A Pony Express Episode in Nevada

By William Daugherty, for the Reno Evening Gazette in 1891

Pony Express by the Bureau of Land Management.

Pony Express by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Messiah craze through which the west has just passed revives memories of the early Indian depredations in Nevada when from the Sierras to the Wasatch, the only inhabitants were at the stations of the Pony Express Company. The stations were usually occupied by a hostler only, whose duties were light as they were lonesome, but demanded prompt attention, as they were required to have the pony ready for the passing rider to mount without delay as soon as he rode up, regardless of the hour, day or night. Over the lonely stretch from Ruby Valley to Reese River, was a station known as Grubb’s Wells that was reached coming west, at midnight.

On one occasion, the pony rider, a lithe and agile fellow named Reese Hawley, afterward known as a crack whip on the Overland Stage Line, rode up and found the place in silence and darkness.

He had given the usual piercing “ki-yi” before reaching the station and expected the fresh horse to be in waiting, but there was no sign of life when he reached the door.

Pony Express Rider

Pony Express Rider

Supposing the hostler to be asleep, he dismounted, leaving the tired and foaming horse within arms reach, and opening the door, struck a match, and before the flickering flame shot up, he made a step and stumbled over the dead body of the hostler. Hastily rising and realizing the danger from the Indians who must be near, he stepped outside to mount his horse and found him gone. He at once struck out with caution and in his moccasin feet stealthily escaped in the darkness, and as rapidly as he could, made his way through the hours of darkness towards Jacobs’ Wells in the Reese River Valley, which he succeeded in reaching the next day in safety. A search and relief party from there returned the next day to Grubb’s Wells and found the dead body of the hostler scalped, and the horses stolen.

They had taken the rider’s horse during the moment he was in the house, and how he escaped was a miracle, but undoubtedly was owing to his knowledge of the Indians ‘ habits and his caution in retreating.


By William Daugherty article in the Reno Evening Gazette, February 14, 1891. Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated June 2021.

About the Author: Written by William Daugherty, for the Reno Evening Gazette in 1891. The Reno Evening Gazette was first published on October 12, 1876, and continued for the next 107 years. In 1977, it was merged with the Nevada State Journal and continues to exist today as the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Also See:

Pioneers on the Nevada Frontier (Reno Evening Gazette)

Nevada Mining Tales (Reno Evening Gazette)

Pioche Land Jumpers and the Death of Jack Harris (Reno Evening Gazette)

Violence on the Nevada Frontier (Reno Evening Gazette)