Category Archives: Pony Express

Aunt Libby’s Dog Cemetery

Published / by Shannon Gebbia / Leave a Comment

write-up by Shannon Gebbia

Placed by: Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Associations, No 95

GPS Coordinates: N 40° 07.123, W 112° 34.660

Historical Marker Text:

BURIAL PLOT

Enclosing graves (west side) of two men and a child emigrants of the early eighteen sixties.

Original wall erected in 1888, By Mrs. Horace (Aunt Libby) Rockwell to shelter graves of her beloved dogs. 1. Jenny Lind, 2. Josephine Bonaparte, 3. Bishop, 4. Toby Tyler, Companions in her lonely, childless vigils here about 1866 to 1890.

Erected by enrollees U.S. grazing division C.C.C camp g-154, company 2517.

Utah pioneer trails and landmarks association Tooele tourism tax grant

Sons of Utah pioneers

-settlement canyon chapter

SUP No. 239     Rededicated 2017

Extended Research:

Sometime between 1860 and 1870, Horace Rockwell and his wife Elizabeth “Libby” Rockwell moved to Skull Valley, a 40-mile long valley in what is now Tooele County, Utah. They operated the Pony Express station known as Point Lookout then continued living on the property in a log cabin built by stage workers after the station had closed.[1] They became horse and cattle ranchers and garnered a reputation as “rough frontiers folk” and “two strange characters.”[2], [3] Over time, the pair came to be known affectionately as Uncle Horace and Aunt Libby.

Uncle Horace and Aunt Libby owned one of the only sources of water along their stretch of the Overland Trail and charged travelers a fee to access it. Many riders and locals remembered Aunt Libby for smoking a pipe and treating her dogs better than her hired men.[4] Her “colony of dogs” were described as black and tan, short-haired, possibly of the “Fiste” breed (perhaps a misspelling of Feist, a small hunting terrier).[5] Aunt Libby liked to name some of her dogs after popular characters of the time, both fictional and real. Her variety of name choices reveals a wide range of interests in music, history, and popular literature: Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale” of the mid- to late-19th century opera scene; Josephine Bonaparte, the first Empress of France; and Toby Tyler, the 10-year-old protagonist of the children’s novel, Toby Tyler; or, Ten Weeks with a Circus.[6]

Photo of the site in August, 1941, prior to restoration by the UPTLA.

 As testament to her devotion for her dogs, Dr. W. M. Stookey, a member of the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks association, recalls an instance when Aunt Libby called upon Tooele’s Dr. William Bovee Dods to tend to one of her dogs, which had fallen ill. When Dr. Dods refused, Libby forced one of her workers, Elijah Perkins, to play sick, thus tricking Dods into paying a visit to the cabin. Once there, he reluctantly tended to the dog, and she paid him $100. Aunt Libby’s trick only worked once—the next time a dog got sick, the Rockwells had to travel roughly 70 miles to Salt Lake City.[7]

Photo of the site in August, 1941, prior to restoration by the UPTLA.

When one dog died en route for treatment in Salt Lake City, Aunt Libby brought him back to Point Lookout and buried him near a collection of three graves belonging to immigrants who had died while passing through Skull Valley.[8] She then hired a stone worker, Gustave E. Johnson, to build a wall around the small graveyard.[9] As her beloved dogs passed on over the years, Aunt Libby buried each one in her cemetery.

The Rockwells moved to California sometime after May 25, 1890 and lived there for the remainder of their lives.[10] Aunt Libby’s Dog Cemetery is the only structure still standing on the property known as Point Lookout.

View from Hwy 36 Pony Express Road

The historical significance of this cemetery seems to be centered around its location among the Pony Express stations along Utah’s section of the Overland Trail. Unlike Horace’s brother, Orrin Porter Rockwell, Horace and Libby Rockwell were not major figures in Utah or Mormon history—monuments haven’t been built in their name, we don’t learn about them in history lessons. But one story about a rough, pipe-smoking woman who tricked a Tooele doctor into treating her sick dog has survived the test of time and given historical value to this cemetery. Dr. Stookey explains that the reason for including the cemetery as an “extra in the line, both in design and significance,” was due to a “growing increase in its unique history,” and perhaps because it is one of the only remaining structures along this section of the Overland Trail.[11] Regardless of the reasoning, by including the cemetery among Utah’s historical markers, the UPTLA created an avenue for Aunt Libby’s stories to be retold forever. Within the chasm between the details of each recollection, we find the personality of that “strange character” Aunt Libby. According to most of the people who described her over the years, she was a rough, childless, pipe-smoking woman, unafraid of outlaw Porter.[12] But by way of the legacy of pet cemetery and the stories about her dogs, we see a giving, loving, motherly woman whose cultural knowledge reached far beyond the secluded scope of the Wild West.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources

“Fatally Burned.”  Los Angeles Times. March 26, 1901. Accessed February 24, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/380059910/?terms=Mrs%2BRockwell.

