Timeless Tuesday — History Related to my Novel

The photo above is of Samuel Clemens, better known as “Mark Twain” a famous author. During the time of the Pony Express, Samuel Clemens took a stage coach across the west to Virginia City. Along the way, as he looked out the stage coach window, he saw a Pony Express rider. He wasn’t a published author at the time, but it wouldn’t be long.

In what became Mark Twain’s second book, Roughing It, he wrote of his adventures and described what the West looked like in 1860 and 1861. In so doing, he unintentionally wrote much of what we know about the stations of the Pony Express during that time.

Mark Twain said of a Pony Express rider, “The pony rider was usually a little bit of a man, brimful of spirit and endurance.”

He wrote an entire chapter about the Pony Express in Roughing It.

Timeless Tuesday — History Related to my Novel

Frontispiece--Alden the Pony Expresss Rider.jpg
Photo copied from wikisource and “Alden and the Pony Express Rider” by Edward S. Ellis

I know it’s difficult to really see what the rider in the above picture is wearing, but it’s hard to find a photo or picture that shows what the actual Pony Express uniform looked like.

Pony Express riders were given uniforms to wear. The uniform consisted of blue pants, a red shirt, gloves, and a pair of boots. However, most riders found the uniform uncomfortable and instead, chose to wear buckskins.

Riders also carried a rifle and a pistol. One website I visited also said they carried a bugle they would blow, when approaching a station, to alert the stock tender to have a fresh horse ready when they rode in.

However, the majority of my research says the riders let out a “coyote yell” when approaching a station to alert the stock tender to have a fresh horse ready. A “coyote yell” is a noise they would make with their mouth and didn’t need an exterior instrument to create.

Timeless Tuesday — History Related to my Novel

Jesse James - Death, Wife & Brother - Biography
Jesse James (photo copied from Biography.com)

Last week’s Timeless Tuesday blog post ended with Jesse James moving his family back to St. Joseph, Missouri.

This week, before I tell you what happened to Jesse in St. Joseph, I want to tell you a little bit about the Jesse James House.

Jesse’s home was originally located on Lafayette Street, on a hill overlooking the Patee (pronounced Pay tee) House. Though Jesse and his home are not in my upcoming novel, the Patee House is.

As we established in last week’s blog post, Jesse chose to live the life of an outlaw. He lived as an outlaw for 16 years. Back in St. Joseph, Jesse’s life ended at the age of 34 when he was shot in his St. Joseph home by Bob Ford, who was a member of the James gang. The murder took place on April 3, 1882. Bob wanted the $10,000 reward that Governor Tom Crittenden had offered for Jesse James.

Today the Jesse James home in St. Joesph, Missouri, is a museum dedicated to the life and death of Jesse James. The house was moved, in 1939 to the Belt Highway in St. Joseph and made into a tourist attraction. However, it has since been moved to the grounds of the Patee House, and both the Patee House and the Jesse James Home are owned and operated by the Pony Express Historical Association.

Resource: The St. Joseph, Missouri website.

Timeless Tuesday — History Related to my Novel

Jesse James - Death, Wife & Brother - Biography

Jesse James (photo copied from Biography.com)

Although Jesse James does not appear in my upcoming novel, he had strong ties to Missouri and St. Joseph.

Jesse James was born on September 5, 1847 in Clay County, Missouri. His parents were Robert and Zerelda Cole James, both were from Kentucky. Jesse James grew up on his family’s farm, which was run by slave labor. He was popular in the community and outwardly religious, until the Civil War.

As slave owners with southern roots, the James family supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. Missouri was a border state with supporters of both sides. Therefore, some violent battles war started by both the Union militia and Confederate raiders. Civilians were also hurt or killed in these battles, and the battles seriously weakened Missouri’s economy.

Jesse’s brother, Frank, fought with the Confederacy at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. Afterward, he joined a group of Confederate Guerillas and raiders.

In 1863, Union soldiers visited the James’s farm seeking information in regard to the Confederate Guerillas. They hurt Jesse and his family. Not long after that, Jesse joined the same guerilla unit Frank was a part of. In this unit, Jesse learned to plan and attack, then flee and hide. This would become the pattern Jesse would follow for the rest of his life.

