Pony Express History at Fort Churchill and Buckland Station in Northwest Nevada

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PONY EXPRESS HISTORY AT FORT CHURCHILL & BUCKLAND STATION IN NORTHWEST NEVADA
A Love Your Parks Tour “Pony Express Trail story as assigned by Melinda Taylor, Steven & Greg Ward, of Yerington Inn

BIG BLEND RADIO INTERVIEW: Park ranger Kristin Sanderson shares some of the Pony Express history that occurred at Fort Churchill and Buckland Station. Listen here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on Podbean or SoundCloud.


From April in 1860, young men once rode horses to carry mail from Missouri to California in the unprecedented time of only 10 days. This relay system was the most direct and practical means of east-west communications before the telegraph just 19 months after the Pony Express Service began. The Pony Express National Historic Trail covers the Pony Express route in eight states, (California, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming), and includes auto-touring, interpretive sites, hiking, biking or horseback riding trail segments, visiting museums and historic sites, and much more. 

In Northwest Nevada, you can visit Fort Churchill and Buckland Station, just about half an hour North of Yerington on US Route 95 ALT. Both the fort and the station are stops on the Pony Express National Historic Trail and the California National Historic Trail. Fort Churchill is now a Nevada State Park, which includes Buckland Station. Buckland Station was a way station for the Overland Stage Company on the Overland Route.

Samuel S. Buckland settled at what is now known as Buckland Station in 1859. He started a ranch, but his main objective was to establish a station for the Overland Stage Company. He operated a tent hotel and built the first bridge across the Carson River downstream from Genoa, which he operated as a toll bridge. A wagon train came through Buckland Station with two sisters, part of a weary group. Eliza and Margaret Prentice had walked all the way from the east, doing the camp work, cooking, and washing to pay their way. In 1860 Samuel Buckland built a large log cabin and married Miss Eliza Prentice.

Buckland Station became a remount station on the Pony Express Route. Eventually, Buckland Station opened a store to supply travelers, settlers, and the soldiers serving at Fort Churchill.

As you visit Buckland Station and Fort Churchill, you can get a feel for the lifestyle of the settlers and soldiers as they worked to bring civility and normalcy to an unsettled territory. Even though Fort Churchill was built mainly as a show of force, and there were never any battles fought there, it was built as a permanent installation. It was an important supply depot for the Nevada Military District (especially during the Civil War), a Pony Express stop, and a base for troops tasked with patrolling the overland routes.

As the railroad and telegraph came in, the need for the Fort and the Pony Express declined. The Fort was dismantled and Samuel Buckland salvaged materials from the buildings to build the two-story house you can visit today.

One of the biggest problems for the pioneer families was the lack of timely letters and news from their families back east. The Pony Express, though short-lived, met that need for 19 months (from April 3, 1860, to November 20, 1861). Riders started out from San Francisco, riding east to St. Joseph, Missouri while other riders started out from the east, traveling the same route going west.

There were stops along the way, where it is said, the riders were greeted with a waiting fresh mount and mail pouch. They dismounted, switched horses in a flash, and galloped off. They would ride for 75-100 miles, swapping horses 8-10 times before trading off with another rider, and having a chance to rest at a station. The service eventually ran twice a week, delivering mail every ten days. Over the life of the Pony Express, the service delivered over 33,000 pieces of mail traveling over 600,000 miles – 300 runs each way.

Today you can tour Buckland Station, see the insides of the Buckland house, as well as walk through Fort Churchill and see exhibits at the Visitor Center. You can picnic next to the Carson River in shaded areas, or hike, camp, and watch the bird and wildlife in the area. This is a superb place to let history come alive for you. While there, make sure to visit nearby Yerington, a quaint town that is full of fun!

Fort Churchill is located along the Carson River, eight miles south of Silver Springs on U.S. 95A. The park is 40 miles east of Carson City and 36 miles west of Fallon. Visitors are advised to enter the park from U.S. 95A, on a short, paved access road. While Fort Churchill Road along the Carson River from U.S. 50 is scenic, it is 16 miles and unpaved. For more information call (775) 577-4880 or visit http://parks.nv.gov/parks/fort-churchill-state-historic-park/

For more information about the Pony Express National Historic Trail call (801) 741-1012 or visit www.NPS.gov/poex

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