The Pony Express & Religion
William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell founded the Pony Express in an attempt to provide faster communication between the more populated portions of America and the far West, especially California. The Pony Express was a group of young riders on horseback covering about 2,000 miles over the course of ten days, transporting mail from the East to the West, and then back.
On April 3, 1860 the first Pony Express riders departed from St. Joseph, Missouri, headed toward Sacramento, California. Along the arduous journey, each rider covered around 100 miles before handing off the route to another rider, usually covering a combined 250 miles each day.
The recruitment poster pictured on the left described the qualifications for employment: “Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 per week.” These young riders faced all sorts of difficulties on their journey, including attacks by Indians, dangerous weather, and the general rigors of riding cross-country on horse back at a full gallop. (Find out more about the young riders for the Pony Express in the article for 1 Samuel 3:4 in The Founders’ Bible.)
Alexander Majors wanted these young men to have spiritual support along with the physical support the company provided them (i.e., horses, gear, relay stations, etc.). A Bible was therefore given to every rider and also left at each of the more than 150 stations along the trail.
Among the many items WallBuilders owns is one of these very rare Pony Express Bibles (title page pictured on the right). This particular Bible was presented to Robert James Halligan (1833-1908) who worked for Alexander Majors during the time of the Pony Express and after it was disbanded.
The Pony Express was only in existence for nineteen months and ended when the transcontinental telegraph reached California in October 1861. During the short time of its operation, some 200 riders covered 650,000 miles.
The Pony Express is another of the many famous aspects of American history with a tie to America’s Christian heritage.