Journal of William F. Fisher
by Eli Patten

March 23, 1860.

I got! I got the job! I have been accepted to carry mail all the way to St. Joseph, Missouri, from here in Sacramento, CA. At least, I think that's what they hired me – they said I was a rider for the pony express and I get paid about $50 a month and I think I also get free food and lodging too. They hired a bunch of other people too, there was a whole line of them waiting out side the Pony express building, which was located on 2nd and J Street and it also houses the Wells Fargo operations. Some of them were rejected and some were accepted. I was almost worrin' I wouldn't be. The ad in one of the Californian papers here said "Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred." I am 21, which is over 18 but I am sorta skinny, and an orphan, and am also a good rider, at least, I think so. Of course, not all of the people in line were all that young or skinny. And then we had to take an oath, those of us who were accepted, it was something like "I, William F. Fisher, do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God." The people who started this whole pony express thing were here too. They are William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell. Russell is the company front man and he does all the contract. I've heard that he was employed as a clerk and learned a lot about frontier merchandising. Majors looks like dedicated Christian to me. Some say that he's the that made everyone take that oath I've mentioned and he also gave each one of us a bible that was imprinted in gold letters and said "Presented by Russell, Majors & Waddell - 1858". Waddell is the one that handles all the money for the group. He has also worked as a clerk and also as a framer. And that was about it. Can't wait to get started, even though I've heard it's going to be mighty dangerous with all them injuns and bad weather and all. Anyway.

April 6, 1860

I should be one my first ride tomorrow. They should be coming from the west, as Egan's Station (Nevada teritory) is a few Home stations west of the halfway point. They both took off on the 3rd, johnny fry from the east and Billy Hamilton from the west. I hope they hurry up and get here soon. I've been kinda bored. I've just been taking care of the horses and helping the station keeper finish the station. His name is Henry Wilson. He keeps the station I order, there's one for every station. They keep the station together and get the horses ready for the riders and cook the food, which mainly consists of macaroni, dried fruits, flour, salt, pepper, pickles, tripe, syrup, sugar, coffee, tea, hams, bacon, beef, cloves, potatoes, corn meal, raisins, mustard, and so on. There are also several other things here such as brooms, candles, well wheels or pulleys, buckets, rope, window glass, doors, dishes, tinware for cooking, putty, horse brushes, curry combs, wagon grease, nails, screws, stovepipe tin safes, scissors, axes, hammers, stovepipe dampers, etc. I don't think we'll ever use some of that stuff. I've heard it cost the pony express $75,000 to just equipt itself. They also have about 400 horse (mostly thoroughbreds, mustangs, pintos, and Morgans), about the same in station keepers and route superintendents and the like they also have about 60 riders and will likely get about 20 more. Well thats probably enough for one day, I've got to get ready for tomorrow.

April 28, 1860

I have been on 3 rides now so far. The mail goes once a week from both St. Joseph and Sacramento. I'll take over for whom ever comes first, usually the one from the west, then I'll transfer the mochila to a new horse and take off. Then I'll ride along at about 10 miles an hour until I reach the next station about 10-15 miles on down the road and then I'll switch horses. There is always a new horse waiting for me there, I jump off, grab the mochila, put it on the new horse and then take off again. It usually doesn't take more than 2 minutes and sometimes it takes less. The reason it doesn't take long is because of the mochila, which is what we use for carrying the mail. It's sort of like a blanket with four pockets on the edges, which are locked and only the military and the station master in Salt Lake City had keys. Once I've ridden for about 75 - 100 miles, I'll reach the next home station and there I'll be able give the mail to a fresh rider and horse and I'll get a chance to rest and eat. This keeps on going day and night, until it reaches either sacramento or St. joseph. It's actually quite a proficient way to get the mail to California and back again, it only takes about 10 days! I even have an article I ripped out of a newspaper that says how fast they are. It's also quite simple, the riders just follow the trail and switch horses and sometime riders when ever they come across a station. The trail starts going west our of St. Joseph and then it follows the oregon trail through the Kansas territory, nebraska territory and wyoming territory. Then it goes up the little blue river, to fort kearney, up the platte river, past courthouse rock, chimney rock, and scotts bluff to fort laramie. The it continues along the sweetwater river where it passes independence rock, Devils gate, and split rock and then it goes to fort caspar, through south pass, to fort bridger, to salt lake city, and then it crosses the great basin and utah-nevada desert, passes lake tahoe, goes over the sierra nevada mountains and the into sacramento, were it boards "the antelope," the paddle steamer I mentioned before. The whole trails just under 2,000 miles long, and in 10 days! I still can't believe it. Right now I'm at the Willow Creek Station and I have been staying pretty much between south pass and Ruby valley. I am trying to waste some time before supper, well actually, Peter Neece, the station keeper, is calling me right now.