After the Civil War, Jesse James began his life as an outlaw. In 1868, he and his brother, Frank, helped rob a bank in Kentucky, and in 1869, Jesse’s name was published in newspapers for the first time. At this time, Jesse had a gang, and seeking revenge, he killed a man.

Jesse liked the attention his actions drew and began writing letters to the editor of the “Kansas City Times”, John Newman Edwards. In his letters, Jesse either claimed his innocence or explained his deeds, and Edwards published Jesse’s letters.

Jesse and Frank joined Cole Younger and his brother and became the James-Younger gang. They robbed banks, stagecoaches, and a fair in Kansas City. In 1873, they changed to robbing trains, choosing to rob the train safes instead of the passengers.

Jesse James married Zerelda Mimms on April 24, 1874. They had four children, but the twin boys, they had in the middle, died in infancy, leaving the oldest, Jesse James, Jr. and the youngest and only girl, Mary.

The James-Younger Gang attempted to rob a bank in Northfield, Minnesota on September 7, 1876. The Younger Brothers were caught and sent to prison. Jesse and Frank James escaped and settled in Nashville, Tennessee under assumed names, Jesse became “Thomas Howard” and Frank became “B. J. Woodson”.

By 1882, Jesse moved his family back to St. Joseph, Missouri.

Resource: The State Historical Society of Missouri: Historic Missourians

Be sure to stop by next week, for the rest of Jesse’s story.

Timeless Tuesday — History Related to My Novel — Orphanages in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1800s

The Story of Us 1

Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, St. Louis, Missouri taken from (https://www.mbch.org/content/who-we-are/our-history/4)

St. Joseph’s Home for Boys (1835-1988) is a former Roman Catholic orphan asylum administered by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. (This photo and information taken from Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/Saint-Josephs-Home-for-Boys-1835-1988-St-Louis-MO-435351459833507/

Above are a drawing of an orphanage that was first opened on April 1, 1886 in St. Louis, Missouri and a photo of St. Joseph’s Home for Boys.

There was also St. Vincent Home for Children which was founded in 1850 following a cholera epidemic and a fire that left many children orphaned in St. Louis, Missouri. Because many Diocesan orphanages were already crowded at the time, an appeal was made to the German Catholic community. The German Catholic community responded by constructing the St. Vincent Home for Children in 1850. Five sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet took charge of the new home in 1851 and the first orphan arrived on July 25, 1851.

(I was unable to find out if there is any connection between St. Vincent Home for Children and the St. Joseph Home for Boys, which was also run by Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.)

I share this information with you because my main character ended up in a Boy’s Home in St. Louis, Missouri when he was 14 years old, and he remained there until he was 18 years old, when he went out on his own. The Boy’s Home isn’t mentioned in my story in great detail, or even more than two or three times, but it is a part of my main character’s back story. I imagine the Boy’s Home, where my main character lived for four years, to be similar to either St. Joseph Boy’s Home or St. Vincent Home for Children. I do specify in my story, that when my character was there, it as a Boy’s Home run by Catholic Sisters.

Both the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home and the St. Vincent Home for Children are still in existence in Missouri today.

Timeless Tuesday: History Related to my Novel

patee-house-hotel-south-twelfth-and-penn-streets-saint-joseph-buchanan-county-5

Photo acquired from Get Archive, LLC (public domain photos)

The above photo is a photo of the Patee (pronounced Pay-tee) House Hotel. It was a four-story, red brick building built in 1858 on the corner of South Twelfth and Penn Streets in St. Joseph, Missouri. It is believed to be the first hotel west of the Mississippi River.

In 1860, when the Pony Express began, the Patee House was the headquarters of the Pony Express.

The Patee House was also said to provide the last taste of civilization for pioneers and prospectors who were bound for the western frontier.

The hotel drew a lot of attention due to its size, and despite its elaborate appearance, its top floor was home to a sanitarium for epileptics.

Though the Patee House was the Pony Express Headquarters, I did not choose to house my Pony Express rider in the hotel for the purpose of the fictitious part of my story. However, my rider does spend some time in the Hotel on one or two occasions.

Timeless Tuesday: History Related to My Novel

The Pony Express route was nearly 2,000 miles long overland. There were about 190 stations along the route, mostly in Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. The route required about 10 days to cover. Never before in history had a letter been delivered over such a distance so quickly, though it was mainly newspapers and businesses that used the Pony Express delivery.

