Hagley Rotary Club


The Pony Express and why Cowboys came to the Black Country

You may not be aware, but at Hagley Rotary Club we have guest speakers who visit our meetings to talk to us about subjects that are very close to their heart. This could be a charity they support or represent or in this case, a personal interest. In June, our guest speaker was fellow Rotarian from the Kinver Club and Stourbridge Travel owner Neil Brazier, who gave a very interesting talk on the Pony Express.

The Pony Express, which in 1860 began using horse and rider relay teams to shuttle mail along a 2,000-mile route between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. We learned that although the company only operated for 19 months, it set a new standard for high-speed mail delivery which later became a recurring motif in comics,

Western films and frontier lore. The cost to send post this way was determined by its weight and for everyday folk could be expensive , so items sent were usually Newspaper reports, government dispatches and business documents, most of which were printed on tissue-thin paper to keep costs down.

Back then, mail sent to California could take 25 days by stage coach or months if sent by sea. So the Pony Express average delivery time of just 10 days was very attractive.  Made possible by the setting up of a string of nearly 200 relief stations across what is now Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California; lone horsemen would ride between stations at a breakneck pace, switching horses every 10-15 miles, then handing their cargo to a new courier after 75-100 miles.

Speed was the priority; the Pony Express went to great lengths to keep its horses’ loads as light as possible. Specially designed saddles were used and most of the riders were small, wiry men who weighed between 100 and 125 pounds. Their average age was around 20, but it wasn’t unusual for teenagers as young as 14 to be hired. Riders were well paid and received between $100-$150 monthly salaries. They also swore a company loyalty oath before they were employed.

Neil went on to tell us about William “Buffalo Bill” Cody who claimed that he served as a Pony Express rider at the age of 14. Cody kept the Pony Express’ memory alive with his famous “Wild West” vaudeville shows whose performers included sharpshooters Annie Oakley and her husband, Frank Butler. Performers re-enacted the riding of the Pony Express, Indian attacks on wagon trains, Custer’s Last Stand and stagecoach robberies In fact on 28 April 1904, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World staged a spectacular show at Eggington Farm Wollaston, situated between where Meriden Avenue and Bridle Road now stand. It must have been some sight to see real Cowboys and Indians riding down the High Street!

If you are interested in becoming a Rotarian or wish to help out at one of our fund raising activities, please contact juliebanks93@gmail.com for further information.

Julie Stepney
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Last update: Friday 28 July 2017

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