Other Routes

Northern Overland Pony Express
(January 1867 - March 1868)

Northern Overland Pony Express The unreliability of steamboat traffic on the Upper Missouri River in the late 1860's (there was none in winter and little in late summer) made essential a more dependable means of communication. In 1867 the postmaster general awarded a contract for a northern pony express route from Fort Abercrombie (near present-day Fargo, North Dakota) to the mining fields of Helena, Montana.

The contract called for triweekly mail service across 450 miles of a North Dakota prairie devoid of a single settlement and 500 miles of Montana that was even more desolate and dangerous. The contractors tried to fulfill their obligation to begin mail service on July 1, 1867, and made delivery in fourteen days. During the summer Indian raids delayed the riders, although service never totally stopped.

Promised military escort was usually inadequate or even unavailable. One report was that "the Indians have been raising hell and frightening all the mail riders here so they dare not go out the door." The ferocity of winter storms intimidated riders to a point that the infrequent mail service came to a halt and was discontinued on March 12, 1868, when the contractors went bankrupt.

Source: Beck, Warren A. and Ynez D. Haase, Historical Atlas of the American West. University of Oklahoma Press.