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Pony Express Stations Across the American West

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Pony Express Map

Pony Express Map, courtesy National Park Service.



Pony Express Divisions:


Division One - St. Joseph, Missouri to Fort Kearny, Nebraska

St. Joseph, Missouri



Division Two - Fort Kearny, Nebraska to Horseshoe Creek, Wyoming





Division Three - Horseshoe Creek, Wyoming to Salt Lake City, Utah

Division Four- Salt Lake City, Utah to Robert's Creek, Nevada

Division Five - Robert's Creek, Nevada to San Francisco, California



The Pony Express operation was divided into five operating divisions. The first division ran from St. Joseph, Missouri Fort Kearny, Nebraska; the second division from Fort Kearny to Horseshoe Station (above Fort Laramie), Wyoming; the third from Horseshoe Station to Salt Lake City, Utah; the fourth from Salt Lake City to Roberts Creek, Nevada; and the fifth division, from Roberts Creek to Sacramento, California. For the final segment -- the stretch from Sacramento to San Francisco, the mail was at first transported by horse relays, but, later normally transported by steamer unless there was some problem.

Each division of the Pony Express route had an established number of "home" stations with various "relay rider" or "swing" stations between them. The character of the country determined the numbers and distances between home stations and relay stations. During its 19 month history, the distances and particular stations on the route changed with time and varying circumstances.

In his memoirs, Alexander Majors stated that home stations were located approximately 65-100 miles apart. At home stations, which were usually associated with a previously established stagecoach stations, employees of the stage company were required to take care of the ponies and have them in readiness at the when required. Normally, home stations had an agent or station keeper in charge of five or six boys. Some stagecoach stations were constructed under either Hockaday & Company and/or the Chorpenning Company lines, and then absorbed by either the Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Express Company or its successor company, the Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express.

Between home stations, there were several relay rider or swing stations. In the beginning, the relay rider stations were set approximately 20-25 miles apart, but later, more relay rider stations were established at shorter intervals, about 12-15 miles apart. Relay rider stations normally had a single caretaker for the horses.

Life at both the home and relay stations was very hard. According to Sir Richard Burton, an English adventurer-writer, who was traveling on the Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express stage route in 1860 and witnessed the arrival and departure of Pony Express riders, he said:


"Setting aside the chance of death . . . the work is severe; the diet is sometimes reduced to wolf-mutton, or a little boiled wheat and rye, and the drink to brackish water; a pound of tea comes occasionally, but the droughty souls are always out of whisky and tobacco."


Ironically, the cost of maintaining even this hard living at each Pony Express station was high. Feed had to be hauled in some cases, hundreds of miles, all at a heavy expense and, as the country produced nothing then, provisions were hauled by wagons from the Missouri River, Utah and California.


Division One - St. Joseph, Missouri to Fort Kearny, Nebraska


More than 25 stations were situated in Division One at various times in the states of Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. Beginning in St. Joseph, Missouri, the trail crossed the Missouri River to Kansas.  Beyond Lancaster Station, which located about 10 miles east of Atchison, the path moved into Nebraska. Six of the Division One stations are listed on the National Register of Historic Places today.


The original 1860 Pony Express stables in St. Joseph, Missouri

The original 1860 Pony Express stables in St. Joseph,  Missouri now serve as the Pony Express Museum.

April 3, 2005, Kathy Weiser.






St. Joseph Station Area - In St. Joseph, there are several sites that are associated with St. Joseph Home Station area and the Pony Express National Historic Trail. These include:

  • Pony Express Stables - The stables, located at 914 Penn Street, face Patee Park in Saint Joseph, Missouri. In 1858, Ben Holladay constructed the original pine clad building, known as the Pike's Peak Stable, to serve his transportation business to Colorado. The original stable measured 60 x 120 feet and housed approximately 200 horses. Thirty years later, the St. Joseph Transfer Company remodeled the stables after they had been damaged by fire. During remodeling, while the roof retained its original configuration and shingles, the walls were resided with brick. In 1950, the Goetz Foundation restored the building by using original roof timbers and bricks. Today, the building serves as the Pony Express Museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Pony Express Monument - The monument, which stands in Patee Park in Saint Joseph across from the Pony Express Museum, was erected in memory of the birth of the Pony Express. The dedication ceremony for the monument, which occurred on April 3, 1913, included Pony Express riders such as William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, "Cyclone" Thompson, and Charlie Cliff. This monument reads: This monument erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the city of St. Joseph, marks the place were the first Pony Express Started on April 3, 1860.

Pony Express Wanted Poster

Pony Express Wanted Poster.

This and other Old West "wanted" posters can be find HERE.


  • Pony Express headquartersPatee House - This hotel, built from 1856-1858 by John Patee, served as a general office for the Pony Express in 1860. The Patee House often lodged Pony Express riders and founders of the company, including William H. Russell and Alexander Majors. The Patee House is a four-story, brick, Italianate commercial style building that is handsomely decorated with brackets, quoins, pilasters, and ornamental window hoods. The building still stands at the corner of Twelfth and Penn Streets, approximately two and one-half blocks east of the Pony Express stables. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Pony Express Statue - The Pony Express Memorial Statue stands in a park on the corner of Frederick Avenue and Ninth Street, and resembles an actual Pony Express rider with his mount. The statue was designed by Herman A. MacNeil. Since its dedication on April 20, 1940, the life-size bronze statute, weighing 7,200 pounds, has stood near City Hall and the Saint Joseph Civic Center.

  • St. Joseph Ferry Site - Two steam ferries, known as the Bellemont Ferry and the Ellwood Ferry, transported travelers, including Pony Express riders, across the Missouri River from Missouri to Kansas. Reportedly, the boat docked at either Jules or Francis Streets in Saint Joseph. A monument, located along the shoreline of the Missouri River in Hustan Wyeth Park, represents the original site of the ferry crossing. This monument reads: On this site, April 3, 1860, a ferry carrying a horse and rider crossed the Missouri River to start a 10 day journey of 1,966 miles to deliver mail to Sacramento, California. The race against time, elements and a hostile land captured the spirit of Americans, helped hold California for the Union and proved a central overland route was possible. Operators William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell went broke without a government mail contract, and the telegraph replaced the daring Pony Express riders after 19 months of operation.

  • Pony Express Saddle and Mochila Monument - This monument stands at the site where the first rider reportedly departed from Saint Joseph. It was dedicated on April 3, 1990, by the Western Trails Museum and Pony Express Trail Association during the 130th Pony Express Awareness Anniversary. It reads: On April 3, 1860, the eastern Pony Express mail arrived by train. The mail was brought here, which was the site of the United States Express Company. They were agents of the famous Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express Company who owned the Pony Express and whose offices were located at 12th and Penn Streets in the Patee House. The mail was first put in to the four cantinas (pockets) of the 'mochila' (mo-che-la). The mail consisted of a few newspapers, 49 letters and 9 telegrams that were printed on light weight paper and also wrapped in oiled skin for additional protection. The first Pony Express left here April 3, at 7:15 p.m. and after nearly 2,000 miles arrived in San Francisco at 1:00 a.m., on April 14. That westbound trip took 10 days, 7 hours and 45 minutes.


Continued Next Page


Pony Express Route Map Poster

Pony Express Route poster available HERE.


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