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

Diamond Springs Station

Diamond Springs Station is a Pony Express Station number 133 and located in a meadow in Eureka County, Nevada. Today the station is on private land which is believed to be owned by Olive Thompson. The station was described by Sir Richard Burton as the Eden of the Pony Express Trail when he visited the site on October 9th, 1860. He also reported that the site was managed by an unfriendly Mormon couple.

Diamond Springs Station
Diamond Springs Station
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Ruby Valley Station

The Ruby Valley Station was started in 1859 as part of George Chorpenning’s mail route. Later the station served the Pony Express and Overland Mail Company line in White Pine County, Nevada. The station was managed by William “Uncle Billy” Rogers and Frederick William Hurst.

Ruby Valley, White Pine County, Nevada - Ruby Valley Pony Express Station - photo taken in 1944
Ruby Valley, White Pine County, Nevada – Ruby Valley Pony Express Station – photo taken in 1944

Richard Burton visited the site on October 7, 1860, Rogers served as stationkeeper. At that time, this station was considered a half-way point between Salt Lake City, Utah and the Carson Valley. Protection from angry Western Shoshone Tribes is provided from Fort Ruby from 1862 – 1869, which is located near by.

The area’s rich soil provided excellent opportunities to raise food and hay for the other stations along the route. A band of Shoshone and the army also established camps near the station at various times. Camp Floyd’s Company B of the 4th Artillery Regiment arrived at Ruby Valley in May 1860 to protect the mail route during the Pyramid Lake War and remained there until October. Thereafter, the station’s name appeared on the 1861 mail contract list.

NPS – Pony Express DIVISION FOUR: STATIONS BETWEEN SALT LAKE CITY AND ROBERTS CREEK

For preservation, the Ruby Vally station was physically relocated to the grounds of the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko in 1960. The Northeastern Nevada Historical Society donated a brass maker to identify the station site in 1979. 

Ruby Valley Station Map

Station Summary

NameRuby Valley Station
LocationWhite Pine County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude40.04652085477361, -115.4918430937907
GNIS845958
Elevation6030 feet
Pony Express Station No.131

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