Sharp Manuscript: Stories published by James P. Sharp. Compiled by Shirley Sharp Pitchford and Susan Sharp Hutchinson. Utah State Division of History Archives.

Sharp, James P. “The Pony Express Stations.” Improvement Era (February 1945): 76–77.

https://archive.org/details/improvementera4802unse/page/n21/mode/2up

Stookey, W. M. “They Died But Lived Again! Aunt Libby Rockwell’s Doggone Dogs and Their Lonely Cemetery Beside the Historic Overland.” Salt Lake Tribune. August 31, 1941. Accessed February 24, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/598747615/?terms=libby%2Brockwell

Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association marker records, ca. 1930–1990s. MSS B 1457, box 1. Utah State Division of History Archives.

Secondary Sources:

Bluth, John F. “The South Central Overland Trail in Western Utah, 1850- 1900.” U. S. Bureau of Land Management. https://ecos.fws.gov/ServCat/DownloadFile/101963?Reference=61466

Bluth, John F. “Supplementary Report on Pony Express Overland Stage Sites in Western Utah.” https://ecos.fws.gov/ServCat/DownloadFile/101965?Reference=61468.

Fike, Richard E. and John W. Headley. “The Pony Express Stations of Utah in Historical Perspective.” Cultural Resources Series Monograph 2. Bureau of Land Management of Utah, 1979.

https://archive.org/details/ponyexpressstati00fike/mode/2up

Jessop, J. D. “The Ghost of Aunt Libby May Be Nearby.” Tooele Transcript Bulletin, October 2, 2014. http://tooeleonline.com/the-ghost-of-aunt-libby-may-be-nearby/.


[1]Bluth, John F. “The South Central Overland Trail in Western Utah, 1850-1900” (U. S. Bureau of Land Management), p. 4. (accessed February 10, 2020) https://ecos.fws.gov/ServCat/DownloadFile/101963?Reference=61466; Jessop, J. D. “The Ghost of Aunt Libby May Be Nearby.” Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah, October 2, 2014. (accessed January 29, 2020) http://tooeleonline.com/the-ghost-of-aunt-libby-may-be-nearby/; Stookey, W. M. “They Died But Lived Again! Aunt Libby Rockwell’s Doggone Dogs and Their Lonely Cemetery Beside the Historic Overland.” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 31, 1941. (accessed February 24, 2020). The exact date is unknown as several accounts differ, but they all agree the Rockwells lived at this location until sometime in 1890.

[2] Stookey.

[3] Sharp, James P., “The Pony Express Stations ,” Improvement Era, (February, 1945), 76-77. (accessed Feburay 10, 2020) https://archive.org/details/improvementera4802unse/page/n21/mode/2up

[4] Stookey.

[5] Sharp.

[6] Jessop, Stookey.

[7] Stookey, Jessop. Several newspaper stories reported this story, but the accounts differ as to which dog was ill, who called for Dods, and the amount he charged.

[8] Stookey, Bluth. Three unknown emigrating travelers died and were buried here.

[9] Stookey.

[10] Jessop; Stookey; Los Angeles Times, “Fatally Burned.” March 26, 1901. (accessed February 24, 2020) https://www.newspapers.com/image/380059910/?terms=Mrs%2BRockwell. Again, much is contested about the date, but one fact stands out: Aunt Libby burned in her house after falling asleep smoking her pipe.

[11] Stookey’s article explains the UPTLA’s haste in using the nearby CCC camps to help place markers and monuments along the difficult terrain, and that most Pony Express stations had “little or nothing remaining of the originals.” The survival of this cemetery and its story provide a picture of life along the trail.

[12]Lloyd, Erin. “Colors of Life Paint Rich Past in Rush Valley.” Tooele Transcript-Bulletin, 9 Dec. 1998, pp. 25–27. The article states Porter Rockwell owed $500 to his brother Horace, and Libby vowed to cut off Porter’s hair if the debt remained. LDS history states Porter’s hair long hair held significance to his faith. https://www.newspapers.com/image/545721374/?terms=libby%2Brockwell

The Pony Express Station

Published / by Gloria Aceves / Leave a Comment

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

Simpson Springs Pony Express Station

Published / by Paul McKnight / 1 Comment on Simpson Springs Pony Express Station

Simpson Springs Pony Express Station

Write up by Paul McKnight

Placed by enrollees U.S. grazing division C.C.C camp 8-184, Company 2517, No. 87

GPS coordinates: 40°2′16″N 112°47′11″W.

 

Historical Marker Text (1):

NO. 87

                        Erected AUG 23, 1940

Simpson’s Spring- Pony Express Station

            One of the important desert stations on the Pony Express and overland stage route between ST. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California. From this point, water was carried for west-bound travelers and animals. The Spring was discovered by Captain J.H. Simpson, U.S. Army. In 1858, the first east-bound Pony Express courier halted here about 5 P.M. April 7, and west-bound about 2 A.M. April 10, 1860. The Last riders passed about October 22,1861. The coming of the overland telegram made it inadvisable to continue the Pony Express.

