The Pony Express

Benicia was not on the regular Pony Express Route, but when the riders’ missed their steamer connection to San Francisco from Sacramento, they took the alternative route through Solano County.  This happened a total of 19 times in the 19 month history of the Pony Express.  Benicia was a busy steamer port of call and ferry station which made it an ideal place for the riders to take the ferry to Martinez and then on to Oakland and then the ferry to San Francisco. 


The Pony Express was established in 1860 by the freighting firm Central Overland, California & Pikes Peak Express and was in use from April 1860 through November 1861.  The riders carried mail from St. Joseph, MO to San Francisco, CA, a total of 1,966 miles through unfriendly Indian Territory and hazardous terrain.  The trip took approximately 10 days in fair weather and up to 14 days in winter weather.

There was a total of 190 stations and up to 300 station keepers and stock tenders.  There were three kinds of stations: Home stations for riders to switch off with accommodations for them to rest, Swing stations to change horses, and Way stations which were mail drops.  300 of the finest, fastest horses were selected since they would have to travel 10 miles in an hour, however some stations were as far apart as 25 or 30 miles apart.  

In the short history of the Pony Express despite the dangers involved, only one man was killed by Indians.  His horse survived and rode to the next stations with the mail.  There was only one horse killed while trying to swim a swollen stream, but the rider survived and again the mail was delivered.  Only one mail bag was lost in the entire time of the Pony Express.

Over 200 riders participated in the Pony Express, including Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill.  One of the first riders was William F. Fisher who led a most interesting life after the Pony Express.  

There are many websites available that explore the Pony Express.  Go to our Links page to visit some of them for more information about this exciting chapter in American History.

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