Unusual Tourist Sites: Pony Express Stables in St. Joseph, Missouri Part 2

About the unusual tourist site the Pony Express Stables in St. Joseph, Missouri, history and information.

St. Joseph, Missouri

Each pony express rider received a small Bible with the firm's name on it, upon which he took an oath promising good behavior, loyalty to the company, and allegiance to the U.S. and the Union.

The original stables were built in 1858 by a freighting and stagecoach entrepreneur, Ben Holladay, who became Missouri's 1st multimillionaire (though his fortune eventually crumbled). Holladay's outfit was known as Pike's Peak Stables--since much of its business was to the Colorado territory--until the company was employed by the Central Overland. With Holladay getting a piece of the action, Central Overland was begun by the firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell, with William H. Russell the guiding spirit behind the pony express concept. In the 1850s, St. Joseph was an increasingly prosperous city. Many fortunes had been made by outfitting the emigrants who used the city as a gateway to the California gold mines. With the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad finally reaching the growing city from the east, the city fathers fully expected St. Joseph to outstrip other Midwestern communities such as Chicago.

When the mail reached the city by train, it was transferred to the mochilas (the large flaps of leather with lockable pockets covering the riders' saddles). The riders began by galloping up to the ferry landing at the foot of either Jules or Francis streets, to cross over the Missouri and begin their odyssey over the plains and mountains.

The actual stables were some 125' long with a 60' frontage, covered by a shingle roof supported by heavy timbers, and with pine board walls. There were stalls for 200 horses. The stables were rebuilt in 1888 by new owners, the St. Joseph Transfer Company. The exterior, except the roof, was rebuilt with brick but the timbers and much of the other material was left intact.

The Chamber of Commerce purchased the stables in 1946 to ensure their preservation as a historic site, with a foundation created in 1950 by the M. K. Goetz Brewing Company to further this goal. Subsequently, the stables were opened to the public as a museum in 1959 and deeded the following year to the St. Joseph Museum. Exhibits tell the early history of St. Joseph, with emphasis on pony express days, and such vintage items as mail-sorting desks, advertisements for riders, saddles and mochilas, photographs of riders and relay stations, and other memorabilia.

Location: 914 Penn Street, St. Joseph, Mo. Admission: Free. Hours: May to mid-September, 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Sundays and holidays, 2 P.M. to 5 P.M. Winter months: Open only for school classes or special-interest organizations by advance request.

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