Just as this edition of the Folsom Telegraph was headed to on the press and being prepared for delivery to our 24,000 weekly readers Wednesday evening, history was slated to be relived on Sutter Street in Folsom. It as the 2018 re-run of the Pony Express which is celebrating its 158th anniversary.
At 7:29 p.m., horse and rider were due to arrive at the 800 block of Sutter Street in Folsom to relay the mail bags that are packed annually with commemorative letters and personal mail which travels 1,966 miles from its departure in Sacramento on June 20 to its destiny in St. Joseph, Missouri on June 30.
Unfortunately, late notice to the local media about this event prevented this newspaper and others from printing a more extensive preview of the celebratory event for more to know about it in advance. Receiving the announcement by mail just hours before press time and less than 24 hours before the event makes that difficult for our print edition. However, in the best interest to recognize our great heritage as we strive to do, some last minute moving and shaking enabled us to pay homage to this great historical event here on our opinion page as well as on our digital platforms.
After gold was discovered in 1848, thousands of prospectors, investors and businessmen made their way to California. In 1860, the population in California had grown to 380,000.
With the rapid growth in the state, the demand for a faster way to get mail and other communications to and from this westernmost state became even greater as the American Civil War approached.
So just how did the Pony Express come about?
In the late 1850s, William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell founded the Pony Express. Russell, Majors and Waddell organized and put together the Pony Express in two months in the winter of 1860. The undertaking assembled 120 riders, 184 stations, 400 horses and several hundred personnel during January and February of 1861.
In 1860, there were approximately 157 Pony Express stations that were about 10 miles apart along the Pony Express route. At each station stop, the express rider would change to a fresh horse, taking only the mail pouch called a mochila with him. From April 3, 1860, to October of 1861, the Pony Express became the west's most direct means of east – west communication before the telegraph was established.
The route roughly followed the Oregon and California trails to Fort Bridger in Wyoming, and then the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake City, Utah. From there it followed the Central Nevada Route to Carson City, Nevada, before passing over the Sierra into Sacramento.
Approximately 120 historic sites sit along the Pony Express National Historic Trail.
One location sits right on Folsom’s Sutter Street where the Wells Fargo and Co. building which still stands today. Wednesday evening, once again the National Pony Express Association did its reenactment of the relay for Folsom residents of all ages to see. It is events like this that are of great importance to continue to educate our community about the history of the land they are living on.
While text books and websites provide plenty of factual information, volunteers that work to give the public a real visual on these types of events are to be commended.
Thank you to all involved with the National Pony Express Association for your hard work, passion and your love of history that continues this great tradition that is loved by many. Learn more about the Pony Express at nationalponyexpress.org or go to the Folsom History Museum.
- The Folsom Telegraph