Pony Express Trail (1860 – Sesquicentennial – 2010)

The Pony Express Trail (1860 – Sesquicentennial – 2010) is Nevada State Historic Marker #271 is located in Churchill County, Nevada. From Fallon drive head east on US 50 for 15 miles to Salt Wells Road. Turn south onto Salt Wells Road and travel for eight miles. This marker is the last historic marker approved by the the state of Nevada.

Pony express route April 3, 1860 - October 24, 1861 - Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942.
Pony express route April 3, 1860 – October 24, 1861 – Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942.

A Brief History

The Pony Express started to fill a need caused by the growing populations of California. After the discovery of Gold in 1848, thousands streaked to the golden state to seek their fortune in the ground. Additional demand for mail service was caused from migration along the infamous Oregon Trail and the Utah Mormon exodus in 1847. Stage Service was used to transfer correspondence across the Western United States.

The service was built and organized by three men, William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell. These men formed the company Russell, Majors & Waddell and in just two months in the winter of 1860 organized 184 stations, 80 riders and 400 hundred horse to race mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Some of the stations were existing stage stops while others were purpose built humble buildings deep in the Nevada territory. They hoped with a 10 day delivery time they could secure government contracts. The costs of the expedited service was 25000% greater that the slower stage service and a 1/2 package would cost $5 at the time.

Marker Text

One hundred and fifty years ago, the Pony Express was founded by W. H. Russell, Alexander Majors and William B. Waddell, operators of the Overland Stage Line of Leavenworth, Kansas. During a visit to Washington, Mr. Russell was urged by California Senator William Gwin to expand the Overland Stage operation to facilitate faster mail service. Mr. Russell’s partners hesitated due to the projected high costs; he persevered and the first ride began on April 3, 1860.

Overland stagecoach stations were located every 10-12 miles as far as Salt Lake City. Eighty skilled and experienced riders, 400 horses and approximately one hundred-eighty-four stations were located in Nevada from Utah (Deep Creek) to the California border (Genoa). The swift riders carried the mail 2,000 miles in 10 days from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. The “Pony” improved nationwide communication, western expansion and was credited with California’s continued participation in the Union at the beginning of the Civil War.

A high price was paid for the improved communication, including the cost to post a letter and the trials of the employees during the ride. The cost of mailing a letter as advertised was not economical, “letters less than 1/4 oz cost $2.50; over 1/4 oz, not to exceed 1/2 oz cost $5.00 and so on.” The riders, station masters and division agents faced hostile environments including poor housing, extreme heat and cold, poor access to potable water, food and dangers due to the conflicts between the Tribes and the new comers to the west.

On October 24, 1861, the telegraph was born and the last ride was completed. What had taken ten days could be achieved in ten seconds thus ending the Pony Express but the memory of the riders and the route live on.

STATE OF NEVADA HISTORICAL MARKER No. 271

Nevada State Historic Marker Summary

NamePony Express Trail (1860 – Sesquicentennial – 2010)
LocationChurchill County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.287541, -118.571526
Nevada State Historic Marker Number271

References

Ragtown NSHM – Nevada State Historic Marker #19

Ragtown NSHM is Nevada State Historical Marker number nineteen and is located in the Churchill County, Nevada.

Nevada State Historical Markers identify significant places of interest in Nevada’s history. The Nevada State Legislature started the program in 1967 to bring the state’s heritage to the public’s attention with on-site markers. Budget cuts to the program caused the program to become dormant in 2009. Many of the markers are lost of damaged.

Ragtown was never a town. Instead, it was the name of a most welcome oasis and gathering point. This mecca on the banks of nearby Carson River received its name from the appearance of pioneer laundry spread on every handy bush around.

The Forty Mile Desert, immediately to the north, was the most dreaded portion of the California Emigrant Trail. Ragtown was the first water stop after the desert. To the thirst- crazed emigrants and their animals, no sight was more welcome than the trees lining the Carson River.

Accounts tell of the moment when the animals first picked up the scent of water—the lifted head, the quickened pace, and finally the mad, frenzied dash to the water’s edge. Then, emigrants rested for the arduous crossing of the Sierra Nevada that lay ahead.

In 1854, Asa Kenyon located a trading post near Ragtown, offering goods and supplies to travelers during the 1850s and 1860s. Ragtown was one of the most important sites on the Carson branch of the California trail.

