and Dug Ditches
Hilda Anderson Erickson, Working Woman
Oliver B. Huntington and His Bees
A Policeman's Lot in Early Salt Lake CIty
A Blind Man and His Harp
Fanny Brooks Helped Establish the Jewish Community
Reverend McLeod and Building of Independence Hall
Jenny Baker Stanford Bridged Mormon-Gentile Gap
Welshman Dan Jones Was One of Zion's Busiest Bees
The Case of Grave Robber Jean Baptiste
Slavery in Utah
History of Polygamy
The History of a Pioneer Utah Cottage
The Pioneer's Cost of Living Versus Today's
Coins and Currency
The Sego Lily, Utah's State Flower
Pestiferous Ironclads: Grasshopper Problem in Utah
From Pioneer Fort to Pioneer Park
Ensign Peak
Temple Square
Virgin River Doused Cotton Mission Settler's Hopes
Gardner Mill and the Birth of the Valley's West Side
The United Order Movement
The Beginnings of the University of Utah
Arrival of the Episcopal Church
Ben Holladay, the Stagecoach King, in Utah
The Pony Express Added a Colorful Chapter in Utah
Mark Twain's Utah
Pony Express in Utah
The Telegraph Was Information Highway of the 1860's
The Steamboat Era Was Glamorous But Brief in Utah
Cowboys and the Cattle Industry
Old La Sal Was Once a Thriving Cow Town
Preston Nutter Made Utah Home of His Cattle Kingdom
Robbers' Roost Was a Haven For Outlaws
Utah Had Hollywood Style Western Gunfights
Just Who Was the Outlaw Queen Etta Place?
Josie Bassett-Jensen's Remarkable Woman Rancher
Military in Utah
Utah War
The Civil War in Utah
Mountain Meadows Massacre
Fort Douglas
Fort Duchesne
Camp Floyd
The Colonel Orders a Grand Review

Pony Express Map

Jeffrey D. Nichols
History Blazer, January 1995

One of the most colorful, if brief, chapters in western history was the Pony Express, which carried the Overland Mail from St. Joseph, Missouri, to San Francisco, California, from April 1860 until October 1861. Utah Territory occupied a central position along the route, and many Utahns played a role as trailblazers, riders, agents, and station managers.

Mail service from East to West had presented a problem for decades, since the settled areas of the Midwest and California were separated by a vast stretch of sparse white settlement, sometimes hostile native inhabitants, treacherous weather, and inhospitable terrain. George Chorpenning and Absalom Woodward were awarded the first Overland Mail contract between Sacramento and Salt Lake City in 1851. Since their riders often delivered the mail by mule, wags dubbed this service the "jackass mail." Plagued by Indian attacks (including the massacre of Woodward and his party) and financial troubles, Chorpenning had his contract annulled in 1860.

The Utah War of 1857-58 led indirectly to the establishment of the Pony Express. The freighting firm of Russell, Majors, & Waddell held the contract to supply three million pounds of material to Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston's army. During the course of that strange conflict the company suffered major losses of equipment and livestock from Mormon militia attacks and harsh weather. William H. Russell failed to get the War Department to reimburse his firm for claimed losses of nearly half a million dollars. In order to save his company Russell proposed to launch a high-speed mail service across the "Central Route" between Missouri and California, expecting that the government would reward the firm with a lucrative subsidy.

Russell spent about $100,000 to launch the new service, which required hundreds of horses, riders, stations, station managers, and support services such as feed and blacksmithing. A. B. Miller, a company representative in Salt Lake City, advertised for 200 horses; some of those he obtained were mustangs captured near Kimball's Junction and on Antelope Island. The greatest need, though, was for riders. The company called for young, light, brave, sober, God-fearing boys and men to carry the mail in grueling relays of 75 to 100 miles at a time at a full gallop across some of the West's most brutal terrain. Many Utahns served as express riders, including Mormon pioneer and Nauvoo Legion major Howard Egan, who had helped blaze much of the original Central Overland Trail, and his sons Howard Ranson Egan and Richard Erastus Egan.

The riders and station managers endured many hardships, including a Paiute uprising that disrupted service for a month. Express rider Elijah "Nick" Wilson of Grantsville, Utah, was nearly killed by an arrow to the head near Spring Valley Station in Nevada. The Pony Express generally provided excellent service, covering the 1,966-mile one-way distance in ten days or less. It was always financially troubled, however; some of Russell's shady dealings came to light, and he was forced to resign. The company, operating in the red as much as $1,000 a day, lost its contract to a competitor. The real threat, however, was technological. In October 1861 the Pacific Telegraph was completed at Salt Lake City, and messages could be relayed almost instantaneously. The Pony Express became obsolete overnight.



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