The Frontierado holiday, on August 5th this year, is hurtling toward us. Balladeer’s Blog will squeeze in a few more seasonal posts for this year’s celebrations. Frontierado is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.
PONY BOB – Robert Haslam, better known as Pony Bob, holds multiple records set in the Pony Express during its year and a half history, including the longest individual round-trip ride – 380 miles – when one of his relay riders was put out of action during the Paiute War in 1860.
Pony Bob was born in England in January, 1840 and in his teens moved to the United States. For a few years Haslam worked around Salt Lake City, Utah, doing ranch work and serving as a mounted government messenger before joining in the construction work on the Pony Express stations. When the Express launched in April of 1860, he was among the earliest Expressmen, the official title of the Pony Express riders.
Haslam’s route in Nevada was from Friday’s Station to Buckland Station near Fort Churchill. Among Pony Bob’s experiences during the Paiute War –
*** Finding that the military had made off with all the relief horses at the station near the Carson River. The army had appropriated the horses to use in their campaigns against the Paiutes.
*** Discovering all the Pony Express staff members at the Cold Springs station dead. They had been killed by Paiute raiders, who had also stolen all the relief horses at the station.
*** Making his way past hostile raiders overnight without being detected and attacked.
*** Surviving a three- or four-hour running gunfight with pursuing Paiute warriors. During the clash, Haslam was wounded by arrows through his left arm and his jaw. As a last resort he escaped by shooting the horses out from under his pursuers.
Pony Bob also left his mark by being one of the riders in the Pony Express’ fastest delivery ever (seven days, seventeen hours), carrying copies of Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration speech to the western territories.
After the Pony Express folded on October 26th, 1861, Haslam signed on with the Wells Fargo company. He served as a Mounted Carrier on the route from San Francisco, California to Virginia City, Nevada. A few years later when telegraph lines reached far enough from the coast that the Frisco to Virginia City route was discontinued, Pony Bob was reassigned to Wells Fargo’s Idaho and Oregon route.
In Idaho our hero rode the route from the Queen’s River to the Owyhee River. When riding between Oregon and Idaho, he sometimes had to deal with hostile Modoc Indians. On one horrific occasion, Pony Bob came across the bodies of nearly 100 Chinese settlers who had been wiped out by the Modoc.
This was during a time when Modoc warriors – supposedly including Kintpuash aka Captain Jack – were demanding and receiving tribute offerings from settlers in exchange for not killing them. The settlers and the U.S. Government called this “extortion money” while the Modoc Indians maintained that it was “rent” for living on their land.
Pony Bob was in the army during the Modoc War that lasted from July 6th, 1872 to June 4th, 1873. Kintpuash/ Captain Jack was a Chief by then and after he was executed for war crimes committed during this conflict, he was succeeded as Chief by his Modoc War comrade Scarface Charley. Shaknasty Jim had also fought at Kintpuash’s side.
Years later Haslam was working as a freight driver between Salt Lake City and Denver. He also served a stint as a Deputy United States Marshal in Salt Lake City, hunting down and/ or extraditing outlaws of every stripe.
By 1880 Pony Bob was working as an Indian Scout for the army and had renewed his friendship with fellow Pony Express veteran Buffalo Bill Cody. The two men were even part of the campaign which ended in the surrender of Chief Sitting Bull on July 20th of 1881.
Haslam was still working as an army scout into the 1890s. From there his travels become a bit hazy but after the turn of the century Pony Bob was working as a doorman for the Congress Hotel in Chicago. In his off-duty hours he would regale hotel guests with tales of his exploits in the west.
Unfortunately, Robert Haslam passed away penniless in a Chicago apartment on February 29th, 1912.