Sunday, October 25, 2009


We think nothing of picking up the cell phone or firing up the computer and sending an instant message. But think out our ancestors - no phones and letters often too up to a month to go around the horn because the Panama Canal hadn't been dug. A stagecoach was no better it shortened the time by only seven days -23 day run.
By 1860 and the Civil War raising its ugly head, the abolitionist wanted to bring in California to the Union side. But how? Why the American Way of course - competition.

In order to create a quick, reliable mail service three men, William Russell, William Waddell and Alexander Majors who all ready ran a freight line, proposed a series of relays between stations placed 10 miles apart. These horses and riders would mount and ride as fast as they could and deliver a letter from ST. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California in 10 days for the coast of $5.00 per half ounce weight. In two months, these men recruited 30 riders, created 190 stations, and acquired at least 500 horses for the project.

Riders were paid $25.00 a week and allowed to carry the tonto y feo or mail pouch, a water sack, a bible, a horn, and their choice of a rifle or pistol for protection. Because they were riding at a full gallop on a horse or what we would call today a large pony standing at 14 1/2 hands high, riders could weigh no more than 125 pounds. ( ok, I all ready weigh to much . sigh) Riders would ride day and night, year round. And in all this, only one pack was lost. ( hum think about how much mail gets lost today).

As we know, the Butterfield Stage Company won the contract and the pony express slowly dwindled the three stock holders selling to Wells Fargo Company. But, what happened to the men who developed this?

William Russell? Died in 1872 broke and shunned by friends.

William Waddell? Never went into business again. Lost his son in the Civil War. His property and land sold for back taxes. died broke as well in 1872

Alexander Majors? Returned to freighting. Moved to Salt Lake City. Helped with the
construction of Union Pacific Railroad died in 1900

But , oh, how their dream lives in the hearts of western lore.

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