THE RIDE OF THOMAS BEDFORD
by Tom Crews

Thomas Bedford waited quietly by the ferry berth at the foot of First Street in Benicia. It was just before 7:00 o'clock on the morning of April 23, 1860. The ferryboat "Carquinez" had been fired up and readied for service. This would be a day that Thomas would not soon forget.

He was thinking of the talk he had heard the week before about the new Pony Express bringing the news all the way from St. Joseph, Missouri in just ten days. Could you believe it? Now the Pony was actually coming through Benicia. The Pony Express Office in Sacramento had telegraphed last night. They urgently needed a relay rider to take the mail to Oakland. Indians had delayed the Express at Roberts Creek, causing the Pony to miss the San Francisco steamer.

"Pony rider coming!"

Rider Sam Hamilton had just turned down First Street. He had left Sacramento six hours before. It had been a moonless night, and although his horse could see, it was still a little unnerving to travel an unfamiliar road in the dead of night when he could not even see his hand in front of his face.

Now it was Thomas Bedford's turn, for he was the one selected to carry the mail onto Oakland. Taking the mochila from Sam, Thomas boarded the ferry "Carquinez". The ferry had just left its berth when Thomas discovered to his dismay that his horse had lost one of his shoes. What was he to do? He would be unable to continue unless he could fix that shoe. As fate would have it Casemoro Briones, who had a blacksmith shop in Martinez, was also onboard. He agreed to loan Thomas a horse so that the trip could be continued.

The ferry arrived at Martinez. Horse and rider sprang from the deck, dashed up the wharf and were soon lost to sight. They headed out the road to Pacheco, onto The Corners, through Lafayette, over the Oakland Hills, down Claremont Canyon, and into Oakland.

Now after all his efforts, it looked as if he might still miss the San Francisco ferry. The ride over the Oakland hills had been slower than expected A few minutes ago he had heard the departure whistle from the ferryboat "Oakland". The ferry slip finally came into view. He saw the Captain on the bridge of the "Oakland" urging him on.

He reached the ferryboat just in time, completing the 24-mile trip from Martinez to Oakland in one hour and forty minutes. A local newspaper of the time reported that "...the Pony did not shed his shoes, his rider did not break his neck, nor was there any appreciable smell of fire upon his cloths when he came in".

The mochila with its precious packages of mail and news was placed aboard the ferry and left for San Francisco where it arrived at 10:30 in the morning; total time from Sacramento - nine hours and fifteen minutes.

There were a number of other times that the Pony Express was routed overland between Sacramento and San Francisco. However, this first ride by Sam Hamilton and Thomas Bedford came at a critical time when the Express had to prove that a scheduled delivery of news and mail could be maintained. Together, these two young men played a most important role on the trail of the Pony Express.