The Pony Express Takes Over Chorpenning’s Route

Happily, as it turns out, for the Pony Express, the Central Overland  Trail was also developed as a stagecoach and mail-by-mule route by a  hardworking competitor, George W. Chorpenning. Chorpenning held  the federal contract for mail and stagecoach service between Salt Lake  and San Francisco when Pony Express agents came sniffing around,  looking for opportunity. The U.S. Post Office abruptly canceled his  contract in May 1860, about a month after the Pony Express started  operations, due in part to behind-the-scenes conniving by the  Pony and others hoping to grab that contract for themselves. Even  while Chorpenning’s “Jackass Mail” was still up and braying — and  without a government contract in hand, itself — the Pony took over his route, brazenly moved into his stage and mail stations, seized his  livestock and equipment, and hired away some of his key employees.  Chorpenning brought a claim before Congress for his losses, but was  still uncompensated when he died in 1894. Meanwhile, the Pony  Express would share its pirated route and assets with a passenger,  freight, and “heavy mail” stage line operated by its parent company,  the Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Co.