Hometown Heritage

Readers Share stories of what makes their hometowns special.

| July/August 2010

History of the Pony Express Lies in St. Joseph, Missouri

Although its existence was brief, spanning only 19 months, the Pony Express made a huge impact on the history of St. Joseph, Missouri.  

On April 3, 1860, a young man mounted a horse and rode off from St. Joseph, among a cheering crowd, on his way to Sacramento, California. That was the start of the Pony Express, America’s first “fast” mail line.  

In preparation for the job, the Pony Express collected 400 fast horses and hired 120 young, wiry, unmarried men as riders. There were 156 stations between St. Joseph and Sacramento, and each rider rode from one station to the next, an average of 10 to 15 miles, where he mounted a fresh horse before continuing on. Each trip was nearly 2,000 miles.  

The challenges and hurdles of the Pony Express riders were many. It is said that the brave, faithful riders carried two pistols and a knife for protection, and rode night and day to reach their destination, constantly watchful of attacks when reaching Indian country.  

The purpose of the Pony Express was to deliver letters to and from St. Joseph and Sacramento in 10 days, something unheard of at that time. The cost for sending a letter by Pony Express was a pricey $5 per half-ounce.  

Some sources say the first rider of the Pony Express was Johnny Fry, and others say it was Billie Richardson.  

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