Heroes of the West: Our Own Pony Express Riders

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On April 3, 1860, history was made as the 1st Pony Express riders left St. Joseph, Missouri and San Francisco, California simultaneously, each carrying a Mochila filled with mail and news, bound in the opposite directions and with a deadline of just 10 days to reach their destinations!

Many folks aren’t quite sure how long it was in operation (18 months) or even why it ended (the completion of the Transcontinental Telegraph). One thing is for certain however, the thought of thundering hooves and that lonely young rider carrying his precious cargo, gives our hearts a tug. Well saddle up here partners, because the “Wild West” is at your door and 2 of the most daring and brave young riders are your neighbors of yesteryear. Shall I introduce you?

On April 4thof 1860, 25 year old Warren “Boston” Upson was to begin his fist ride of what was then and still is, the most treacherous section of the entire 1966 miles of the Pony Express trail. Out of Sacramento, William “Sam” Hamilton turned the Mochila over to Upson at Sportsman’s Hall (Pollock Pines). Upson would then change mounts at Moss’ Station (Riverton), Webster’s Station (Sugarloaf) and Strawberry Station, then climb up to Johnson’s Summit (7382 ft). He continued on down the 2 miles of Hawley Grade to change mounts again at Lake Valley House. After which, he was off over Luther Pass, through Hope Valley, changing mounts again at Woodford’s Station and eventually ending his ride in Genoa. This first ride found Upson in driving snow for most of his trip up to Woodford’s Station, a scenario he would endure time and again.

The route to Woodford’s Station only lasted as the main route for less than 30 days. When Kingsbury Grade opened, the route was then changed to go through today’s Meyers, stopping at Yank’s Station (Lira’s), on to Friday’s Station at the base of Kingsbury Grade and up and over Daggett’s Pass towards Genoa.

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Our next rider, 20 year old Robert “Pony Bob” Haslam rode between Friday’s Station, the first eastbound Home Station in Utah Territory (Nevada), and Buckland Station (75 miles to the east). Perhaps the Pony Express’ most famous rider, Haslam was credited with making the longest round-trip ride of the Pony Express. Keep in mind, a rider’s route averaged 75 – 100 miles. In 1860, after receiving the May 10th mail out of San Francisco, he headed off towards Buckland Station. But upon arrival there, the relief rider was so frightened by the recent Paiute attacks; he would not take the mail. So Haslam continued on to Smith’s Creek Station (a total of 190 miles at this point) without rest. He then reclaimed his route with the westbound mail, but at Cold Springs Station he found the station keeper killed and the stock run off. When he finally reached Friday’s Station again, he had completed a 380 mile round- trip amidst the beginnings of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Uprising.

Haslam is also credited with contributing to the Pony Express’ fastest trip in March of 1861. He completed his ride in only 8 hours and 20 minutes at the distance of 120 miles. He accomplished this; all while riding wounded and carrying President Lincoln’s Inaugural Address. Incidentally, the entire trip was made from St. Joseph to San Francisco in 7 days and 17 hours! The Pony Express rode off into history unceremoniously on October 24th 1861 as the Transcontinental Telegraph was completed and the service was no longer needed. Yet, through its service, accomplishing what was thought to be the impossible, the Pony Express was credited with helping to save the Union by delivering communications quickly and efficiently to warn the West of the impending War Between the States.

Our next rider, 20 year old Robert “Pony Bob” Haslam rode between Friday’s Station, the first eastbound Home Station in Utah Territory (Nevada), and Buckland Station (75 miles to the east). Perhaps the Pony Express’ most famous rider, Haslam was credited with making the longest round-trip ride of the Pony Express. Keep in mind, a rider’s route averaged 75-100 miles. In 1860, after receiving the May 10th mail out of San Francisco, he headed off towards Buckland Station. But upon arrival there, the relief rider was so frightened by the recent Paiute attacks; he would not take the mail. So Haslam continued on to Smith’s Creek Station (a total of 190 miles at this point) without rest. He then reclaimed his route with the westbound mail, but at Cold Springs Station he found the station keeper killed and the stock run off. When he finally reached Friday’s Station again, he had completed a 380 mine round-trip amidst the beings of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Uprising.

Haslam is also credited with contributing to the Pony Express’ fastest trip in March of 1861. He completed his ride in only 8 hours and 20 minutes at the distance of 120 miles. He accomplished this; all while riding wounded and crying President Lincoln’s Inaugural Address. Incidentally, the entire trip was made from St. Joseph to San Francisco in 7 days and 17 hours! The Pony Express rode off into history unceremoniously on October 24th 1861 as the Transcontinental Telegraph was completed and the service was no longer needed. Yet, through its service, accomplishing what was thought to be the impossible, the Pony Express was credited with helping to save the Union by delivery communications quickly and efficiently to warn the West of the impending War between States.

Photos and editorial courtesy of Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum. Written by Kim Copel-Harris with Western History Alive! and the Genoa Historic Ghost Tours.
www.laketahoemuseum.org, www.genoahistoricghosttours.com, www.westernhistoryalive.com