The Pony Express (Cornerstones of Freedom)

What I Learned Section 1 -- Answer the Following Questions:
1. The Pony Express ran between which two cities?

St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California.
In the spring of 1860, the Pony Express hired 80 young men to carry the U.S. mail on horseback between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California.

The route was 1,966 miles long, and the Pony Express promised to deliver the mail within 10 days. Each Pony Expressman rode a horse 15 miles and then switched horses. After riding 75 miles, the rider passed his mailbag (a mochila) to the next rider.

Along the route, the Pony Express riders faced the winds on the prairies of Kansas and Nebraska, crossed the Sweetwater River in Wyoming, traversed the hot deserts of Utah and Nevada, and climbed the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.

In the 1850's, before the Pony Express was established, it was a difficult journey to carry the mail between Salt Lake City, Utah, and California. Some men never completed the trip. Some might have been wounded or killed by unfriendly Native Americans, and some might have frozen to death in the deep snow. Others who completed the trip took up to fifty-three days to arrive in Salt Lake City.

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2. Who started the Pony Express?
William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors.

Russell was the chief promoter. A promoter is a person who tries to bring success to a cause by spreading news of its value. Waddell and Majors were investors.

Previously, Russell, Waddell, and Majors ran one of the most successful overland freight businesses in the United States. They owned thousands of oxen and wagons which were used to carry freight across the Great Plains, over the Rocky Mountains, and beyond. Russell knew the Pony Express would bring better mail service and increase business opportunities for the people living in the West.

Did you know the Pony Express delivered the mail to and from California in half the time it took a stagecoach to deliver the mail? The Pony Express promised to get the mail to California in 10 days or less, and the stagecoach took at least 20 days.

Since 1858, John Butterfield's Stage Line had a contract with the government to deliver semi-monthly deliveries to and from California. Butterfield received $600,000 a year for this service. Butterfield's route was not direct. It swung south through Texas and New Mexico, the present-day states of Arizona and Nevada, and then headed into southern California.

California Senator William M. Gwin lobbied the U.S. Congress for a better mail service to and from California. Did you know to lobby means to try to influence a public official?

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3. What date did the Pony Express begin?
April 3, 1860.
On this date, the westbound mail arrived in St. Joseph, Missouri, by train. It was two and a half hours late which added to the excitement and anticipation of the first Pony Express ride. The first Pony Express rider, John "Johnnie" Frye, left St. Joseph at 7:15 p.m. on April 3, 1860. The journey was completed on time as William "Billy" Hamilton arrived in Sacramento with the westbound mail.

The route of the Pony Express required speed and endurance from the Pony Express riders for two reasons. First, they needed to keep up the tight schedule. Second, they needed to avoid encounters with unfriendly Native Americans, including Paiute Indians. Paiute Indians did not like the white immigrants because they were killing too many antelope and cutting down piñon pine trees both of which were essential to the Paiute's way of life.

On May 31, 1860, the Pony Express discontinued service because the relations with the Paiutes worsened and the U.S. Army did not offer protection to the Pony Express riders and employees. However, when several stagecoaches were attacked by the Paiutes, the U.S. Army drove the Paiutes into the mountains. The Pony Express resumed service on June 26.

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4. Name ONE of the 120 relay stations along the Pony Express Route.
Some of the 120 relay stations are: St. Joseph, Marysville, Ft. Kearney, Gothenburg, Julesburg, Mud Springs, Ft. Laramie, Sweetwater, Salt Lake City, Ruby Valley, Stillwater, Carson, Sportsman's Hall, Placerville, Folsom, and Sacramento.

The Pony Express had eighty riders and at least 400 station men who maintained the outposts along the Pony Express route.

A Pony Expressman changed horses every 10 to 15 miles at one of the 120 relay stations along the route. The Pony Express had at least 500 high-grade horses at these stations. Grain to feed the horses was shipped in from Iowa farms. Some people believed it was the grain that gave the horses the speed and endurance to complete the journey on time.

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5. What was the name of the mailbag used by the Pony Express riders?
A mochila.
It was a blanketlike leather mail pouch draped across the rider's saddle.

A Pony Express rider traveled light. His horse could carry about 165 pounds. Since the rider weighed about 125 pounds and carried about 20 pounds of mail, this left about 20 pounds for a saddle and other belongings. Did you know most riders carried a single pistol for self-defense?

