M. Jeff Thomspon

M. Jeff Thompson M. Jeff Thompson was mayor of St. Joseph, Missouri, when the Pony Express was inaugurated on April 3, 1860. Thompson was a colonel in the Missouri state guard. He was a candidate to succeed himself as major but a day or so later he was defeated for the office by Armstrong Beattie, the town's first banker.

Thompson is shown wearing the uniform of a brigadier general in the Missouri state guard which he became when he cast his lot with the South in 1861.

The ceremony for the send-off of the Pony Express took place at the Pony Express stables where Thompson gave the following speech:

My Fellow Citizens:

This is a great day in the history of Saint Joseph. For more than a decade she has been the portal through which passed the trains for the great west; the source from which those hardy spirits who are braving the desert's hardships have drawn their material and spiritual supplies. Now she is to become the connecting link between the extremes of the continents; to take up the thread of telegraphic communication where it was dropped and send it on to those isolated districts which so eagerly and wistfully await communications with the great world.

From the first time in the history of America, mail will go by an overland route from the east to the west; in a few hours the first rider in this epoch-making journey will set forth. With him will go not only the telegraphic dispatches which have come over the winged fire from the effete east, but the hopes of this community that this enterprise is but the forerunner of a day which will see not only extension of the telegraph clear to California, but also the time when steam will drive a railroad train through those vastnesses and bear passengers from Saint Joseph to California in less than a week!

I see you smile, my fellow citizens, and nudge each other at the idea I am harboring. Some of you are saying, "Jeff is dreaming as usual of the impossible and unknown." But I tell you all that as sure as I stand here the day will come when at this very town you may board a train which will take you through to the gold fields, and that within a very few years!

More than that, I say that the wilderness which lies between us and that E1 Dorado will soon blossom as the rose. Cities will spring into existence where the Indians and buffalo now hold possession. The dry and useless desert will be made to yield abundant crops. Mountains will be tunneled, streams bridged, and the iron monster which has become mankind's slave will ply between our confines and those far distant shores. As the Indian vanishes, the white man takes his place. Commercial activities will replace the teepee and the camp fire. Schools and colleges will span the continent. Of all these things California Overland Express is the forerunner. Hardly will the cloud of dust which envelopes the galloping pony subside before the puff of steam will be seen upon the horizon.

Citizens of Saint Joseph, I bid you give three cheers for the Pony Express--three cheers for the first overland passage of the United States mail.

Return To List