Highly Dangerous Work

Whatever the pay rate for riders, carrying the mail was highly dangerous work. They worked in a hard unsafe environment, where many of them suffered and/or were even killed by accidental occurrences along the route. One Pony Express rider that left San Francisco for St. Joseph on April 18, 1860, met such a fatal accident. Traveling at a great speed at night, the rider’s horse “stumbled over an ox lying in the road, throwing the rider, and the horse fell upon him, so badly crushing him that it was feared he would soon die,” which unfortunately he did. 23 In July 1860, another rider was thrown from his horse and killed while crossing the Platte River. The mailbags he carried were never recovered. A month later, in August 1860, east of Carson City, another rider was thrown from his horse and presumed dead when his horse arrived at the station riderless. In addition to these accidents, there were other misfortunes. In December 1860,an inexperienced rider of German ancestry lost his way near Ft. Kearney and froze to death. Other less serious accidents occurred as well. For instance, in November 1860, five miles west of Camp Floyd, a Pony rider’s horse fell and broke its neck. The rider escaped serious injury in the incident, but he had to pack the express to Camp Floyd on foot.