            This monument constructed by enrollees U.S. grazing division C.C.C camp 8-184, Company 2517.

 

Historical Marker Text (2):

The Station

A number of structures have been built and destroyed in the vicinity of Simpson Springs over the years, and it isn’t known for sure which served as the station for the mail route and the Pony Express. The nearby restored cabin is located at the approximate site of the original station and closely resembles the original.

George Chorpenning did not benefit from the effort and money spent in building the mail stations. In 1859 financial troubles struck. Chorpenning’s government mail contracts were suddenly reduced; no money reached route employees during the fall. Chorpenning’s animals were “attached” and sold for back wages. William Russel acquired the new mail contract. Chorpenning notes that Russel “stepped in, took possession of my stations, provisions, improvements…” Thanks to Chorpenning, the Pony Express was in business.

Historical Marker Text (3):

Stone Cabin

Alvin Anderson used stone from the abandoned Pony Express station when he built this cabin in 1893. It was intended for his wife, who died in childbirth before she could live in it.

Extended Research:

The Pony Express was established in April of 1860. The idea behind the Pony Express was to establish an overland mail route between Joseph Missouri and Sacramento California. During this time, transporting mail and information from one side of the U.S. to the other proved too time consuming. The mail and other information was placed on a boat which sailed around to California. This could take weeks if not months. By the time the news arrived, it was too old to even matter. Therefore, the Pony Express was considered to be a better alternative to a long voyage.

William H. Russel, Alexander Majors and William B. Waddell started what at the time was known as the Leavenworth & Pike’s Peak Express Company. The postmaster general, Joseph Holt requested their services. The people who rode the Pony Express could achieve 1800 miles between Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California in just ten days. This definitely cut down the time it took for a ship to sail around the world. While the information transported was still not very current, it sure was more up to date than the news which came to California by ship.

Travel for many of the riders on the trail was often hazardous. As can be illustrated by this first-hand account by Buffalo Bill Cody, who was most famous for his Wild West Show. When Buffalo Bill joined the Pony Express, he was only 15 years old. This was not uncommon to see in the Pony Express at this time. Buffalo Bill shared his account of some of the events which happened to him while on the trail with these words:

 

“. . .The next day he [Mr Slade,the manger of Cody’s Pony Express station] assigned me to duty on the road from Red Buttes on the North Platte, to the Three Crossings of the Sweetwater – a distance of seventy-six miles – and I began riding at once.

One day when I galloped into Three Crossings, my home station, I found that the rider who was expected to take the trip out on my arrival had got into a drunken row the night before and had been killed; and that there was no one to fill his place. I did not hesitate for a moment to undertake an extra ride of eighty-five miles to Rocky Ridge, and I arrived at the latter place on time. I then turned back and rode to Red Buttes, my starting place, accomplishing on the round trip a distance of 322 miles.

Slade heard of this feat of mine, and one day as he was passing on a coach he sang out to me, ‘My boy, you’re a brick, and no mistake. That was a good run you made when you rode your own and Miller’s routes, and I’ll see that you get extra pay for it.’

Slade, although rough at times and always a dangerous character – having killed many a man – was always kind to me. During the two years that I worked for him as pony-express-rider and stage-driver, he never spoke an angry word to me.

As I was leaving Horse Creek one day, a party of fifteen Indians ‘jumped me’ in a sand ravine about a mile west of the station. They fired at me repeatedly, but missed their mark. I was mounted on a roan California horse – the fleetest steed I had. Putting spurs and whip to him, and lying flat on his back, I kept straight on for Sweetwater Bridge – eleven miles distant – instead of trying to turn back to Horse Creek. The Indians came on in hot pursuit, but my horse soon got away from them, and ran into the station two miles ahead of them. The stock-tender had been killed there that morning, and all the stock had been driven off by the Indians, and as I was therefore unable to change horses, I continued on to Ploutz’s Station – twelve miles further – thus making twenty-four miles straight run with one horse. I told the people at Ploutz’s what had happened at Sweetwater Bridge, and with a fresh horse went on and finished the trip without any further adventure.”

On June 16, 1860 congress approved the construction of a telegraph line which would connect the west coast with other lines in Missouri. Thus, in October of 1861 the Pony Express was deemed obsolete and unnecessary. The travel was dangerous, the rides were long. The Pony Express station at Simpson Springs was just one of many stations along the route to California. Riders would arrive at this station and either another rider would continue the ride or the same rider would switch horses and continue riding to the next station. The arrival of the telegraph put an end to the hazardous transfer of information. This station at Simpson Springs served as one of many stations used by members of the Pony Express such as Buffalo Bill. Such stations provided security, food, and fresh horses for incoming riders.

Primary Source:

  • “Pony Express Rider, 1861” EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2008).

Secondary source:

https://www.nps.gov/poex/learn/historyculture/index.htm