Each rider rode about 75 to 100 miles and changed horses every 10 to 15 miles.

The Pony Express rider, in my story, rides from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Seneca, Kansas, which was 70 miles west of St. Joseph.

Pumpkin Seed Creek Relay Station History Pony Express Cabin ...

The above photo is a photo of a relay station, and you can see at either end of the building, behind it is another building. That is the horse stable, which was usually only a few feet from the living quarters. A relay station only housed two men — a station keeper and a stock tender, otherwise known as a horse wrangler.

The stock tender, or horse wrangler, cared for six horses and had a horse ready, day or night, for the next rider. When the station attendant saw a big cloud of dust coming, he knew it was a Pony Express rider. The riders also adopted a shout, known as the “coyote call”, that they used to alert the station of their approach.

Relay stations were built every 10 to 15 miles apart, and as a rule, a Pony Express rider had just two minutes to get a drink, go the the bathroom, and change the mochila over to the fresh horse.

Rock Creek Station - Pony Express National Historic Trail (U.S. ...

The above photo is a photo of a home station. As you can see, the living quarters are a bit larger than the living quarters in the above photo of a relay station. That is because a home station housed the station keeper, stock tender, and a couple of riders who had come from either end of the route and handed off the mochila to a fresh rider with a fresh horse. Home stations were usually located at a ranch, hotel, or a town livery stable. (In my upcoming novel, my main character lives in a town with a town livery stable and a hotel, but chooses to live in a boarding house. When he rides his share of the route to Seneca, Kansas, he stays at a home station to rest and await the mochila that is coming from west to east.)

Both relay and home stations typically had dirt floors. Furniture often consisted of boxes, benches, barrels, or anything else the ingenuity of the occupants could contrive. Beds were pole bunks that were built against a wall. They had rope frames attached to poles, and the ropes had to be tightened every night. The thin mattresses were filled with grass, hay, or straw, any of which included bugs. Some were filled with horse hair.

 

Timeless Tuesday: History Related to My Novel


James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickock

The Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Company a.k.a. The Pony Express employed some rowdy characters that did not live up to the pledge of obedience and abstinence they took when they were hired.

Here are brief descriptions of just a few:

Jack Slade, one of the Division Superintendents, ran wild when he was drunk, but he “kept the road cleared of robbers and horse thieves”.

Some say Assistant Station Tender, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickock, (pictured above), shot agent David McCanles and two others at Rock Creek Station in Nebraska.

Some people believe “Buffalo Bill” Cody rode for the Pony Express. However, the truth is “Buffalo Bill” Cody never rode for the Pony Express, but he used his Wild West Show to promote the Pony Express’s legend and romance.

Timeless Tuesday: History Related to My Novel

The above photo is from johnsigrid.blogspot.com. It is a photo of an actual Pony Express mochila that John and Sigrid saw at the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Before I explain the mochila, I want you to know that the Pony Express began it’s run in early April 1860, and the Pony Express plays a big part in my upcoming novel.

Mochila is the Spanish word for knapsack or pack, and this particular type of mochila was used by the Pony Express. It fit over the saddle, as you can see in the above photo, it had four pockets or cantinas–two on each side.

Mail would be placed in three of the pockets and they would then be locked. There were only two keys for the locks, and the two keys were at opposite ends of the trail–one in St. Joseph, Missouri and the other in Sacramento, California.

The fourth pocket of the mochila was left unlocked and empty in the event that the Pony Express rider would receive a military dispatch along the way.

Mail was written on onion skin paper and was wrapped in oil cloth to protect it from the weather.

The Pony Express charged $5 per half-ounce for mail, which is about $85 in today’s money. They later reduced it to $1.

Because they needed to take care of the horses they rode on the route, there were weight restrictions for horse, rider, mail, and equipment. The maximum weight of the horse was 165 pounds. A rider had to weigh less than 120 pounds because they carried twenty pounds of mail and twenty-five pounds of equipment.

Timeless Tuesday: History Related to My Novel

ben-turnbull-Ke1mWRdXVw4-unsplash

Photo by Ben Turnbull on Unsplash

The Pony Express route was nearly 2,000 miles long overland, mostly in Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada.

The terrain the Pony Express traveled over was not inhabited by settlers. It consisted mostly of desolate areas of desert, mountains, and open plains.

The mountains and plains were cold and the deserts were hot and dry.