Our Summer 2010 Trip...Headed West This Time travel blog

This was home for outlaw Jesse James and his family from the...

a wall plaque at the Patee House, a pioneer hotel that was...

this hotel was built in 1858 and part of it was used...

a larger than life sized bronze statue of a Pony Express rider...

On April 3, 1860, the first Pony Express rider left the stables...

Although the Pony Express only operated for 19 months, it has been...

these horses, in the stables of the Pony Express Museum, are from...

a "mochilla" was used to carry the mail and was to be...

the restored stables have been used as the Pony Express Museum since...


The town of St. Joseph, MO was our stop for Wednesday evening. We didn’t arrive in time to go see too many of the sights here, but we did ride into town and see some places. We went by the Jesse James home but it was closed for the evening. This home was where Jesse James, using the assumed name of Tom Howard, rented a house from a city councilman for $14 a month during the fall of 1881. During that winter, Jesse tried to buy a small farm in Nebraska, but in April, he was still short of the cash needed. All of his earlier gang members were either dead or in prison, so Jesse recruited Bob and Charlie Ford to help him rob the Platte City bank. The Ford brothers posed as cousins of Jesse James, but actually were not related to Jesse at all. A $10,000 reward on Jesse proved too appealing for the brothers. While Jesse stood on a chair in the family home at in St. Joseph to dust and straighten a picture, Bob and Charlie Ford drew their guns. Bob Ford put an end to Jesse James with a single bullet to the back of his head on April 3, 1882. The Ford brothers attempted to collect the reward, but instead, they were charged with murder. They were sentenced to hang, but were later pardoned by Governor Tom Crittenden. Two years later Charles Ford committed suicide and Bob Ford, the "dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard, and laid poor Jesse in his grave," was himself killed in a bar room brawl in Creede, Colorado, in 1892.

Our next stop was at the Pony Express Museum, where the Pony Express actually began in 1860. This museum was also closed, but the manager was outside, waiting for an “after hours” tour group to arrive, so she said we could come inside and visit. We found out that in this very building, on April 3, 1860, a single rider left on horseback from the gates of the Pikes Peak Stables in St. Joseph, Missouri. These stables have been restored and have been used to tell the story of the Pony express since the 1950s. Although the Pony express only lasted 19 months, from April of 1860 to October of 1861 when the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line ended the need for its existence, it remains one of the west’s most famous sagas. The route the relay of riders took was 2000 miles long, beginning in St. Joseph and ending in Sacramento. The riders had to cross rivers, prairies, mountains, plains, gullies and deserts in all kinds of weather. Each rider rode for about ten miles, changed horses at a relay station, and then rode on – usually for ten to twelve hours. Riders exchanged their “mochilla” bag of mail each time they changed horses, and at stations placed about 100 miles apart; the rider was then relieved by the next young rider. The Pony Express was founded by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors. Plans for the Pony Express were spurred by the threat of the Civil War and the need for faster communication with the West. The service opened officially when riders left simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. The first westbound trip was made in 9 days and 23 hours and the eastbound journey in 11 days and 12 hours. The pony riders covered up to 250 miles in a 24-hour day. Eventually, the Pony Express had more than 100 stations, 80 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. The express route was extremely hazardous, but only one mail delivery was ever lost. Although California relied upon news from the Pony Express during the early days of the Civil War, the horse line was never a financial success, leading its founders to bankruptcy. However, the romantic drama surrounding the Pony Express has made it a part of the legend of the American West.



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