Where in the USA is the CoCo Locomoto? travel blog

The Original Pony Express Stables and Museum

The Relay Station

The Mochila or Knapsack in which the mail was carried

The Patee House and Museum

Walter Cronkite's fathers Dental Office

The Jesse James House

The bullet hole right below the picture

Artifacts found in Jesse's grave

A one-nineth replica of the Vietnam Wall Memorial

Portion of a metal beam from the World Trade Center

Having enjoyed a beautiful, sunny and green trip from Sioux City, Iowa to St. Joseph we started our day with several fun things on our bucket list.

In the mid-1850's a California Senator had a chance meeting with Mr. Russell who was in business with two other men providing mail and freight service to the Military and the West Coast. The Senator stated that it took too long for information to reach California and he wished something could be done to speed things up. All three businessmen being risk takers, put their heads together and borrowed $70,000 to fulfill the dream of getting mail to the West coast quickly. They purchased 500 horses at the cost of $200.00 each, built the stables (which would hold 200 horses), tack room and harness shop, over 160 relay stations, every 10-15 miles apart along the 2000 mile route which roughly followed the Oregon Trail, and California Trail to Fort Bridger in Wyoming and then the Mormon Trail (known as the Hastings Cutoff) to Salt Lake City, Utah. From there it roughly followed the Central Nevada Route to Carson City, Nevada before passing over the Sierras into Sacramento, California. They hired 80 Express Riders (who were each paid $50.00 per month...a lot of money in those days) and on April 3, 1860 a lone rider left on horseback from the gates of the stables and the Pony Express was born. They boasted that mail could reach Sacramento in just 10 days,the cost...$5.00 per half ounce! The first rider was a young 19 year old named Johnny Fry who carried the nation's hopes and dreams in specially designed "mochila" (the name of the knapsack used to transport the mail) which could be easily and quickly transferred from one horse to another or one rider to another. The mochila had 4 pockets three of which were locked and had only 2 keys...one at the beginning of the route and the other at the end. He carried 49 letters, 3 telegrams and several east coast newspapers on that first trip. Another rider left Sacramento the same day and the mail arrived in both starting points on April 13, 1860 in the promised 10 days after the riders had started in both cities. Riders changed horses 8-10 times and traveled a total of 75-100 miles each. They had 2 minutes to get a drink, go to the bathroom and change the mochila over to a fresh horse. Most of the riders ranged in age from their late teens to mid 20's but one was as young as 11 and some were in their mid-40's. Probably the most famous was Buffalo Bill who was 14 at the time. The Pony Express only ran for 18 months and was very successful. It quit running when the coast to coast telegraph line was completed in October 1861. But it wasn't until the completion of the railroad in 1868 that letters again reached California as fast.

Next it was on to the Patee House and Museum which was built in 1858 at the cost of $180,000 and had 140 rooms. It claimed to be the most luxurious hotel west of the Mississippi and served travelers as the railroad pushed westward. It also served as the office for the Pony Express and during the Civil War was the office for the U.S. Provost Marshal's Office among many other things. It was a hotel 3 times,2 colleges, a sanitarium, 2 garment factories (one a shirt factory for 80 years) and home to the wife and children of Jesse James (for 2 nights) after his murder (at that time it was called the World Hotel) before becoming a museum. You could spend an entire day here as there are 2 floors of artifacts dating back to the time it was opened and we really enjoyed seeing so many old things preserved in one place. At one time the famous TV newsman, Walter Cronkite's father had a dental office in the Patee House. In 1865, Confederate leanings left Mr. Patee short of cash and he held a lottery to dispose of the Patee House. He had to buy the last 100 tickets to get them all sold and on April 28,1865 when the hotel was raffled, he won it back himself! One of the things we most enjoyed at the Patee House were drawings by an artist (never could find the name of the artist) of famous Western men and women, from the James Brothers to Doc Holiday, Billy the Kid as well as Annie Oakley, and many others which were drawn and painted on raw plywood.

The infamous Jesse James was shot from behind and killed on April 3, 1882 in his home just a block from the Patee House so that was our next stop. He was shot behind the right ear from behind by one of the Ford brothers (Bob) who were part of the gang of outlaws with the James Brothers and wanted to collect the reward money. Jesse died at the age of 34 having lived a lawless life for the previous 16 years. The modest house in which Jesse, his wife and 2 children had lived for just over a year was rented by them for $14.00 per month and the bullet hole is still visible in the living room where he was shot. His body was exhumed in 1995 to test it for DNA and today the house is a museum with family artifacts and things found in Jesse's grave.

Our final stop for the day was the National Military Museum which is housed in an old police station built in 1890 and still in remarkable condition today. While it houses a lot of artifacts dating back to WWI, there seems to be very little organization to the place and the guide we had seemed to be more interested in visiting than teaching us about the things in the museum. We did learn that before the Purple Heart came in to being in 1932, wounded and killed service men and women received a red stripe. The museum also holds a 1/9th scale of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C., a "Huey" helicopter used in Vietnam to pick up soldiers from the battlefield, a Cobra helicopter from Vietnam and an ambulance from the same war and a portion of a metal beam from the World's Trade Center in New York after 9-11. There were many wonderful things to see and hopefully with some organization, it will be a wonderful place to visit someday.

Tired and hungry, we headed home both intrigued by the many things we saw and the history of the area. While it was great to visit them all, the Pony Express Museum and Patee House are definitely 'must sees' on your list if you are traveling through the area.

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