Pony Express
Historic Resource Study
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Chapter Five:

NEBRASKA (Continued)


In 1859, the Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Express Company (L. & P.P. Express Co.) established a stagecoach station at Seventeen Mile Station to serve as the first stop for passengers after Fort Kearney. When the Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Company assumed control of these stations and started the Pony Express, it is likely that they made the Seventeen Mile Station a relay station on the route. [1] In 1860, when the noted English traveller Richard F. Burton crossed the Great Plains and passed through this station, his stagecoach exchanged animals at Seventeen Mile Station. [2] It should also be noted that Merrill Mattes also proposed McClain's and Russell's Ranch as the site mentioned by traveler Richard Burton in his 1860 account. [3]

Nevertheless, many sources generally name this site as Platte or Platt's, located about five miles southeast of Odessa, [4] probably because the station is listed as "Platt's" in the 1861 mail contract, [5] and because the Holladay Stage Line stopped at Platte later on. [6]

In 1960, Merrill Mattes and Paul Henderson suggested that Seventeen Mile Relay Station was possibly the same station site as Platt's. [7] Whereas, Gregory M. Franzwa listed Seventeen Mile as a separate station west of Platte, but notes that historical sources also called it Platte Station. [8]


The exact identity and location of this site remains unknown. Mattes and Henderson place the station in Phelps County, about six miles southwest of Elm Creek. Mattes later lists the site as six miles southeast of Elm Creek. [9]

Sources give the site several different names, including Garden, Shakespear's, Sydenham's Ranche, Biddleman's Ranch, and Platte Stage Station. [10] The 1861 Overland Mail Company contract listed the station as Garden. [11] Franzwa places Garden station between Craig/Shakespear and Seventeen Mile Stations but notes that the Garden and Craig Stations could be the same. [12] Nevertheless, in 1865, the station was evidently destroyed by fire. [13]


This site is likely about ten miles southeast of Lexington, Nebraska. Sources generally agree on its identity and location as a relay station. [14] In 1859, the L. & P.P. Express Co. listed Plum Creek as a stop on its route. [15] Later the station's log structures housed a Pony Express station and stage stop, and even later a telegraph station. Indian attacks on wagon trains and stagecoaches between 1864 and 1867 led to the establishment of a small garrison of troops at Plum Creek Station. Sometime after August 1867 the station was burned and abandoned. A small cemetery near the station contains the graves of victims of an 1864 or 1865 Indian attack. [16]


The Willow Island or Willow Bend Station site is most likely in Dawson County, Nebraska, approximately six miles southeast of Cozad. Sources generally agree on its identity as the Willow Island an/or Willow Bend Station. [17] Some sources associate Pat Mullaly's Ranch with Willow Island Ranch or Station. [18] R. C. Freeman conducted ranch operations after Mullaly. [19]

In 1866 the station's structures included an adobe house, stables, and a frame store. [20]

The Dawson County American Legion Post No. 77 purchased the station's original log cabin and moved the building to Cozad's park for Boy Scout activities. As late as 1960, a 1938 plaque identified the cabin's role in the history of the Pony Express. [21]

31. COLD WATER RANCH/MIDWAY STATION: NR, 10/15/69 (number not available)

The Cold Water Ranch/Midway Station site is possibly located three miles south of Gothenburg. Sources generally agree on its identity as a Pony Express and stage station, although opinions vary about its function as a relay or home station. [22] L. & P.P. Express Co. stages stopped at Cold Water, located between Plum Creek and Cottonwood Springs. [23] Frank Root, an Overland Mail Company messenger in the 1860s, noted the station's name (Midway) came from its central location between Atchison and Denver. [24] In 1863, David Trout managed station operations at Midway Station, also known as Heavy Timber, Smith's East Ranch, Pat Mullaly's Home Station. [25] In 1866, Indians burned the station. [26]

Questions arise about the possible existence of one of Cold Water Ranch/Midway's log structures. As late as 1960, three miles south of Gothenburg, Harry Williams maintained a sturdy log structure on his Lower 96 Ranch. This building apparently stood on its original location as a surviving Pony Express station. The Oregon Trail Memorial Association recognized this station with a Pony Express bronze plaque, and a second bronze marker noted Pony Express rider Jim Moore's emergency trip from Midway to Julesburg on June 8, 1860, during a time of Indian unrest. [27] Notwithstanding, noted trail historian Merrill Mattes recently stated that: "If it is an actual Pony Express facility of 1860-1861, it somehow had to withstand the fire witnessed by Bratt [in 1866]." [28] Despite this apparent contradiction in the history of this structure, the cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. [29]

Even though Roy Bloss located Cold Water Ranch Station between Willow Island and Midway, [30] in 1960, Merrill Mattes and Paul Henderson suggested Cold Water Ranch site as an alternative name or site for the Midway Station. [31]


There is some confusion on the exact location of Gilman's Station. [32] Musetta Gilman tells the story of the site, run by her husband's ancestors, in Pump on the Prairie. [33] Nonetheless, most sources generally agree on the identity of Gilman's Ranch as a relay station and a stage stop listed on the 1861 mail contract. [34]


The identity and location of Machette's Station remains controversial. Local tradition places the site on the Williams' Upper 96 Ranch, four miles east of Fort McPherson in Lincoln County, Nebraska. Up until 1931, there was a two-story log cabin and a blacksmith shop linked to this site. However, in 1931 the American Legion Post No. 64 dismantled the main two-story log structure from the original site and moved the log building to Gothenburg City Park, where it was reassembled into a one-story building. Tourism signs along the highway advertise the building as an original Pony Express station. A marker attached to the building tells visitors that "Machette" built the cabin in 1854 as a trading post and ranch house, that the Pony Express used it from 1860-1861, and that it served as an overland station, dwelling, bunk house and storage house on Upper 96 Ranch" afterwards. [35]

