Dry Creek

Dry Creek Simpson Park Grubb's Well

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Captain J.H. Simpson camped in the vicinity of this Station on May 26, 1859. He commented primarily on the "Digger" Indians he found at the site.

Dry Creek Station, being the last of the original Pony Express stations on Bolivar Roberts division, was most likely built by his crew in the spring of 1860. Problems with Indians occurred early here also.

Dry Creek was the sight of quite a run-in with the Indians during May of 1860. William H. Streeper, carrier of the "heavy mail" or "mule mail," was in this part of the country when it happened.

"One day in May 1860 Streeper saddled his riding mule 'Muggins', loaded his pack mules as usual and set out westward from Diamond Springs. He knew about the trouble with Indians but believed he could make it safely to Smith's Creek. Moreover, a westward bound wagon train of emigrants had passed Diamond Springs the day before. If they could get through, he could. Besides, if it got dangerous he could travel with them. Some distance east of Dry Creek he passed them and pushed on ahead. Upon reaching the station Si McCandless, a 'squaw-man' with a Pah Ute wife, who ran a small trading post across the road, warned him that he had better keep his eyes open. He suspected that some of his wife's relatives and friends who had been hanging about the place for some time were hatching trouble.

"When Streeper reached Simpson Park he found the station burned, the stock gone, and the keeper, James Alcott dead. Hurrying on he met the east bound mule mail carrier who upon learning what had happened at Simpson Park, refused to go any further. Instead, he turned back with Streeper to Smith's Creek.

"The following morning, when Streeper was ready to return two prospectors traveling towards Salt Lake City, asked him if they could accompany him, to which he replied that they could if they were not afraid of Indians. They fared forth and saw no Indians or anything else out of the ordinary until they neared Dry Creek Station. They saw no signs of anyone about and a herd of cattle was moving away from it.

"Riding on in Streeper dismounted, walked to the door of the station and looked inside. Years later he said that what he saw caused his hair to stand on end. Before him lay the scalped mutilated body of Ralph Rosier, the station keeper. John Applegate, Lafayette (Bolly) Bolwinkle or Si McCandless were not there." (Settle and Settle, Saddles and Spurs, 1955)

The emigrants Streeper spoke of earlier must have come on the scene just after it happened. Thomas Flynn, the rider from Genoa to the Sink of the Carson, not being met by the mail from the east went on to Dry Creek. He found six terrified emigrants who had entered the station and found the keeper dead and scalped. The rider from the east had turned back in time to avoid an ambuscade near this point.

"Later, Streeper learned what had happened at the station. On May 21, 1860, a day or two after he had passed on his westward way, Rosier and Applegate rose early as usual to begin the day's work. Bolly was enjoying an extra forty winks before joining them. Applegate started to make a fire to get breakfast while Rosier went to the spring for a bucket of water. Suddenly a rifle shot rang out and Rosier screamed. Applegate leaped to the door, looked out, saw his friend upon the ground dying and turned back. Another shot, and Applegate fell to the floor, a horrible wound in his hip and groin. A moment later McCandless who was alone in his trading post, dashed across the road and took refuge in the station.

"Bolly leaped from his bed in his stocking feet, and seized his gun. For some minutes he and McCandless worked like beavers piling grain bags in the doorway and making other preparations to defend the place to the last ditch. Applegate, who was suffering intensely, urged them to abandon him to his fate and attempt to reach the next station. When they refused he asked for a revolver. They gave him one thinking he wished to take a shot at an Indian. Instead he shot himself through the head.

"After the first two shots the attackers seem to have remained quiet, for nothing is said about Bolly and McCandless having fought them. At length the trader declared they had to make a run of it to the next station. When Bolly objected on the grounds that the Indians would certainly cut them down in the open, McCandless assured him such was not the case. They were not after him, he said, and since he had always treated them well they had a friendly feeling for him. If Bolly would stay close to him they would not dare shoot for fear of hitting him.

"Bolly at length agreed to make the attempt. When everything was ready, the grain bags were removed from the door and they leaped outside. As they dashed down the road McCandless kept between Bolly and the Indians. A few gave chase on foot but the fugitives outdistanced them. Being satisfied with the blood they had already shot, they turned back to loot the station.

"Bolly and McCandless reached the next station safely where they found three or four men ready to defend it. Having covered the ten or twelve miles without boots Bolly's feet were so cut by stones and filled with cactus thorns that he was laid up for some time. (Settle and Settle, Saddles and Spurs, 1955)

The next station keeper at Dry Creek had the last name of Totten. There are tales of a Mexican rider who rode into Dry Creek Station with bullets and arrows in his body and in the hide of his mustang. He died after delivering the mochila. It is thought that his name may have been Jose Zowgaltz (Zowgalt, or Zoawalt).

