'Pony Bob' Haslam and his Famous Pony Express Rides


A Love Your Parks Tour “Pony Express” story by Nancy J. Reid & Lisa D. Smith, as assigned by Melinda Taylor and Greg Ward of Yerington Inn, and Coffee Slingers

Robert H. ‘Pony Bob’ Haslam, was a young British man who helped build the stations and rode from Friday’s Station to Buckland Station near Fort Churchill, just outside Yerington, Nevada. Probably the most well-known and respected Pony Express rider, he made the longest uninterrupted ride during the lifetime of the Pony Express, as well as the fastest ride. The Pony Express operated from April 3, 1860 to October 24, 1861.

The Longest Ride…May 9, 1860
Paiute War party signal fires blazed on the tops of hills for a hundred miles surrounding Virginia City in the Nevada Territory. After hearing that some miners from Williams Station on the Carson River had kidnapped two Paiute women, a Bannock warrior led a raiding party, rescued the women and killed the men at the station. The Paiute, Bannock, and Shoshone knew soldiers would be coming and both sides were preparing for war.

Twenty-year-old Robert Haslam was assigned to make the 75-mile ride from Friday’s Station on the state line, to Buckland Station for the Pony Express. As he arrived at the Carson River station, 60 miles from his destination, he found all the station horses had been confiscated by the local settlers in readiness for an imminent Indian attack.

Without an opportunity to get a fresh horse, he rode on to Buckland Station, finishing his 75-mile ride, and looking forward to handing over the mail to his relief rider who would take the mail on to Smith’s Creek.

Johnson William “Billy” Richardson, a native Virginian who had, as a youngster, been shanghaied onto a seagoing freighter that sailed the icy seas of the North Atlantic for several years before his escape, and was known to be tough and able, was Haslam’s relief rider.

To Haslam’s surprise, Richardson refused to make the ride because of the Indian threat. Given a fifty dollar bonus by Division Superintendent, W. C. Marley, Haslam saddled up and set out for Carson Sink, Sand Springs, and Cold Springs, and finally, after 190 miles in the saddle, he handed over the mail at Smith’s Creek. After just a nine-hour rest, with the westbound mail in hand, he retraced his route.

Arriving at Cold Springs he found the Indians had indeed attacked, the station keeper was dead, and all the horses were gone. He pressed on.

As night fell and the occasional howl of a wolf pierced the quiet, Haslam rode through sagebrush tall enough to hide an ambush, watching his horse’s ears for any sign of danger. He made it to Sand Springs, where he got a fresh mount and headed off for Carson River and Buckland Station. Later he found that he had actually ridden straight through a band of Indians headed in the same direction.

His 380-mile round trip is regarded as the longest of record for the Pony Express. He again met Superintendent Marley at Buckland Station, and when Bob told him the news of the Cold Springs massacre, Marley raised the bonus for “Pony” Bob’s daring ride to one hundred dollars.

The Fastest Ride…Monday, March 4, 1861
The war between the North and South was imminent and whether California remained loyal to the Union or joined the Confederacy seemed to depend on the new president, Abraham Lincoln, and his policies.

By this time Fort Churchill was built near Buckland Station and the Pacific Telegraph had established service from St. Joseph, Missouri west to Fort Kearney in the Nebraska Territory, but the Pony Express was still in service across western Nebraska Territory, Wyoming, and Utah to Fort Churchill. From there, an independent telegraph line known as the “Grapevine,” ran over the Sierra Nevada peaks and connected with the west coast.

Haslam carried the Inaugural Address on his run and even though attacked and wounded by Indians, he completed the 120-mile run in a record 8 hours and 20 minutes.

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