Friday, August 14, 2015

The Pony Express – Marysville Kansas

Continuing with our exploration of Marysville Kansas… We headed to the downtown area to check out and visit a very specific location.

This is the only original Pony Express Home Station that is still located on its original site. (See Note below) The Marysville Pony Express stone barn was built in 1859 by Joseph H. Cottrell and Hank Williams.  In 1860, they contracted with Russell, Majors and Waddell to lease the barn as a livery stable for the Pony Express. The north end of the structure served as a blacksmith shop and stalls were on the other side.


·       Although all state and local references…as well as the sign in the photo above…refer to this stone barn as the original home station, the National Park Service states that the actual “Pony Express station was located in the Barrett Hotel, on the corner of Eighth Street and Broadway about one block north of the stable.”

This undated and retouched or enhanced photo from a postcard shows the Pony Express Barn as it probably appeared after the beginning of the 1900s.  Note the dirt or mud streets…but that pole could be either an electrical pole or an early telephone pole.


·       The Pony Express Barn is the oldest existing building in Marshall County Kansas.

·       Marysville was the first home station on the Pony Express route west of St. Joseph, Missouri.

An annex was added to one side of the barn in the early 1990s.  This portion of the Pony Express Station/Barn complex serves as an interesting little museum with a wide variety of items on display.  In this photo you can see part of the museum’s doll collection on the right and a display of colorful wrenches on the half wall behind the 2-seated road version of a railroad handcar.  This handcar was built in 1900 by a blacksmith for his son.  The passengers simply worked that handle in the middle back and forth to make the handcar move.

Another section of the museum featured a variety of military uniforms from various eras.  Other displays include a large tool collection…far beyond just the colorful wrenches… as well as railroad lanterns, political buttons arrowheads, WPA period and ethnic dolls with dioramas of Kansas including Coronado and native American tribes, First Ladies of Kansas dolls from 1861 to 1955, barbed wire, an original steam engine, a thrasher and binder, a cornknife shoe, ball and chains (leg irons) from first jails of the area, and a large model train collection. 

This is what a rural mail carrier used on his route back in the 1800s and early 1900s.  This one was actually donated by the family of a mail carrier who began delivering mail in 1911.  Today the only time you’re likely to see a carriage like this is if you’re passing through one of America’s Amish communities. 

This 1915 Model-T Roadster was given to the museum by a local couple.  He had courted his wife in a Model-T Roadster and he wanted the museum to have one... He must have been a really romantic fellow!  The museum covers a lot of local history with most exhibits consisting of donations by local residents…

This reproduction Overland Stage Company stagecoach is very impressive.  Note the license plates on one wall and the antique rifles behind the coach.  The museum isn’t big but there is a lot to look at…  


·       The Butterfield Overland Stage Company, also known as the Butterfield Overland Mail Company, was the brainchild of John W. Butterfield.  In 1850 he enticed his two rivals, Wells and Company and Livingston, Fargo and Company, to merge with his organization, which was called Butterfield, Wasson and Company. This merger formed the American Express Company, the same company that operates under that name today!

The photo was taken inside the original 1859 barn portion of the museum.  Note the dirt floors.  This is a rope-bed bunk bed… The ropes served as the ‘box springs’ and the ropes would usually be covered with a thin mat stuffed with straw.


·       In June of each year the National Pony Express Association sponsors a Pony Express Re-Ride from Sacramento California to St. Joseph Missouri.  Each year they alternate the direction of the Re-ride, traveling East or West.  Over 550 riders and horses are posted at intervals to take turns carrying the mail.  Each rider takes an oath similar to that used in 1860-1861 and they are issued a Bible in the tradition of Russell, Majors and Waddell. 

The Pony Express Barn was constructed of native limestone.  It now contains the blacksmith hearth, a number of old wagons and a scattering other ‘teamster’ and Pony Express related items.  Note the ventilation holes.  They allow the air to keep circulating in the summer heat.

·       The first westbound rider left St. Joseph Missouri early in the evening of April 3, 1860, arriving in Marysville the next morning.  Historians differ as to his identity, but tradition says his name was Johnny Fry.

·       Between April 1860 and October 1861, riders travelled day and night through all weathers to carry letters from St. Joseph Missouri to Sacramento California and back.  Each one-way trip usually took 10 days.  Riders changed horses every 12-15 miles and rode 75 to 100 miles before turning the mail over to a fresh rider at one of the 40 or so "home stations" along the route.

The museum has an informative video about the Pony Express that visitors watch before they start their tour.  Following the video, you tour the displays in the new portion of the museum before moving on into the old Pony Express Barn.  The whole experience was well worth the $4.00 admission charge! 


·       Sending mail by Pony Express was very expensive.  The original charge was $5.00 an ounce and 5 cents for every additional ounce.  Later the charges were reduced to $1.00 per ounce.  That would be the equivalent of $27.30 per ounce in today’s dollars.

The Pony Express Barn/Home Station is located at 106 South 8th Street in Marysville Kansas.  Trip Advisor shows 13 Excellent or Very Good reviews, 1 Average review and zero negative reviews.  The museum’s website is at

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by to check out a legendary part of American History!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Informative post, Dave! That roadster is pretty cool! Mail delivery and all has come a long way since then. Great tribute to the Pony Express! Have a great fun weekend!

  2. Where would we be without the Pony Express today, but that old photo does make you wonder what that poll was for doesn't it. Old cars are always a fascination for us. Just saw what looked to be like an original Model T in Franklin, NC just the other day. It reminded me of the muddy roads that were the norm in that day. Another information post David.

  3. David!! Absolutely love these pictures what fascinating look all these antique things:)))

  4. Mail delivery has come a long way since then. I'm still amazed that I can put a letter in my mailbox and for 44 cents it will be hand delivered to someone else's mailbox anywhere in the country.