Riders on Fort Churchill Road, followed by their support vehicle.

The Legacy of the Pony Express

The true story of the Pony Express is lost to history. What little records were kept about the riders and their routes have largely vanished, as did the route itself when the transcontinental telegraph was completed in 1861. Most "Pony" stories told today are legends of the likes of Paul Bunyon and Sasquatch.

What we do know is that it began in 1860, the creation of three men seeking to expand their business and establish a year-round, straight-shot mail route to connect the United States to the western territories and California.

At the time, the U.S. government had to send mail to the west by way of steamship around Cape Horn or dangerous stagecoach routes, both of which could take months. As a civil war loomed, the United States could not afford to lose California's gold to Confederate interests and needed a faster way to send dispatches. The Pony Express - a 24/7 relay of horses, riders, and remote stations - cut this time to ten days, charging today's equivalent of $133 per half-ounce of mail.

The following year, that time was further cut to mere minutes as the telegraph was completed.

Why is there such a romantic fascination with the Pony Express in modern times? How did such a short, obscure period in American history - barely 19 months - come to have such an influence in western culture today?

This is a new, ongoing project to discover the legacy of the Pony Express as I explore the trail in Nevada and California.

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