Pony Express station continues to draw visitors

Pure Nebraska
Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 10:30 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Many people still visit the original Pony Express station in Gothenburg to learn about the colorful history surrounding the effort to get mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to California.

We talked with Sylvia Musil about the attraction. “This is an actual Pony Express station,” Musil said. “It was built in 1854. It was built down along the river about 20 miles southwest of here. It was moved here in 1931. The American Legion went out, tagged every single log, and brought it here. This is the top half of a two-story cabin, so it’s really interesting and it’s a beautiful cabin. I think of it as a deluxe cabin because it’s big, compared to a lot of other stations.”

The Pony Express only lasted a year and a half. “April 3, 1860 is when the first rider went out of St. Joseph, Missouri, and it ended October 24, 1861 when the telegraph got hooked up in Utah,” Musil said. “That was basically the end of the Pony Express. There were three men out of St. Jo who started the Pony Express. It was self-funded. They had hoped to get the contract away from the stagecoach, but they never did. And, at the end, they were $200,000 in debt. It was a costly operation and enterprise. I always think of setting up 190 houses, with two men, two horses, all the equipment, all the food, and it was costly. The other problem was the Civil War started on April 12, 1861. That slowed the freight business down tremendously.”

The reason for the Pony Express was to get mail across the country from St. Joseph, Missouri to California. California became a state in 1850. There were 10 years of struggle to get mail to California from the east. Interestingly enough, orphans were preferred as riders. “We had a young rider who was 11 years old,” Musil said. “At this station, we on average get about 20 to 25,000 people visiting from April to October. Come and see us, we have beautiful memorabilia inside, and we have a good gift shop, too.”

And, here’s a programming note. Be sure to tune in to 10/11 the week of August 14 as we feature stories on Pure Nebraska and 10/11 News about Our Town Gothenburg. We will present an Our Town Gothenburg half-hour special on Saturday, August 19 at 6:30 p.m.