It’s less than two months until the major holiday Frontierado, so here’s a third blog post about Pony Express Riders – April 3rd, 1860 to October 26th, 1861. A few weeks ago came Balladeer’s Blog’s look at the first Pony Express riders.
As always, Frontierado celebrations are about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.
THE CLIFF BROTHERS
CHARLIE CLIFF – The younger of the two Cliff brothers to ride for the Pony Express was born in 1844 in St. Louis County, MO. Sometime in 1852 the family moved to St. Joseph, MO and by May of 1860 Charlie and his older brother Gus were Expressmen, the official title of Pony Express Riders.
Charlie’s rout passed through Kickapoo Indian territory but the tribe was peaceful and the young man never experienced difficulties with them. However, in 1861 he encountered a small company of nine covered wagons headed west and shared their plight of being besieged by over one hundred Sioux warriors. The siege lasted three days with periodic gunplay before a larger wagon train approached and the Sioux, realizing they were outnumbered, rode off.
Cliff received three bullet wounds during the siege but recovered and went back to work for the Pony Express. When the Express went under in late October 1861 Charlie moved to New Mexico Territory and became the driver of ox-teams for a freighting company.
Given the much slower traveling speed of oxen compared to horses, this occupation resulted in Charlie and his new colleagues frequently having to withstand attacks from bandits and renegade Native Americans.
In later life Charlie Cliff moved back to St. Joseph, MO where he worked in the feed and flour business. He participated in historical celebrations commemorating the Pony Express and passed away on December 24th, 1924.
GUS CLIFF – Augustus “Gus” Cliff was the older of the two Cliff Brothers but the exact year of his birth has not come down to us. Like his younger sibling Charlie he moved with his family to St. Joseph, MO in 1852 and began riding for the Pony Express in May of 1860, covering the St. Joseph to Seneca, KS rout.
Gus rode for the Express until its demise in late October 1861. The following spring he joined a wagon train headed westward but contracted an unknown disease along the way.
Unfortunately, Gus Cliff died from his ailment in a Denver hospital a few months later.