St. Joseph Offers Historic Ride
St. Joseph was the starting point for people making the trek across the mostly unexplored and unsettled western territory. In 1860, three local businessmen, Russell, Majors and Waddell, had a grand idea that would spur growth in the city and put it on the map: the Pony Express.
"St. Joe had the river, had the train. It also had part of the telegraph," noted Director of Development Cindy Hutchcraft. "So, that was the reason it was chosen."
Thanks to completion of the nation's first transcontinental railroad, the expensive Pony Express mail service lasted only 19 months. But, the original stables remain, providing a clear picture of the 1860s.
Riders on the 2,000-mile trips between St. Joseph and Sacramento, Calif., carried a total of 35,000 pieces of mail. Hutchraft said the stables were the best bunks available for riders, who gobbled down a quick bite by the campfire, then grabbed some shuteye in rough beds made of tree branches.
The renovated stable is now a museum, surrounding an archeological dig that reveals a piece of history.
"We did 17 of these dig sites," Hutchraft explained. "The St. Joseph Archeaological Society did them, and they left one open, so that we can actually see the foundation and the outer wall that was built up."
Displays include hands-on exhibits, photographs, replicas and videotapes which capture the atmosphere of American frontier life 140 years ago.