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Utah Centennial Studies

 


Ghost Riders and Rest Stops Packet A

 

May 5, 1861

Dear Pupils,

I'm Hank Peterson and I ain't much older than you. I left school at 15 to help my family earn money for the farm we been savin for. I got hired by the Pony Express to carry the mail. When I was hired on the line went 1,966 miles from Independence Missouri to Sacramento California! Relays are used to get the mail from Missouri to California in ten days. My stretch is through your state of Utah.

All us riders are young. Being skinny was real helpful since riders need to be weigh between 125 to 135 pounds. Would you fit this qualification? We all got a revolver and a bowie knife in case of trouble on the trail. Our saddles and gear are kept at about 14 pounds and the mail pouch cannot weigh more than 20 pounds. We carry the mail between stations. 196 stations were set up along the way. We get two minutes at each stop to grab a bite of grub and a fresh horse. Each rider is expected to ride between 75 to 100 miles a day. The most dangerous part of the ride is through Nevada and your state of Utah. Robbers and Indians sometimes attack and burn the stations. The work can be dangerous but the pay is good at $50.00 a month!

In 1856 a mail service was started by the Mormon church so the settlers could get letters from friends and relatives back east. This service called the 'Y-X Company' for the "Brigham Young Express and Carrying Company" and was planned as "a swift pony express to carry the mail and a coach line for passengers." Settlements were established along the way from Salt Lake to Independence Missouri to act as way stations. When the Utah war broke out in 1858 the project was abandoned. All that work was not wasted though. Later in 1858 a new contract was given to some fellers called Hockaday & Legget. They fixed-up the stations and outfitted them with supplies, livestock and riders but went bankrupt before they could begin service. Several owners have tried to make the Pony Express and stage lines work. Major George Chorpenning pioneered the Chorpenning Trail used by the Overland Stage and the Pony Express. His partner was kilt by Indians a few months after they started and his express wasn't real regular. His company continued to carry the mail under great hardship until May of 1860 when it was taken over by Russell, Majors, and Waddell. The express stations are used by mail carriers like me and by the Overland Stage Company.

I'm afeard that the company won't be around much longer. When it first started the postage cost the user $5 an ounce. The company lost $60,000 each month at that price and so they dropped the cost to $2.50 an ounce in hopes that more people would use the service. In March 1862 they went bankrupt owing more than a million dollars! The firm was taken over by Ben Holloday, called the "Stagecoach King." He changed the company name to the Overland Stage which became the west's largest transportation company. In 1966 it was purchased by Wells Fargo. Salt Lake City is the central point along the route but each way station has its own story to tell.

I will leave you letters telling about the rest stops. Some of them also tell about lost treasure!

Till tomorrow, Your friend,

Hank Peterson

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