HISTORICAL MARKER No. 19 – STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICECHURCHILL COUNTY MUSEUM COMMITTEE

Ragtown NSHM Summary

ID19
NameRagtown NSHM
LocationChurchill County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.5057,-118.9215

Ragtown NSHM Map

References

The Pony Express Trails and Stations In Nevada

The Pony Express operated for a very brief period of time from April 3, 1860, to October 26, 1861. The mail service allowed quick delivery of mail, messages and newspapers between California and Missouri. The pony express was built and operated around one hundred and eighty six stations, which enabled a rider to change horses frequently and quickly traverse the county.

Pony Express Riders "Billy" Richardson, Johnny Fry, Charles Cliff, Gus Cliff - Ernest and Elaine Hartnagle (original tintype from the Martin E. Ismert Collection - Kansas City, Missouri) - http://www.historybuff.com/library/refrichardson.html
Pony Express Riders “Billy” Richardson, Johnny Fry, Charles Cliff, Gus Cliff – Ernest and Elaine Hartnagle (original tintype from the Martin E. Ismert Collection – Kansas City, Missouri) – http://www.historybuff.com/library/refrichardson.html

The Pony Express only operated for a brief 18 months. Yet, the lore of its riders racing the mail across the country maintains a special place in history. The service was not a financial success and heavily subsidized. Despite this influx of capital, the service was doomed on October 24, 1861 with the success of the transcontinental telegraph.

A Brief History

The Pony Express started to fill a need caused by the growing populations of California. After the discovery of Gold in 1848, thousands streaked to the golden state to seek their fortune in the ground. Additional demand for mail service was caused from migration along the infamous Oregon Trail and the Utah Mormon exodus in 1847. Stage Service was used to transfer correspondence across the Western United States.

Pony express route April 3, 1860 - October 24, 1861 - Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942.
Pony express route April 3, 1860 – October 24, 1861 – Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942.

The service was built and organized by three men, William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell. These men formed the company Russell, Majors & Waddell and in just two months in the winter of 1860 organized 184 stations, 80 riders and 400 hundred horse to race mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Some of the stations were existing stage stops while others were purpose built humble buildings deep in the Nevada territory. They hoped with a 10 day delivery time they could secure government contracts. The costs of the expedited service was 25000% greater that the slower stage service and a 1/2 package would cost $5 at the time.

“Men Wanted”

The undersigned wishes to hire ten or a dozen men, familiar with the management of horses, as hostlers, or riders on the Overland Express Route via Salt Lake City. Wages $50 per month and found.

Ad in the Sacramento Union, March 19, 1860

The riders would received their delivery and store them in a special mail pouch or mochila. The rider would travel from station to station and changed horses at each station about every 10 miles. The riders would be changed every 75 to 100 miles and road 24 hours a day. A pony express rider earned $125 / month which was a good salary for the time

The last day of the pony express was October 26, 1861. On this day, the transcontinental telegraph completed the first direct communication between san Francisco and New York. On that day, the pony express officially became too slow, too expensive and ceased operations.

Illustrated Map of Pony Express Route in 1860 by William Henry Jackson ~ Courtesy the Library of Congress ~ The Pony Express mail route, April 3, 1860 – October 24, 1861; reproduction of Jackson illustration issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Pony Express founding on April 3, 1960. Reproduction of Jackson's map issued by the Union Pacific Railroad Company.
Illustrated Map of Pony Express Route in 1860 by William Henry Jackson ~ Courtesy the Library of Congress ~ The Pony Express mail route, April 3, 1860 – October 24, 1861; reproduction of Jackson illustration issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Pony Express founding on April 3, 1960. Reproduction of Jackson’s map issued by the Union Pacific Railroad Company.

Nevada Pony Express Stations

  • Alpine Ranch Station
  • Antelope Spring Station
  • Buckland’s Station ( Lyon County )
  • Butte Station
  • Carson City
  • Carson Sink Station
  • Cold Springs Station
  • Dayton
  • Deep Creek Station
  • Diamond Springs Station ( Eureka County )
  • Dry Creek Station
  • Dry Wells Station
  • Edwards Creek Station
  • Egan Station
  • Eightmile
  • Fort Churchill ( Lyon County )
  • Friday’s Station
  • Genoa
  • Grubb’s Well
  • Hooten Well Station
  • Jacob’s Well Station
  • Jacobsville Station
  • Middlegate Station
  • Miller’s Station
  • Mountain Spring Station
  • Prairie Gate
  • Robert’s Creek Station
  • Ruby Valley Station ( White Pine County )
  • Sand Springs Station
  • Scheel Creek Station
  • Simpson Park Station
  • Smith Creek Station
  • Spring Valley Station
  • Sulpher Springs Station
  • Van Sickle’s Station

Pony Express Rider Oath

I, … , do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.”

