On the Trail of the Pony Express

Kansas
Gorp.com
Marysville Pony Express Station; first home station after St. Joseph.
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Those who trace the Pony Express Trail today may follow U.S. Highway 36 across the northeastern corner of Kansas to Marysville, where the pony riders met the Oregon Trail as it crossed the Big Blue River. At Marysville is a sturdy old stone barn that once served as a home station. Preserved as a museum by a local historical organization, its dim interior appears much as it did when Johnny Fry and the other riders would stay for several days waiting to ride a return trip back to where they started.

To one side, opposite where the horses were stabled, stands a crude, double-decked bunk covered with buffalo hides for blankets. In another corner is a forge used by a blacksmith to make instant repairs or to shoe a horse. Portholes in the thick stone walls provide the only fresh air. A museum next to the barn exhibits a mochila, a revolver carried by one of the Pony Express riders, and facsimiles of some of the most important express messages ever carried, such as the news of Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860.

Thirty miles away at Hollenberg, which is near Hanover and close to the Kansas-Nebraska border, stands a weathered ranch-style building that is the only unaltered Pony Express station remaining in its original location along the trail. Gerat Henry Hollenberg, a German immigrant, built this roadhouse on Cottonwood Creek in 18571858 to serve the increasing emigrant, freight, and stagecoach traffic along the Oregon Trail. Families looking for land to farm, men chasing visions of gold, teamsters hauling goods to the growing western population, all passed by. Many emigrants stopped to buy supplies for the trail, repair their wagons, or stay overnight.

Hollenberg was only too happy to add the Pony Express riders to his list of customers—he provided them with fresh horses and charged them 27 cents for a hot meal. Six downstairs rooms housed a store, an unofficial neighborhood post office, a tavern, and the family's living quarters. The upstairs provided a common sleeping room for the Pony Express men and stage line employees.

Each August the restored roadhouse comes alive as this Kansas state historical park celebrates a Pony Express Festival. Visitors enjoy living history demonstrations, purchase commemorative Pony Express re-ride letters, watch a wagon train arrive, and attend a church service presided over by a circuit-riding preacher.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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