Fort Churchill Nevada

Fort Churchill is a Civil War era United States Army Fort, Pony Express Station and overland stage stop located in Lyon County, Nevada just West of Buckland’s Station. The fort was commissioned to protect early settlers from the east from Indian attacks. The garrison was the largest, most elaborate fortification in the Nevada Territory at the time.

A lithograph drawing of Fort Chuchill, Nevada Territory created by Grafton Tyler Brown in 1862
A lithograph drawing of Fort Chuchill, Nevada Territory created by Grafton Tyler Brown in 1862

The discovery of gold in California caused a massive rush of people across the United States. Some of these early settlers came into the Nevada Territory and setup stage stops and mining operations. The arrival of settlers in their territory threatened the the Northern Paiute people. The increase populations of settlers increased the competition for local resources, such as game. These tensions, along with kidnapping and of rape of two young Paiute girls by prospectors from Williams Station erupted into Pyramid Lake War in 1860.

The U.S. Army fort was build along the Carson River and construction of Fort Churchill started on July 20, 1860. The base was named in honor of Sylvester Churchill who was the Inspector General of the Army. The fort is completed in early 1861 and home to some 200 soldiers charged with protecting settlers and mail routes. The post is abandoned in 1869.

On October 6, 1932, Nevada took control of the 200 acre fort and took steps to preserve the ruins as a state park.

Fort Churchill Map

References

Buckland’s Station

Buckland Station is a pony express station, stage stop, boarding house and supplier near Fort Churchill in Lyon County, Nevada.

Buckland Station early 1900s
Buckland Station early 1900s

In 1857, Samual Buckland moved from California to the future site of Buckland’s Station. Buckland, a cattle rancher, improved the property by building a tradingpost, tent hotel, stage stop and toll bridge over the Carson River. A small log cabin was constructed in 1860.

Buckland’s Station served as a stop for the pony express when Buckland contracted with Bolivar Roberts in March 1860 for his ranch to serve as a Pony Express home station. Fort Churchill was established two miles to the west during the summer of 1860 as a result of the Pyramid Lake Indian War. With the establishment of Fort Churchill and its protective bulwarks, the pony express station was relocated.

On October 19, 1860, when Richard Burton visited Buckland’s, he described the station, as usual, in negative terms.

nps.gov

In 1861, Bucklands Station was honored as the county seat of Churchill County. It also served as the county seat for Lyon County Fort Churchill closed in 1869 and Samuel Buckland bought some of its building material and built a large impressive wooded framed house.

Buckland died on December 28, 1884 at 58 years in age. He and his family are buried at the Fort Churchill Cemetery. Today, the large house built by Buckland is restored and

Buckland Station Location Summary

NameBuckland’s Station
LocationLyon County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.2946400, -119.2515470
GNIS856483
Elevation5000 feet
AliasBarnett, Barrett, Buckland Ranch, Bucklands, Tolles, Tolles Station, Weeks
Pony Express Stop No152

Buckland’s Station Trail 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.

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

Johntown Nevada – Lyon County Ghost Town

Located in Gold Canyon between Silver City and Dayton, Johntown Nevada is the first ghost town in Lyon county. None of the buildings are currently standing to mark the site of the original workings. The camp was started as a placer mining operation just off of the road in Gold Canyon in the early 1850s. The initial camp started when James Fenemore setup his tent in the side of the hill and started washing gravel for gold.

Placer mining, 1880s, in Gold Canyon. The original site of Johntown mining settlement , south of Silver, City Nevada - Stanley W. Paher, Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, Howell North, 1970, p 70. courtesy of Nevada Historical Society
Placer mining, 1880s, in Gold Canyon. The original site of Johntown mining settlement , south of Silver, City Nevada – Stanley W. Paher, Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, Howell North, 1970, p 70. courtesy of Nevada Historical Society
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Pine Grove Nevada – Lyon County Ghost Town

One of the lesser known yet longest running gold mining camps is Pine Grove, Nevada.  Located in Lyon County, Nevada just East of the 338 highway .Pine Grove was founded in 1866 when gold was discovered by William Wilson and he founded the Wheeler Mine the following year.   Within a year the town grew to about 300 people and the site was named Pine Grove Hills.

Pine Grove, Nevada - 1880s
Pine Grove, Nevada – 1880s

A post office was opened in 1868 in the small town along with a newspaper. A two stamp stamp mill was built to process the gold and silver ore.

The town of Pine Grove grew to 1000 people by the time the 1880s came around and the three mills processed $10,000 in gold bullion in a week. At its height, the town was spread out over a mile. The citizens enjoyed saloons, three hotels, stores, assorted businesses to support the mining effort.  A dance hall was also built to keep everyone entertained.

The mining effort stalled in 1883 due to a depression in the United States. Work recovered, and the mines were again active from 1900 to 1910 with marginal results. Although there was some prospecting, mining ceased production for a final time in 1918.

The town continued to support a small population, however it finally expired in the 1930’s after over 50 years to activity.

Steam boiler, Pine Grove, Nevada, 1880s. The steam from the boiler supplied a small engine which powered a ventilation fan.
Steam boiler, Pine Grove, Nevada, 1880s. The steam from the boiler supplied a small engine which powered a ventilation fan.

Pine Grove Town Summary

NamePine Grove
LocationLyon County, Nevada
Post OfficeSept 1868-Oct 1869
Nov 1869-Nov 1912
NewspaperThe Pine Grove Chronicle ( 1872-1872 )

Pine Grove Trail Map

Resources