A Guide to Historical Sites along the Pony Express Trail: Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the First Ride of the Express

American Heritage, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

A Guide to Historical Sites along the Pony Express Trail: Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the First Ride of the Express


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(1) Wells Fargo History Museum in Old Sacramento

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The 1853 B. F. Hastings Building, one of the most historic structures in the state, once held the westernmost terminus of the nearly 2,000-mile-long Pony Express route, as well as the first permanent offices of California's Supreme Court and its first two telegraph companies. The exhibits in this 700-square-foot museum in the Old Sacramento Historic District include a replica mochila, the lightweight leather mailbag tossed over a Pony Express rider's saddle, and original letters and envelopes. Sacramento (916) 440-4263 or www.wellsfargo.com/about/history

(2) Folsom History Museum

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A spring that once watered Pony Express horses still flows behind this old stable in Folsom. The historic building was converted into a 2,600-square-foot museum of the area's past that offers permanent exhibits on Native Americans, explorers, Gold Rush, Pony Express, Chinese settlements and first industries to the area. Folsom (916) 985-2707. www.folsomhistorymuseum.org

(3) El Dorado County Museum

For a time, Placerville served as the western terminus of the Pony Express. Once called "Hangtown" because of its reputation for swift frontier justice, Placerville sits eight miles from Sutter's Mill, Where John Marshall discovered gold in 1848. The 5,000-square-foot county museum contains an exhibit on the Pony Express as well as baskets and tools made by Maidu, Miwok, and Washoe peoples, a shepherd's covered wagon, a restored Victorian-era parlor from a fine home and an old general store. Outdoor exhibits include a five-stamp mill used to crush rock, a large flywheel powered by a steam engine, ore cars, and antique chain saws. El Dorado (530) 621-5865 or www.edcgov.us/museum.

(4) Buckland Station

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Samuel S. Buckland built a way station and general store for pioneers on the Overland Trail as well as local ranchers and soldiers. Both the Pony Express and stage lines kept horses at his station. Nevada State Parks acquired the property in 1994 and recently restored and opened the building to the public. Buckland Station is located on the Carson River at Weeks Bridge, one-half mile south of the Fort Churchill entrance road. Silver Springs (775) 577-2345

(5) Fort Churchill

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The U.S. Army established Fort Churchill in 1861 during the Pyramid Lake War against the Paiute Indians. Although abandoned in 1869, the fort's crumbling adobe fortifications remain. The visitors center on-site explores the history of the Paiute, the triple murder that launched the war, life at the fort, and the exploits of Pony Express riders who rode nearby. Silver Springs (775) 577-2345 or parks.nv.gov/fc.htm

(6) Sand Mountain Recreation Area

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Located 25 miles east of Fallon just off U.S. Route 50, the stone-walled Sand Springs Station sits below a two-mile-long dune, Sand Mountain. Traveling on the Pony Express trail in 1860, British explorer Sir Richard F. Burton described this station as "cumbered here and there with drifted ridges of the finest sand, sometimes 200 feet high and shifting before every gale." Buried for more than a century under the shifting sand, the station was recently uncovered by archaeologists. Sand Mountain Recreation Area (775) 851-6400 or www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/earson_city_field/ blm_programs/recreation/sand_mountain.html

(7) Cold Springs Station

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A rivulet with good water still runs next to the ruins of Cold Springs Station. Visitors can recognize living quarters and a corral marked out by the three-foot-thick stone walls of this relatively large station, with windows, gun holes, and a fireplace. The station played a part in the famous ride of "Pony Bob" Haslam, who stopped here while covering 120 miles in eight hours after being wounded in an Indian attack, part of the fastest trip ever made by the Pony Express when it carried Lincoln's first inaugural address to California. …

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