Balladeer’s Blog always marks the holiday called Frontierado, which is observed every year on the first Friday in August. This year that will be August 5th. Frontierado is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.
A topic I haven’t covered in the past is the legendary Pony Express, which operated from April 3rd, 1860 to October 26th, 1861. Prior to the spread of telegraph wires all the way across the continent, the Pony Express was the fastest way of getting messages – and mail – from Missouri to California and vice versa.
Their riders, officially titled Expressmen, faced perils from nature, bandits and hostile Native Americans depending on circumstances at any given moment. Everything boiled down to speed, so to save on weight on the horses Expressmen were only permitted to carry one pistol after a few riders were caught carrying two pistols and a rifle or more.
I will cover many of the other riders as we get closer to the actual date of Frontierado, but for today here is a brief look at the first Pony Express riders to depart from Saint Joseph, MO headed west and from Sacramento, CA headed east. There is still some dispute about which men officially count as the first riders, with two men put forth for both routes.
WEST FROM ST. JOSEPH – The first potential riders from St. Joseph, MO were, alphabetically, Johnny Fry and “Sailor Billy” Richardson. After ceremonial speeches by politicians and businessmen, a cannon shot inaugurated the first ride westward around 7:15PM on April 3rd, 1860.
JOHNNY FRY was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky in 1840 (exact date unknown) and in 1857 his family moved to Missouri. After the firing of the cannon, whoever the first rider was, Fry or Richardson, they galloped to the ferry Denver waiting at the landing on Jules Street. The Denver carried the rider across the Missouri River to Elwood, KS where that first ride resumed. Continue reading