The Pony Express Station

GPS coordinates: N 40’ 39.391’ W 111’ 52.713

Address: 5189 South State Street, Murray, UT 84107

Erected in 1960 by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers association.

Historical Marker Text : The Pony Express epoch began simultaneously April 3, 1860 with riders starting at St. Joseph, Missouri, and San Francisco, California. It was a 1966 mile journey and reduced the time of transmitting news across the country from approximately 21 to 10 days. Nearly one hundred stations were established. This spot marks the first station south of Salt Lake City. It was a small adobe building known as Travelers’ Rest. Here riders exchanged horses and received needed repairs, food, or lodging. With the inception of telegraph the pony express was abolished in October, 1861.

Extended Research

Distributing mail was a difficult and expensive task in the nineteenth century, especially from the eastern United States to the West. It was also a dangerous task due to the challenging terrain, harsh weather, and potential attacks from bandits. Designed to meet these challenges and overcome them, the United States contracted with a major American freight company, Russell, Majors, and Waddell, which established the Pony Express in April 1860. There were multiple express stations built between San Francisco, California and St. Joseph’s, Missouri. At these stations riders could get a fresh horse, rest, obtain food, and hurry on their way. It normally took more than three weeks by stagecoach to deliver the mail but the Pony Express made it possible to travel nearly 2,000 miles within ten days [1].

Although the Pony Express was very successful, there were still some dangers that the riders faced. There were some people who would try to steal the mail that the riders carried with them, sometimes resulting in violence. A Pony Express rider named George S. Stiers stated in one of his journal entries, that he encountered multiple men who tried to steal from him while on his way to deliver mail [2]. He worked as a mail carrier for three years but had to quit because the man who hired him didn’t want to be at fault for Stiers’ death during the delivery of mail.

Photo Credit: www.Nationalgeographic.org [3]

Utah Territory was an important crossroads on the Pony Express route. “Salt Lake City was a major population center between the Missouri River and the West Coast” [5]. The Kansas based mail delivery firm, Russell, Majors, and Waddell created the Pony Express stations between St. Joseph’s, Missouri and Salt Lake City and from there to Sacramento.[4]. Most of the men who delivered the mail were young and some of them were from Salt Lake City. With Utah Territory’s population of around 40,000 people in 1860, the Pony Express carried many letters from the territory. In total, the Pony Express managed to deliver over 30,000 letters during the eighteen months that it was in business.

The Saddles that carried the mail

The Pony Express was successful in reducing the time it took to receive mail  but it was not profitable. The completion of the transcontinental telegraph in October 1861 meant that the Pony Express was no longer needed. According to a journal entry by Captain J.H. Simpson, the telegraph used the same basic trail that the Pony Express had used and converted some of the Pony Express stations into telegraph stations [6]

 

Flyers requesting men to work in the Pony Express

The Pony Express should be remembered as an important advance in speeding the time it took to get news and information across the United States. At the time, nothing had ever been delivered so fast as the mail with the Pony Express. In the twenty first century, there are many methods to deliver things quickly like airplanes or cellphones. The fast delivery of the Pony Express was an important innovation for the nineteenth century like cell phones and airplanes are for people today. The Pony Express is also a symbol of the old West, especially an iconic man on a horse racing across the desert. It symbolizes masculinity, strength, and conquest and embodies many of the myths of the West.

The Pony Express Station in Murray, Utah was significant enough to get its own historical marker because it was one of the places where the riders could stop and relax. There were some stations that were dangerous due to their location, but the station in Murray was known for its safety and as a good place to rest. It was also the first station South of Salt Lake City to be established.

[1] Frank, Megean Van. “The Pony Express in Utah.” Home – Utah Humanities, 13 Aug. 2010, https://www.utahhumanities.org/stories/items/show/193

[2] Gauthier, Sheldon F, and George S Stiers. George S. Stiers. Texas. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/wpalh002423/.

[3] Gunther, Tim. “Pony Express Route.” National Geographic Society. November 09, 2012. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/maps/pony-express/.

[4] Carter, Kate B. Utah and the Pony Express. Daughters of the UtahPioneers, 1988. URL: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015013918506

[5] Stuart, Wendy. “The Pony Express in Utah Book Signing.” Park City Museum. April 01, 2015. http://parkcityhistory.org/the-pony-express-in-utah-book-signing/.

[6] Captain J. H. Simpson. Made by Authority of the Secretary of War and under Instructions from Bvt. Brig. Gen. A. S. Johnston., 1876. https://archive.org/details/reportofexplorat00simp/page/n10

 

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

Gauthier, Sheldon F, and George S Stiers. George S. Stiers. Texas. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/wpalh002423/.

Simpson, J. H. Report of Explorations across the Great Basin of the Territory of Utah :for a Direct Wagon-Route from Camp Floyd to Genoa, in Carson Valley, in 1859 /by Captain J. H. Simpson. Made by Authority of the Secretary of War and under Instructions from Bvt. Brig. Gen. A. S. Johnston., 1876. https://archive.org/details/reportofexplorat00simp/page/n10

Secondary Sources:

Frank, Meghan Van. “The Pony Express in Utah.” Home – Utah Humanities, 13 Aug. 2010, www.utahhumanities.org/stories/items/show/193.

Gunther, Tim. “Pony Express Route.” National Geographic Society. November 09, 2012. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/maps/pony-express/.

Stuart, Wendy. “The Pony Express in Utah Book Signing.” Park City Museum, 1 Apr. 2015, www.parkcityhistory.org/the-pony-express-in-utah-book-signing/

Carter, Kate B. Utah and the Pony Express. Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1988. URL: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015013918506

Fike, Richard E., and John W. Headley. The Pony Express Stations of Utah in Historical Perspective. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 1979. URL: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/umn.31951002854172y

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