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6. True or False: Buffalo Bill Cody rode for the Pony Express.
Buffalo Bill later became a famous entertainer.

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7. When did the Pony Express end?
November, 1861.
Here are some interesting facts about the Pony Express:

The Pony Express lasted about one and a half years
Pony Express riders carried 24,753 pieces of mail
Pony Express riders traveled distances equivalent to twenty-four laps around the earth
The Pony Express strengthened ties between the East Coast and the West Coast by cutting the travel time of mail in half from 20 days to 10 days.

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What I Learned Section 2 -- Define the following words:
Invest: To give money to a company in hope the company will be successful

Outpost: A branch of an organization separate from the main group

Promoter: One who tries to bring success to a cause by spreading news of its value

Spur: A pointed piece of metal worn on a horse rider's boot heel; when the rider "spurs" the horse (or kicks it with the spurs), the horse gallops faster

Stagecoach: A horse-drawn vehicle carrying passengers and mail

Stamina: The ability to stand up to harsh conditions

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Bonus Questions (Answer 1 of the Following Questions for Your FREE Bookmark):
a. Who was the first Pony Express rider?
John "Johnnie" Frye. Frye left St. Joseph, Missouri, at 7:15 p.m. on April 3, 1860, as the first Pony Express rider. He wore flowered leggings and jingling plated spurs.

Frye galloped out of town and took a half-hour ferry ride across the Missouri River to Elmwood, Kansas. It was here, Frye changed out of the fancy clothes his boss made him wear for the opening ceremony and into more suitable riding clothes. He followed the hard-packed Oregon Trail across the prairie.

Did you know Sam Hamilton was the first Pony Express rider to carry the first leg of the eastbound mail from Sacramento to St. Joseph? He began riding from Sacramento to Folsom to Placerville. It was a 20 mile trip in pouring rain, which took 59 minutes. Hamilton then rode to Sportsman's Hall, California. On April 4, Hamilton passed his mailbag onto the next rider, Warren Upson. Hamilton had used eight horses to ride 60 miles with a rise of 4,000 feet in elevation. Upson then climbed the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains facing swift winds, limited visibility, and a blinding snowstorm.

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b. How did writer Mark Twain describe the sight of a Pony Express rider as seen from a stagecoach?
"Here he comes! Away across the endless dead level of the prairie a black speck appears against the sky... In a second it becomes a horse and rider, rising and falling -- sweeping toward us nearer and nearer... still nearer and the flutter of the hoofs come faintly to the ear -- another instant a whoop and a hurrah from our upper deck, a wave of the rider's hand ... [Then] man and horse burst past like a belated fragment of storm."

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c. In March, 1861, the Pony Express carried which President's Inaugural Address to California in seven days and seventeen hours?
President Abraham Lincoln.
In November, 1860, President Lincoln was elected president. On March 4, 1861, he was sworn in and delivered his first Inaugural Address. The Pony Express delivered Lincoln's Inaugural Address from St. Joseph to Sacramento in less than eight days. Read about Abraham Lincoln.

Did you know "Pony Bob" Haslam recorded the fastest time during the Pony Express rides? He once completed a 120-mile ride at an average speed of almost 15 miles per hour.

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d. List the factors leading up to the end of the Pony Express.
The cross-country telegraph, the arrest of promoter William Russell, and the transcontinental railroad.

On October 24, 1861, the cross-country telegraph was completed. Businesses could use the telegraph to send news from east to west. This marked the official end of the Pony Express.

The Pony Express was a very expensive endeavor. At one point William Russell received an illegal government loan and was arrested. Without Russell's support the days of the Pony Express were limited.

Although the transcontinental railroad was not completed until May 10, 1869, the expansion of the railroad decreased the need for the Pony Express. Mail could be delivered by train.

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e. Use five of the words in Section 2 in a sentence.
Answers will vary. Here are sample sentences from our young readers:
Many people invest in companies.

The Pony Express had outposts along the route.

William Russell was a promoter for the Pony Express.

I spur my horse to make it run fast.

Cowboys ride on the stagecoach.

The riders for the Pony Express had a lot of stamina.

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f. Have a parent or friend give you a spelling test with EACH of the words in Section 2.

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More Valuable Information about the Pony Express:
Pony Express National Historic Trail (NPS)
Pony Express Museum (St. Joseph, Missouri)
Pony Express Information (American West)
Pony Express Home Station

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Happy Learning!

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