The Story of the Pony Express
An account of the most remarkable mail service
ever in existence, and its place in history.
Glenn D. Bradley
Author of Winning the Southwest
To My Parents
This little volume has but one purpose--to give an authentic, useful, and readable account of the Pony Express. This wonderful enterprise played an important part in history, and demonstrated what American spirit can accomplish. It showed that the "heroes of sixty-one" were not all south of Mason and Dixon's line fighting each other. And, strange to say, little of a formal nature has been written concerning it.
I have sought to bring to light and make accessible to all readers the more important facts of the Pony Express--its inception, organization and development, its importance to history, its historical background, and some of the anecdotes incidental to its operation.
The subject leads one into a wide range of fascinating material, all interesting though much of it is irrelevant. In itself this material is fragmentary and incoherent. It would be quite easy to fill many pages with western adventure having no special bearing upon the central topic. While I have diverged occasionally from the thread of the narrative, my purpose has been merely to give where possible more background to the story, that the account as a whole might be more understandable in its relation to the general facts of history.
Special acknowledgment is due Frank A. Root of Topeka, Kansas, joint author with William E. Connelley of The Overland Stage To California, an excellent compendium of data on many phases of the subject. In preparing this work, various Senate Documents have been of great value. Some interesting material is found in Inman and Cody's Salt Lake Trail.
The files of the Century Magazine, old newspaper files, Bancroft's colossal history of the West and the works of Samuel L. Clemens have also been of value in compiling the present book.
Transportation and communication across the plains
"A whiz and a hail, and the swift phantom of the desert was gone."
The Story of the Pony Express
At A Nation's Crisis
The Pony Express was the first rapid transit and the first fast mail line across the continent from the Missouri River to the Pacific Coast. It was a system by means of which messages were carried swiftly on horseback across the plains and deserts, and over the mountains of the far West. It brought the Atlantic coast and the Pacific slope ten days nearer to each other.
It had a brief existence of only sixteen months and was supplanted by the transcontinental telegraph. Yet it was of the greatest importance in binding the East and West together at a time when overland travel was slow and cumbersome, and when a great national crisis made the rapid communication of news between these sections an imperative necessity.
The Pony Express marked the highest development in overland travel prior to the coming of the Pacific railroad, which it preceded nine years. It, in fact, proved the feasibility of a transcontinental road and demonstrated that such a line could be built and operated continuously the year around--a feat that had always been regarded as impossible.
The operation of the Pony Express was a supreme achievement of physical endurance on the part of man and his ever faithful companion, the horse. The history of this organization should be a lasting monument to the physical sacrifice of man and beast in an effort to accomplish something worth while. Its history should be an enduring tribute to American courage and American organizing genius.
The fall of Fort Sumter in April, 1861, did not produce the Civil War crisis. For many months, the gigantic struggle then imminent, had been painfully discernible to far-seeing men. In 1858, Lincoln had forewarned the country in his "House Divided" speech. As early as the beginning of the year 1860 the Union had been plainly in jeopardy. Early in February of that momentous year, Jefferson Davis, on behalf of the South, had introduced his famous resolutions in the Senate of the United States. This document was the ultimatum of the dissatisfied slave-holding commonwealths. It demanded that Congress should protect slavery throughout the domain of the United States. The territories, it declared, were the common property of the states of the Union and hence open to the citizens of all states with all their personal possessions. The Northern states, furthermore, were no longer to interfere with the working of the Fugitive Slave Act. They must repeal their Personal Liberty laws and respect the Dred Scott Decision of the Federal Supreme Court. Neither in their own legislatures nor in Congress should they trespass upon the right of the South to regulate slavery as it best saw fit.
These resolutions, demanding in effect that slavery be thus safeguarded--almost to the extent of introducing it into