The Pony Express operated for only 19 months in 1860-1861 but became an American legend, epitomizing the American spirit of bravery and getting the job done no matter what adversity one faced.
Prior to the start of the Pony Express, getting a letter from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, in only ten days was considered an impossible feat.
But three businessmen– William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell, had an idea.
They established 184 individual Pony Express stations between St. Joseph and Sacramento that averaged about 10 miles apart because that was the distance a fast, light horse could travel at a gallop before tiring.
Those horses were specifically chosen for speed and endurance and the Pony Express paid $200 each for them—this when a pack horse sold for $25 and an average riding horse was $75.
They hired about 200 riders for the task and paid them $100 per month. At the time, an average wage would have been about 75 cents per day, so $100 a month was a fine wage indeed. The ad above is alleged to have been what the company advertised for in its riders.
Those riders averaged about 100 miles per day each, changing horses an average of eight to ten times before they rested and were replaced by the next rider. In an emergency, the rider sometimes took a double shift—meaning 20 hours in the saddle of a fast-moving horse.
A Pony Express rider could weigh no more than 125 pounds and had a reputation for being one tough hombre. More than one was killed in an attack. Robert Haslam is credited with the fastest Pony Express ride on record, covering 120 miles in eight hours and 20 minutes—while wounded. He lost three teeth when he was struck in the jaw by an arrow.
William “Buffalo Bill” Cody is another famous Pony Express Rider.
As tough as they were, Alexander Majors was a man of faith and required that Pony Express riders carry a company-provided Bible and sign the following oath:
“I, ________, do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.”
In truth, carrying the Bible was eventually eliminated to save weight and the reputation of Pony Express riders that has survived to this day has made it abundantly clear that not all adhered to the oath they had sworn.
And this speedy mail delivery did not come cheap. Russell, Majors, and Waddell had some pretty high overhead costs in this venture. When it started, the Pony Express charged $5 to deliver a half-ounce letter from St. Joseph to Sacramento. That’s equivalent to about $130 in today’s dollars.
That’s a lot of money, and rates did go down to $1 per half-ounce (equivalent to about $26 today) toward the end of the Pony Express era, but during that short time just before the Civil War, 35,000 letters or about 60 letters per day did make the journey on horseback halfway across the continent and over the Rocky Mountains to their destinations.
By the grace of God, mailing a letter these days isn’t nearly so dramatic. For a measly 47 cents (yes, that’s 47 cents in today’s dollars) you can send a letter to your local Kinship Christian Radio Station telling them anything you want. You can share a family tradition, write about programs or songs you love or don’t love, ask for prayer for yourself or a loved one, or even complain bitterly about the sneaky way the blog-writer worked this whole June Letter Month thing into what you thought was an interesting historical narrative about faith and the history of the American West.
Or, you can submit your letter electronically by clicking here: https://www.kinshipradio.org/kjly/jlm.php?station=kjly
And, if you include a gift of any size with your letter, you can choose from one of eight wonderful gifts!
And, I will personally promise you that the odds are over a million zillion to one that anyone involved in delivering your letter will ever be shot in the jaw with an arrow and lose three teeth.
AND, I am absolutely certain that Kinship Christian Radio will never, ever, eliminate the Bible to save weight in its delivery of the Word to you every day.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! (Galatians 6:10-11 NIV)