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The Riders of the Pony Express
by JC Pinkerton

Although the Pony Express lasted only 18 months - April 3, 1860 to October 26, 1861 - and covered just 2,000 miles between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California, it made an enormous impact on American history.

Below is an ad that ran in the ATA California Newspaper in March 1860.

"Wanted; young skinny wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred."


Although hundreds applied, only eighty were chosen. There was a large turnover because the riders didn't stay long. These were just a few of the many riders:

  • William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) - Youngest of the riders, being only 12 years old. Although he's been gone for many a year, he holds the record for the longest nonstop ride in the history of the Pony Express.
  • William Dennis
  • Howard Egar
  • William Fisher
  • Johnnie Frye - The object of affection of many women.
  • "Pony" Bob Haslam
  • Sam Hamilton
  • James Hickok (Wild Bill)
  • Jack Keetley
  • Jay G. Kelley - Helped build the roads and also designed a special saddle and saddle bags for the riders.
  • Thomas Owen King
  • Warren Upson "Boston" -Defiant and gutsy.
  • James Randall - First rider to head East. This was his first and only run.
  • William Richardson - First rider to head West.
  • ******

    A True Story about Johnnie Frye

    As the valiant cowboy knight passed through each town, the women would run out into the streets handing him cookies and cakes. One young woman asked Johnnie if she could sew his red neckerchief into her log cabin quilt, but Frye refused to part with his famous trademark.

    The determined young seamstress saddled her horse and waited for Frye to come through on his next run. She kept pace alongside his horse but he was too focused on his quest to engage in conversation. Having no time to waste, Johnnie Frye put the spurs to the horse. Off he took, only to have the young seamstress catch up.

    She grabbed at the red neckerchief, but missed. Still determined, she grabbed his shirt and tore a piece of it loose. Satisfied with her catch, she returned back home with her trophy and sewed it into her quilt.


    What became of the daring young men in the saddle?

  • Buffalo Bill - Went on to establish his famous Wild West Show.
  • Johnny Frye - Enlisted in the Union Army and was killed by Confederate soldiers. Many women cried upon learning of his death.
  • "Pony" Bob Haslam - Rode for Wells Fargo and went on to become a Deputy Marshall.
  • Sam Gibson - Discovered Uintahite, a mineral in the mines of Utah, which is good for building roads. He became very wealthy.
  • ******

    Although almost 150 years have passed since the Pony Express ran, it is still talked about today. The men who rode day and night through rain, wind and storm still rank as some of the bravest men in our history.

    "A fast and faithful friend has the pony been to our far off state. Summer and winter, storm and shine, day and night, he has traveled like a weaver's shuttle back and forth 'till now his work is done.
    Goodbye, Pony! You have served us well."

    --The California Pacific

    The Home Adv. Library: People & Places. Chicago.
    Lexicon Univ. Ency. New York.


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