Oath sworn by Pony Express Rider

Pony Express Trail Map

References

Jessup Nevada – Churchill County Ghost Town

Jessup Nevada is a ghost town and gold mining camp located in Churchill County, Nevada. The site was first discovered in February 1908 by Frank Jessup & L. H. Murray.  The town is located about 4 miles northwest of the I-80 and even has an offramp used to access the town site. The mineralization was believed to be an extension of the mineralization from Seven Troughs in Pershing County.

Early days in Jessup, 1908 - Unknown photographer - Stanley W. Paher, Nevada Ghost Towns & Mining Camps, Howell North, (1970), p 112, Mrs. R.R. Purdy collection
Early days in Jessup, 1908 – Unknown photographer – Stanley W. Paher, Nevada Ghost Towns & Mining Camps, Howell North, (1970), p 112, Mrs. R.R. Purdy collection

Initially, rich gold ore valued at $100 per ton was hauled from the site using automobiles. When the tents started to from the city, the district is described as “forging ahead” by nearby newspapers. The town supported its 300 citizens from eight active mines. The small town supported three grocery stores, two lumbers, seven saloons and a meat market. For those who do not want to do the math, that is one saloon for every 43 citizens. In April, 1908 the Reno Evening Gazette reported lumbered being shipped to the mine camp by the carload and that the mining tents were being replaced with wooden structures. The completion of the Hotel and other larger structures was slowed by wood shortages.

During its heyday, people could reach the town by travelling by train to Huxley and then jumping on the daily stage service. A new road was petitioned to the county to connect to nearby Miriam. This new route would allow heavy freight to be shipped from the railroad without crossing the muddy, rough crossing salt flats.

One year after its start, Jessup was on the declined after the initial boom faltered in the fall of 1909. Investment continued into the mines and the area, however it was clear the time of Jessup was past.

Town Summary

NameJessup Nevada
LocationChurchill County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.948611, -118.875
Elevation4550 Feet
Population300
Post OfficeMarch 1908 – July 1912
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La Plata Nevada – Churchill County Ghost Town

Following the discovery of silver in 1862, La Plata Nevada is a ghost town locate in and the second county seat of Churchill County, Nevada. The site is found on the eastern slope of the Still Water Range about thirty miles East of Fallon. The town was founded at the convergence of La Plata Canyon and Silver Wave Canyon. The name of the town and the canyon is derived from the Spanish word for silver.

This ten-stamp mill built in 1864 at the lower end of La Plata - Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps - Paher
This ten-stamp mill built in 1864 at the lower end of La Plata – Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps – Paher

The mines of La Plata were not overly successful. Despite investment from eastern capitalists, wide area prospecting resulted in discouraging results. The Silver Wave Mining Company owned the townsite and a 1500-acre ranch. The mining company start a small mill in anticipation of profitable ore.

The town was the second county seat of Churchill County from 1864 until 1868. The court house was a converted structure purchase for $700 from Anton Kaufman on on October 15, 1864. The townsite climate was described as “delightful, atmosphere pure, bracing, and wholesome” by the Hon. George W. Stein, of Easton, Pennsylvania, President of the “Silver Wave Company,”

The town hosted a Post Office, the mills and a few businesses, including the Warren House, the La Plata Hotel and Pioneer Saloon. The town was V-shaped due its location at the convergence of two canyons. Plans were made for a much larger townsite, however, the ore simply did not support the plans. A special election was held on October 22, 1867 and as a result the county seat was was moved to the town Stillwater, in 1868.

There was a short revival of La Plata mines in the spring of 1906, but a revival was not in the forecast for this location.

Town Summary

NameLa Plata
LocationChurchill County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.449350216615784, -118.31154064991719
Eleation5280 ft
Post OfficeApril 13, 1865 – November 25, 1867

La Plata Trail Map

References