Apparently at the same time they removed the log structure, a monument was placed commemorating this site. At that time, the blacksmith shop for the station remained at its original site. It read, "Erected by the people of Lincoln County, 1931, to commemorate the Pony Express riders. This is one of the regular stations of the Pony Express. The log blacksmith shop nearby is the original building used for shoeing horses." [36]

Nevertheless, some historians question the very existence of the Machette site as part of the original Pony Express route. Mattes and Henderson suggest two possibilities regarding the "Machette" building. First, Machette's existed as a ranch in the early 1860s but did not serve as a relay station. Second, "Machette" was a corruption of "McDonald," another name for the Cottonwood Springs Station, which will be discussed next. The building housed station activities at McDonald's and was later moved to the Upper 96 site. [37] Mattes notes later that some type of station existed in the area, variously known as Dan Trout's Station, Joe Bower's Ranche, and Broken Ranch. He concludes that the log structures from the Upper 96 Ranch probably belonged to one of the above road ranches. [38]


The Cottonwood Springs Pony Express station site, may have been on the east side of Cottonwood Creek where a monument stood as late as 1960. The station, also known as McDonald's Ranch, served previously as a stop for the Leavenworth and Pike's Peak Express Company stage line as well. [39] Most sources do not dispute the identity of Cottonwood Springs as a station. [40] In 1864, Eugene F. Ware described a two-story log structure at Cottonwood Springs, which could have served as the site of Cottonwood Station. [41] Mattes and Henderson suggest the building described by Ware possibly served as the Pony Express station, and might be the same building moved from the Upper 96 Ranch to the Gothenburg City Park in 1931. [42]


This site, which served as a relay station for the Pony Express, presumably was near Box Elder Creek, two miles south and one mile west of present North Platte, in Lincoln County, Nebraska. Cold Springs Station was also listed on the 1861 Overland Mail Company contract. [43] Mattes and Henderson note some confusion between Cold Springs and Jack Morrow's Ranch, also called "Junction House," twelve miles from Cottonwood Springs. [44] Based upon material in The Paul and Helen Henderson Oregon Trail Collection, it is possible that the well-known Morrow's store and trading post served as both a Pony Express and stage station. [45]


This site is possibly about one and one-half miles south of Hershey, Nebraska. Sources generally agree on its identity and location as a home station and stage stop. [46] However, Paul and Helen Henderson placed the station approximately five and one-half mile southeast of Sutherland in Lincoln County. [47] In late 1860, the English traveler Richard F. Burton described the station's unique architecture in this way: "The building is of a style peculiar to the south, especially Florida—two huts connected by a roofwork of thatched timber, which acts as the best and coolest of verandahs." [48]


In 1859, the L. & P.P. Express Co. utilized this station and identified it as "O'Fallon's Bluffs, and therefore it is logical that its successor, the C.O.C. & P.P. Express Co., also used the station for the Pony Express. [49] O'Fallon's Bluff Station is probably about two miles south and four miles west of Sutherland. Located just west of the bluffs named for Indian agent Benjamin O'Fallon, the station appeared in the 1861 Overland Mail Company contract as "Dansey's." This name, a corruption of "Dorsey" or "D'Orsay," possibly identified the stationkeeper. [50] Besides O'Fallons Bluffs and Dansey's, sources give the station a variety of other names, including Half Way or Halfway House, and Elkhorn. [51]


Many historical resources link Alkali Lake Station with the Pony Express. The Alkali Lake Station site is possibly two miles southwest of Paxton, in Keith County, Nebraska. Sources generally agree on its name as Alkali Lake. [52] In the 1861 Overland Mail Company contract, the station was unnamed. [53] Merrill Mattes and Paul Henderson believe that Alkali Lake Station served as a home station for the Pony Express. [54]


Little is currently known about the Gill's/Sand Hill Station site. This site is reportedly in Keith County about one and one-half miles south of Ogallala, Nebraska. The 1861 Overland Mail Company contract identified the site as Gill's, while other sources called it Sand Hill Station. [55]

40. DIAMOND SPRINGS STATION: NR 10/15/70, 70000371

The site of Diamond Springs Station was probably about a mile west of Brule, in Keith County, Nebraska. [56] In 1931, O. H. Hinrichs visited the station site and noted several trenches that indicated the outline of a rectangular stockade. Glass telegraph insulators found at the site suggest that the station later served as a telegraph station as well. [57] As late as 1960, a monument identified the Diamond Springs site on the south side of U. S. 30, .9 mile west of Brule. The text of Nebraska Monument No. 40 read: "Diamond Springs .8 mile southwest." [58]

It should be noted that some sources confuse Diamond Springs with the Beauvais Ranch, located two miles west of Diamond Springs. [59] The history of Beauvais Ranch is discussed next.


Roy Bloss and Mabel Loving identify Beauvais Ranch as a station between Alkali Lake and Diamond Springs. [60] The ranch remained popular in the 1850s and 1860s as a fording area on the South Platte River. The ford had several names, including Upper Crossing, which the L. & P.P. Express Co. listed as a stage stop. [61] The Hendersons assert that it probably did not function as a Pony Express station, unless it operated as U.S. Mail Station No. 20 listed by O. Allen's Guide Book and Map to the Gold Fields of Kansas and Nebraska. [62]

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Last Updated: 17-Jan-2008