June 2, 1860

In the past 5 weeks I have made several more runs and am now at south pass, the main gateway through the rocky mountains, the biggest mountain in amerca, and therfore the biggest challenge (I think). The pass is really busy (or at least, there are more people than I have been used to seeing in the passed 2 months), there are many people here, even though the main group of trail goers haven't reach here yet. The place is full of Indians, mountain men, miners, early Oregon trailers and several other just drifting though. South pass is bounded by the wind river range on the north and the antelope hills are on the south side. The pass is a fairly level and most of the travelers passing trough here don't even realize they are crossing the continental divide, I sure wasn't. They say an estimated 300,000 people have traveled through here. The people passing by here often tell me some short stories off how their trip has gone so far. They tell me of Slit rock, which I passed once, and how they can see it a whole day before they get there. They also tell me about devils gate, another great landmark which is a 370-foot high, 1500-foot long cleft carved by the Sweetwater River, which follows the pony express trail for a few stations. I almost forgot to mention the Paiute Indian War that happened in May. This big group of Paiute injuns decided they wanted to attack some white folk. On May 7th they raided the williams pony express station, and killed 5 men. Someone said that their leader, some chief named Numaga had fasted and argued for peace for three days, but of course it didn't work. I've heard he was born near Pyramid lake in 1830 and was the son of Chief Winnemucca. I hope they can get these wild animals under control before they kill some more people. I've got to say those injuns are really bizarre and dangerous. You should hear some of the stories they tell. There's this one about a coyote and some butterflies. Coyote is sent out to fetch some salt from the great salt lake by his wife. On the way there he decides to take a nap and then some mischievous butterflies fly him home while he is sleeping. His wife finds him, gets angry and then sends him off again. Coyote takes another nap and the butterflies fly him home again. And then it ends with: To this day, the butterflies remember the trick they played on coyote and "flutter high and low, to and fro, laughing too hard to fly straight." Those injuns have just been steeling to much liquor. And if that story sounds outlandish, listen to this. the plains tribes of do a "religious ceremony" called the sun dance. These barbarians pierce there muscles on their chest with eagle claws, tie the end to a piece of raw hide and then tie this to the top of a tall pole. Then they dance around it faster and faster, until the claws come completely out! And they wonder why we call them savages.

July 6, 1860

things have really started to get a little more busy around here. A few weeks ago, in te middle June, the doubled the schedule. Now we ride twice a week instead of once. So now I have ended up in Salt lake City and I have been here since the 3rd and should be leaving tomorrow. The place was quite a bustle with people and activities on the 4th. I've heard that several people from Salt lake city have become riders. The young Mormon boys are honest, determined and hardy, and they also know both horses and the desert. All the Mormon people are fiercely loyal to their country, and they had a parade and parties and fireworks and no end to excitement.Unfortunately, I didn't partake in all of it, since Major Howard Egan, the station keeper in Salt lake, wanted me to help him prepare supper. It was very good, especially the potatoes. He made what he called potato pie . I think the recipe went something like this. First we peeled and sliced them very thin into a pie dish. Then between each layer of potatoes, we put some chopped onions (three quarters of an ounce of onion for a pound of potatoes). We also sprinkled a little pepper and salt, and put in a little water. Then he cut about two ounces of fresh butter into little bits, and lay it on the top, and then covered it with puff paste. Then he baked it for about an hour and a half and boy was that good. I also got to see the great salt lake itself, which is also visible from the trail, so I've seen it before, but this time I was able to take a dip, and boy were they right when the called it salty. You just bob like a cork in there, and afterwards, you have salt crystals all over you.

Oh yeah, and the matter with the injuns has been mostly cleared up, although I wouldn't doubt it if there were some injuns that would try that again. And another thing, they changed the rate for sending mail pony express. It's now 1 dollar for half an ounce, so of course, there is more mail. So now they've raised our pay, and we get $100 dollars a month!

August 9, 1860

Now I can finally say I've had a real adventure. It all started like this. I was at Ruby Valley sometime in the late middle of july, just starting off toward the east, when this band of raging injuns appear over the horizon. They were a whooping and a hollering and seemed pretty mad. Now of course, these things are predicted to happen every now and then, what with all the injuns and outlaws and such out in the wilderness, and so they provided us with some protection. At first we had a Spencer Carbine strapped to our back, a sheath knife at our side, and two navy colt revolvers in the saddle holsters (really nice guns). But after a month or two, most riders (including me) did without the Spencer Carbine because it added to much extra weight. Now they also tell us that we should first try to ride away if attacked by injuns so I took off down that trail so fast that them injuns couldn't a found me through all the dust if they tried. I galloped all the way to the next station and warned them of what's a coming. I ended up riding up riding all the way back to Salt lake city, 300 miles away. It took me 30 hours and 8 hourses but I did it. Of course at the last stop I fell out of the saddle asleep. But eventhough that may seem amazing, I didn't quite beat William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody. He rode non-stop from Red Buttes Station to Rocky Ridge Station and there he found that his relief rider had been killed, so he rode back again. That part of the trail is some of the most dangerous stuff, and he rode all 322 miles of it in just 21 hour and 40 minutes using 21 horses, and he's only 15! (Of course, that makes him lighter you see, and then he can go faster and longer, which explains why he beat me.)

