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


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


As I mentioned before, there are quite a few horses in my upcoming novel. In the 1860s horses were a big part of daily life. They provided transportation. They carried loads, pulled wagons, carriages, and more. And, of course, horses were used by the Pony Express.

Did you know that it’s not true that a horse won’t let you mount from the right side? Mounting from the left side is just a tradition. Soldiers mounted their horses on the left side so that their swords, which they anchored over their left leg, wouldn’t harm their horse’s back.

However, it is important that a horse let its rider mount and dismount from either side, especially on the trail. On the trail, it is not unusual to encounter a rocky cliff, mud hole, or other trail hazard that may require the rider to mount or dismount from the right instead of the left.

In addition, mounting and dismounting a horse from either side will enable the horse to use the muscles on the left and right side of its spine equally. This may help prevent an injury to one side of the horse’s back.

It’s also important for a rider to listen to his horse. The sounds horses make mean something:

Nicker: If your horse makes a sound that resembles a soft tapping, with its lips closed, often with its head raised, it is saying “Hi, I’m glad to see you.”

Blowing or Snorting: If your horse is frightened by something, they will make a blowing or snorting sound. Some will also snort when they are excited.

Neighing: A neigh is a long, loud, high-pitched sound. This can mean your horse is experiencing anxiety or confidence. Also, if one horse neighs when in a group of horses out in a field or pasture, he is warning the group that he sees something unusual.

Sighing: This is a sound you’ll want to hear before you mount. The horse will usually put its head down and release a deep fluttering breath through his nostrils. This means the horse is relaxed and calm.

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


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.

Timeless Tuesday: Horses or Ponies?


Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

The above photo is a picture of two ponies. Note that a pony’s body is shorter and a bit stouter than the body of a horse. Their legs are shorter than a horse’s legs. Therefore, they would not have been a good choice for use in the “Pony Express”.

The Pony Express began its run in April 1860, and when my upcoming novel is published, should you choose to read it (and I hope you will), you will find that the Pony Express is a big part of my story.

Even though it was commonly called the “Pony Express”, the actual official name was the “Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Company” (C.O.C. & P.P.), and they didn’t use ponies. They used horses.

William H. Russell, one of the three men who started the C.O.C. and P.P. business wanted 200 grey mares between four and seven years old, no bigger than fifteen hands high that were saddle broken and healthy, solid, and reliable.  However, the company bought 400 to 500 horses, but they weren’t all grey mares.


Photo by Sheri Hooley on Unsplash

The above photo is a picture of a Thoroughbred horse. Kentucky Thoroughbreds and Morgans were ridden on the eastern end of the Pony Express route.

War Eagle - mustang of the South Steens, OR Wild horse stallion ...

The above photo is a picture of a Mustang. California Mustangs were ridden on the western stretch of the Pony Express route.

The horses were ridden hard at a gallop because mail delivery by the Pony Express was promised to get from St. Joseph, Missouri to San Francisco, California in ten days. Never before in history had letters been delivered such a distance so quickly. Therefore, horses galloped an average of ten miles per hour, sometimes being pushed to twenty-five miles per hour. Station houses were built 10-15 miles apart and Express riders would ride a length of 75 to 100 miles, but would stop at the station houses every 10 to 15 miles for a fresh horse, so as not to harm the horses, and allow them to eat, drink, and rest. An Express rider changed horses eight to ten times on their route.

The main character of my upcoming novel is a Pony Express rider.


Timeless Tuesday: Horses and my Male Protagonist in 1860


Photo by Luis Hinojosa on Unsplash

In the 1860s west, horses were a staple in most people’s lives. They were used for transportation as well as to aid in many forms of work.

Horses play a big part in my upcoming novel. My male protagonist began working with horses when he was seven years old. His father taught him how to work with horses for two years before they left their home in Kentucky.

My protagonist quickly became quite fond of horses. However, due to unfortunate circumstances, his time with horses was quite limited from the time he was ten yours old until he turned eighteen years old.

When he turned eighteen, he gained employment working as an omnibus driver. The omnibus he would’ve driven would have been similar to the one in the photo below.

The horse-drawn omnibus became Paris' first form of public ...

An omnibus was a four-wheeled carriage pulled by horses. An omnibus traveled a predetermined route and followed a schedule, carrying passengers for a fee. My male protagonist drove an omnibus, carrying passengers around the city of St. Louis, Missouri for seven years before leaving St. Louis.

Timeless Tuesday: What was Happening in 1860?

The novel that I am working on is set in 1860. That is the year the Pony Express began. How did it begin?

William H. Russell, one of a trio of men who had a freighting company known as Russell, Majors, and Waddell created the Pony Express. They were business partners in Missouri. They had a lot of experience hauling cargo and passengers. They took an interest in government mail contracts as they already offered a stagecoach service that provided mail between the Missouri River and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Russell was convinced that a horse relay, a Pony Express would be a money-making endeavor. His partners, William, B. Waddell and Alexander Majors were not so sure. Without the approval of his partners, William Russell committed to opening the express mail service on the central overland route in April 1860.

So the three partners started a new company, the Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Company (C.O.C. & P.P.). This was the official name of the Pony Express. The company had just 67 days to hire riders, station keepers, and mail handlers, and to buy horses, food, and other supplies and distribute them to stations along the route. Some of the stations weren’t even built or located yet.

However, homes stations were established every 75 to 100 miles. These homes stations would house riders between runs. Smaller relay stations were established every 10 to 15 miles to provide riders with fresh horses.

Many of the stations were upgraded from existing stagecoach stations, while some had to be built from scratch. They began with 86 stations but expanded to 147 stations by mid-1861.

Alexander Majors organized the route into five divisions, numbered east to west. The first leg of the route ran from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Fort Kearny, Nebraska Territory on the Platte River.

This is the leg of the journey that my main male character has a part in.