Balladeer’s Blog takes another look at a Pony Express Rider for a seasonal post now that the Frontierado Holiday is fast approaching. (It falls on August 5th this year.) Frontierado is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.
BOSTON – Warren Fremont Upson, better known by his one-word nickname, was one of the Pony Express Riders aka Expressmen to ride with the service for its entire existence from April 3rd, 1860 to October 26th, 1861. His real name was so seldom used in the old west that in some sources on Pony Express history he was listed only as “Boston.”
Warren was born in 1841 in Marion, AL and moved with his family to Sacramento, CA in 1851 when his father Lauren Upson became the editor of the Sacramento Union newspaper. Though the elder Upson spent his career in the publishing field, Warren was too rambunctious and preferred the great outdoors.
Already experienced at hunting and camping, W.F. Upson learned polished horsemanship skills from the local vaqueros. Legend has it that these Sacramento vaqueros nicknamed him “Boston” because it was the eastern city they were most familiar with, and they had not yet met anyone else who had Warren’s southeastern accent. So, Boston it was, despite the geographical inaccuracy.
Our hero spent most of his time riding and exploring in the Sierra Nevadas, hunting and cooking his own food and acquiring a familiarity with the mountain range’s often-treacherous curves and turns and sudden drops. That familiarity would pay dividends later in life when Boston was assigned to the most geographically dangerous route of the Pony Express.
In February of 1860, Upson responded to one of the Express’ famous job advertisements asking for unattached men who would not leave behind a wife and children if they were killed while carrying out their duties. (“Orphans Preferred” was just one of the variations on that theme.)
Not only was Boston hired, but the young man’s already celebrated mountain man skills and marksmanship got him the perilous route from Sportsman’s Hall in what is now Pollock Pines, CA to Genoa, UT and/ or Friday’s Station near Lake Tahoe. Continue reading