Pony Express Barn & Museum
Marysville’s proud heritage features a Home Station on the Pony Express route, through which riders such as Jack Keetley and D.C. Rising would have passed.
Running only 19 months April of 1860 to October of 1861, the Pony Express has become a part of American lore.
Riders travelled day and night through all conditions to relay letters from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, and back. This usually took 10 days with riders changing horses every 12 to 15 miles. Each rider would ride 75 to 100 miles before turning the mail in a mochila over to a new rider at one of the “home stations.”
Our museum is housed in the stone barn built in 1859 by Joseph H. Cottrell and Hank Williams. In 1860, Russell, Majors & Waddell approached them to lease the barn as a livery stable for the Pony Express. Cottrell kept his blacksmith shop in the barn.
The first westbound rider left St. Joseph, Missouri, on April 3, 1860. There is debate about who that rider was, but it was most likely Johnny Frye. There is also question about how far he rode or who brought the mochila the next morning into Marysville, where it was likely transferred to the care of Jack Keetley.
The mochila carrying the mail fit over the saddle and could not be removed unless the rider dismounted. It had four mail pockets, called cantinas, that were locked. The rider would transfer the mochila from one horse to another. Two minutes were allowed for changing horses.
The cost for sending mail originally was $5 per ounce. The rates were later reduced.
The demise of the Pony Express began in 1860 with the completion of the telegraph lines across the continent.
In 1991, Marysville added a museum to the original barn duplicating its architecture. The museum’s theme has been enlarged to include trails and railroads.
The National Pony Express Association sponsors a re-ride every year with more than 550 riders both male and female making the ride. Each rider takes an oath similar to the original one and is issued a Bible just as Russell, Majors & Waddell did for the original riders.