In some cases Indian troubles were provoked as documented by a letter written to the captain stationed at Ruby Valley from a soldier who had traveled the Pony Express route in the summer of 1860 to protect it. He said:

"We have made frequent and arduous scouts all along our route where the Indians were hostile, but have seen nothing of them. The Pony Express & Mail Route is well stocked with Brigham's Boys who themselves have excited the Indian troubles. At Dry Creek one of them shot down an Indian ruthlessly and in cold blood saying that he would rather shoot a man than a dog. Brigham Young was anxious to excite troubles on the road in order to prevent an Exodus of his people."

On October 11, 1860, Sir Richard Burton visited this station and trade these remarks:

"Twenty miles further led to the west end of the Sheawit Valley, where we found the station on a grassy bend at the foot of low rolling hills. It was a mere shell, with a substantial stone corral behind, and the inmates were speculating upon the possibility of roofing themselves in before winter. Water is found in tolerable quantities below the station, but the place deserved its name, Dry Creek.

"A fraternal recognition took place between Long Jim and his brother, who discovered each other by the merest accident. Gilston the employee, was an intelligent man; at San Francisco he had learned a little Chinese, and at Deep Creek he was studying the Indian dialects. He had missed making a fortune at Carson Valley, where in June or July 1859 the rich and now celebrated silver mines were discovered; and he warned us against the danger of tarrying in Carson City, where revolvers are fired even into houses known to contain `ladies.' Col. Totten, the stationmaster, explained the formation of the gold diggings as beds of gravel, from one to 120 feet, overlying slate rock.

"Dry Creek Station is on the eastern frontier of the western agency; as at Robert's Creek, supplies and literature from great Salt Lake City east and Carson City west are usually exhausted before they reach these final points. After a frugal feed, we inspected a grave for two, which bore the names of Loscier and Applegate, and the date 21st May. These men, employees of the station were attacked by Indians - Panaks or Shoshones, or possibly both: the former was killed by the first fire; the latter, when shot in the groin, and unable to proceed, borrowed under pretext of defense a revolver, bade good-bye to his companions, and put a bullet through his own head; the remainder then escaped. Both of these poor fellows remain unavenged. The Anglo-American who is admirably protected by the officials of his government in Europe, Asia, and Africa, is systematically neglected - teste Mexico - in America. The double grave, piled up with stones, showed gaps where the wolves had attempted to tunnel, and blue bottle flies were buzzing over it in expectation. Col. Totten, at our insistence, promised that it should be looked to.

"The night was comfortably passed at Dry Creek, under the leeward side of a large haystack. The weather was cold, but clear and bright. We slept the sleep of the just."

The Transcontinental Telegraph was rapidly being constructed in 1861. As fast as outer stations were established, the important news of the day was sent to them by wire and transferred to the Pony Express. This meant that, so far as telegraphic communications were concerned, the Pony Express was playing a constantly lessening role. The newspapers, in introductory lines which were significantly descriptive, told of the progress of the telegraph across the country. Thus the San Francisco Bulletin of August 13, 1861 said the Pony Express rider was leaving his dispatches for the Bulletin and other Pacific Coast newspapers at Dry Creek station.

Dry Creek was used by the Overland Stage & Mail Company as a way stop from 1861 to 1869. It was from Dry Creek west that the stage route and Pony Express route differed slightly. The Pony traveled almost directly westward from here to the north of Eagle butte and on to Simpson Park. The stage went south around Cape Horn and then west. An additional station on the Overland, Cape Horn Station, was built on this longer route, that was not needed by the Pony.

Dry Creek Remains of the Dry Creek Pony Express station are on the Dry Creek Ranch located four miles north of Highway 50. The ranch is owned by Peter Damele who has been in the area since 1898. Peter and his son Bennie are both excellent authorities on the history of the surrounding ranches as well as their own. A few rock foundations, overgrown with sagebrush, mark the mound above the creek where the station was situated. A rock monument built by the Damele's in 1960 bearing a brass commemorative plate, distributed as part of the Pony Express Centennial in 1960, sits near the station site. Remnants of the old trail leading over to Eagle Butte along the shortcut are barely visible to the west of the station. Bennie Damele says it's called Streep's Cutoff. (It's also called Streeper's Cutoff after William Streeper.) Remains of the Overland Stage Station, a stone structure, sit just off the main gravel road before it turns to go up to the ranch.

Source: Mason, The Pony Express in Nevada, 1976.

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