U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
|Story of the Pony Express Trail|
The Story of the Pony Express Trail 1860-1861:
With the discovery of gold in California in 1848, and the increasing political tensions of the 1850’s which led to the Civil War, it became imperative to keep the far West in the Union by providing a more dependable source of information from the East. News was very slow in reaching eager California readers, and a standing joke of the time was that events in the East had already been forgotten by the time they were known by those out West.
Finally it was decided: light, tough young men would be selected and hired to ride the best and fastest horse-flesh money could buy. There were to be eighty riders. Four hundred other men were to run way stations, some of which already existed for the coach line.
Light and Tough
Riders wore a bright red shirt and blue pants. They carried a small brass horn to signal their coming which was later eliminated when it was discovered the hoof beats did the same thing. Each rider was issued a Bible to sustain their courage and hardiness to make the ride through potentially dangerous country of Indians, bandits, deadly blizzards and murderous heat.
While the Pony Express never did operate at a profit, it would be wrong to call the dramatic venture a failure. California stayed firmly with the Union during the Civil War thanks to correspondence carried by the Pony Express. In all, a dramatic thundering page had been written in American History, and on a quiet day, you can stand along the trail and still faintly hear the hoofbeats.
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The Pony Express Trail National Back Country Byway begins near Fairfield and ends at Ibapah, Utah. Along the route visitors can enjoy history and a variety of recreation.
To begin tracing the hoofprints of the “Pony” visit the Stagecoach Inn State Park on state highway 73, 5 miles south of Cedar Fort. The Inn was an overnight stop for weary travelers along the Overland and Pony Express Trail. It is normally open from Easter weekend through October 31. The Pony Express National Back Country Byway route is approximately 133 miles in length. Most of the route is classified as rangeland and managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The elevations along the route vary from 4,900 feet near Fairfield to over 6,100 feet at Lookout Pass. The most common use of the rangeland along the trail is livestock grazing which dates back to the mid 1800’s.
The Pony Express Trail is interpreted at a number of locations:
A – Fairfield/Camp Floyd
This station was located within John Carson’s Inn and was used by both the Pony Express and stage travel. The adobe building was built in 1958 and is still standing, has a wooden façade, and is open to the public. It was operated by the Carson family until 1947 and lodged such visitors as Mark Twain, Porter Rockwell, Bill Hickman and Sir Richard Burton.
Adjacent to Fairfield is Camp Floyd. It was established in November 1858 and named for Secretary of War, John B. Floyd. Camp Floyd was the second military establishment in Utah and its mission was to establish a military route to California and to investigate the Gunnison Massacre.
At its peak, Fairfield had a population of 7,000 of which 3,000 were soldiers. At the time, Fairfield was the third largest city in the territory.
B – Faust Junction
C – Simpson Springs Station
A number of structures have been built and destroyed in the vicinity of Simpson Springs over the years. It is not known for sure which served as the station for the Pony Express. The restored structure is located on a building site which dates to the period (1860) and closely resembles the original. A BLM campground is located just east of the station and contains vault toilets and 14 individual camp sites. No large group camping facilities are available.
D – Boyd Station
Living conditions were extremely crude. The partially dug out. Rock-walled living quarters contained bunks which were built into the walls. Furniture consisted of boxes and benches. Life at the isolated station was lonely. Activities of the station keeper, spare rider and blacksmith centered around caring for the horses and a simple existence. The monotony was broken only by the arrival and almost immediate departure of two riders each day.
E – Canyon Station
The Canyon Station was located northwest of this site in Overland Canyon. Built in 1861, it consisted of a log house, a stable, and a dugout where meals were cooked and served. In July, 1863, Indians killed the Overland agent, four soldiers and burned the station. The Overland Station was built in 1863 at the presently marked site, which was a more defensible location. Stone outlines of the 1863 station are still visible.
There are remnants of a round fortification built just behind the station which served as a lookout and place of refuge. It probably never had a roof so defenders could speedily climb over the wall and begin firing rounds through the rifle ports. The depression on the south side of the parking lot indicates where the corral and blacksmith shop were probably located.
Pony Express Facts