Q&A Tuesday: Keeping the Pony Express tradition alive
December 30, 2005
Stagecoach resident Larry McPherson is president of the Pony Express Association, a group of volunteers who re-enact the Pony Express ride each year and educate the public on the historic trail. Association members recently completed a fundraising ride and plan more events, including participating in the Highway 50 Giant Yard Sale in May.
How long have you been with the Pony Express Association? How long have you been president?
I’ve been a member for almost eight years and president for two years, two months, and 15 days.
What is the purpose of the association?
The National Pony Express Association was formed to reestablish and mark the trail of the original Pony Express route. Today, it works to keep that portion of history alive through the re-enactment of the ride, by being part of and visible in community events, and through educational activities. We do whatever we can to keep the spirit and story of the Pony Express alive.
An example of one way the Nevada division is dedicated to this purpose is our current project to produce and place a larger-than-life silhouette depicting a Pony Express rider that will be visible from Highway 50 in the Mound House area. This visible symbol is meant to pique the interest of travelers and be a reminder of this important part of the building of the West.
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What is the history of the Pony Express?
(The) original Pony Express of the 1860s began after the discovery of gold in the western foothills of the Sierra in 1848. It was the spark that led to the rapid growth of the westernmost part of the country and resulted in the admission of California as a state of the Union in 1850. With the United States on the brink of the Civil War, holding California for the Union was crucial and the need for faster and more dependable communication between the northern states and the West Coast became imperative. William H. Russell, Alexander Majors and William B. Waddell created a mail route to deliver news and letters in about half the time of the fastest delivery of those days, so their company set up a chain of more than 150 relay stations covering the distance between St. Joseph, Mo., and Sacramento. The stations were outfitted with supplies and 500 of the hardiest horses to be found, and employed route superintendents, station masters and some 80 young riders to form what was named the Pony Express. It was in operation from April 1860 until the completion of the transcontinental telegraph line in October 1861.
The National Pony Express Association was formed In 1935, on the 75th anniversary of the inaugural ride. In the centennial year of 1960, re-enactments of the ride following the original 1,966-mile route were conducted through the eight states the Pony Express served in 1860 and 1861.
What does being an Pony Express re-enactor mean to you?
I love horses, and I am proud of the history of our country, so being a rider and a member of the Pony Express Association gives me personal joy and the satisfaction of knowing that I am helping to keep the legend and spirit of the Pony Express alive for future generations.
How much does it cost to join the group?
Full membership is $30 per year dues; associate membership is $25.
How much does the re-enactment of the ride each year cost?
An individual may spend from $50 to $500 depending on the distance the rider needs to transport his or her horse to be in place for the assigned portion of the route. We have three riders who come from Germany to participate so the cost would be significantly more for them.
Do you have to have a horse?
Not to join the organization, but someone who wants to be part of the ride needs to have a horse. We have a number of members who just want to help any way they can.
How many members do you have in your group? Nationwide?
The Nevada Division has approximately 160 members; nationwide the number is around 550.
Do you see interest in the Pony Express growing?
Yes. Our participation in community events and educational programs brings questions from many people about who we are and what we do. This, in turn, leads to a deeper understanding of the role of the original Pony Express. We are always interested in attracting new members to be part of this endeavor to perpetuate the history and courageous spirit of the Pony Express.