November 16, 1860

Well, the winter months are starting to approach. And then the snow will come, which will slow down this whole delivery process by about two or three days, if not more. It will also get cold, I sure hope I can keep warm enough. The other riders are also having problem with the cold. And with all this snow that will be sure to come, all the mountains and the passes through them will be much harder to cross. All the pioneers going west should have long since crossed all the mountains by now. Speaking of those pioneers, there sure do seem to be a lot of them. It all seemed to start, well, actually I can't point my finger on when in started. I guess with lewis and clark and then the start of the oregon trail and other trail west and then it really kicked off with the gold rush and all along, manifest destiny was giving it a boast. Now that I think about there isn't really an "oregon trail." it's kinda a term for literary convenience. I mean sure there is "the oregon trail that goes to oregon and stuff, but when someone talks about the oregon trail, they usually are referring to all the trails stating from many jumping off towns on the missouri which lead to just as many, if not more westward. One of these jumping off towns is independence, Missouri. It's the biggest one, and used more often. But there is kinda one place where all the trail connect into one and become "the oregon trail." its right there between Fort kearney on the platte river in nebraska territory, up the north platte and sweetwater rivers to south pass in wyoming territory. Fort kearney was the first military post that was built in the west, built for the protection of the pioneers. Well anyway, to much thinking for one day.

February 1, 1861

I have had another adventure, although I would have rather done the first one five times over before this one, and why you will soon see. I was riding along, it was late afternoon on the 22 of January, and there was this terrible, blinding snow storm and I was lost. It was so cold out there I was exhausted from trying to keep warm, or at least keep from freezing. I finally came upon this spot next to a tree were the wind had blown all the snow away. I tried to lite a fire with the mail, but the pockets were locked, and anyway, I was so numb I don't think I could have even if I'd a had some nice paper. So I sat down and leaned against the tree. I awoke a while later to a rabbit licking my face. when it licked my face third time, I realized I was freezing, so I got up and stomped around and then led the horse to the light of a cabin, which lay across the ravine. I got there, knocked on the door and fainted. The man cared for me till morning and then I set off again with the mail.

November 30, 1861

Well, it's over. I figured it wouldn't last long once they neared completion on those telegraph lines. Of course I was right. They had to shut down business two days after they sent the first message was sent across those wires. That would mean I was only delivering mail for 19 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days. It's a pity though. We were really getting to be part of the spirit of america. I'm back at home in sacramento now. You know, it's really amazing that we can almost talk to the other side of the continent now. They can just send the message (or do what ever they do with it) and then it's there, in just a few minutes. And to think we thought we were breaking the record when we sent Lincoln's inaugural address over there in 7 days and 17 hours. But I bet that pretty soon, they'll be able to send stuff even faster. heck, we might even really talk to each other, without even going to a telegraph station or something like one. (I better hide this good, or else I might be the laughing stock of all sactamento!)

The Daily Appeal
Marysville, California
Letter by the Pony Express ---

Judge Field showed us a letter last evening which he had just received from New York through Pony Express. We suppose of course, that its contents were telegraphed to St. Louis, and thence to the extreme Western station, as its date is New York, April 3rd. That looks like doing a lightening business with the East, don't it?

Friday Morning, April 13, 1860


Bibliography "American West, Pony Express Information." February 10, 2000.

Cadwalader, Sandra L. "Native Americans."Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. ©1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. Crews, Tom. "Pony Experss Home Station." February 10, 2000.

Flagg, Ann. "Legends of Native Americans." Instructor (1999). Nov/Dec 1999, pp 33-36 . [Proquest Direct] "Home of the Pony Express." February 10, 2000.

Moreno, Richard. "Unsung Historical Heroes." February 10, 2000.

"Museum of the City of San Fransico." February 10, 2000.

"Pony Express Stations in White Pine County, Nevada." February 10, 2000.

"Pony Express." World book 98. 1998

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Eli received an A for English and a 100 for History. Congratulations Eli!!

Eli is a junior at Ilwaco High School in SW Washington and provides the following explanation on how this report was written:

In order to understand this report completely, i'll give you some background (on the assignment, not the pony express). first off, i have a american studies class which combine the english and history requirments for my junior year. i have one english class and a history class, but we study the same time period in each class (it's events and literature.) at every major point of history, we'll do a joint project for both classes. they call them "scrapbooks" and i, along with many others, have gone to dislike them with a passion. so far, we've had three; the new world period, the civil war, and westward expansion/trails west. for the last one, we had to pretend to be a family moving west. so we'd pick a trail going west and tell about it using letters or journal entries. it had to enclude a bunch of this, including 10 landmarks/places, 10 things, legends, food, native americans, and the list goes on (and on, and on). we then had to HANDWRITE it and make it look authentic (using old paper and such) which is the worst part. i always type up my report, even though i'll have to handwrite it later, and so this time i didn't bother to use proper capitalazion and grammer and such, and i also changed some stuff as i wrote it and didn't come back and change it, so some of it might not make sense or be incorrect. if you want to you can change some of the capitalazation and such, but please nothing more.

February 13, 2000