In March of 1860, Cold Springs Pony Express Station was built by Superintendent Bolivar Roberts, J.G. Kelly and others. It was put to use by the Pony Express in early April. Jim McNaughton was the station keeper at Cold Springs until he became a rider. J. G. Kelly was assistant station keeper at Cold Springs for a while.
The 1860 structure was built of large native rocks and mud. It was a large station, measuring 116 feet by 51 feet. The walls were four to six feet high and up to three feet thick. There were four distinct rooms -- storage area, barn, corral, and living quarters. The horse corral was located next to the living quarters primarily as a safety measure to guard the valuable animals. This location also took full advantage of the animals' body heat during cold Nevada winters. The only other source of heat was from one small fireplace.
On Bob Haslam's famous ride he stopped at Cold Springs to change horses and went on to Smith Creek Station. He stayed there nine hours and when he returned to Cold Springs he found it had been attacked by Indians, the keeper killed and all the horses taken away. Bob watered his horse and headed for Sand Springs.
The following morning Smith Creek Station was attacked by Indians. The whites, however, were well protected in the shelter of a stone house, from which they fought the Indians for four days. At the end of that time they were relieved by the appearance of about 50 volunteers from Cold Springs. These men reported that they had buried John Williams, the brave keeper of that station, but not before he had been nearly devoured by wolves.
A few weeks after "Pony" Bob Haslam's ride, problems were still arising at Cold Springs Station as was reported to W. W. Finney, road agent from C.H. Ruffin, an employee of the company (May 31, 1860):
"I have just returned from Cold Springs - was driven out by the Indians, who attacked us night before last. The men at Dry Creek Station have been killed, and it is thought the Robert's Creek Station has been destroyed. The Express turned back after hearing the news from Dry Creek. Eight animals were stolen from Cold Springs on Monday. Hamilton is at the Sink of the Carson, on his way in with all the men and horses. He will get to Buckland's tomorrow."
Cold Springs Station was the site of other unhappy events as reported by a Placerville newspaper letter to the editor on May 31, 1860:
"Bartholomew Riley died last night in Carson City of a rifle-shot wound received at Cold Springs Station, on the Pony Express route, on the 16th of May. He had received an honorable discharge from Company E of the 19th Regiment of U. S. Infantry, at Camp Floyd, and was in route to California where he has brothers and sisters residing, when intelligence of the Indian outrage at William's ranch was first brought to Carson. As might be expected from a gallant soldier, he did not hesitate what course to pursue, but at once threw himself into the ranks of the ill-fated volunteers, under Major Ormsby. During the trying scenes of that bloody day at Pyramid Lake, he was conspicuous among them all for the intrepidity and gallantry of his conduct. Like the white plume of Henry Navarre, his course was where the battle raged fiercest, and he heeded them not. More than one of the dusky enemy were made painfully aware of the unerring accuracy of his aim whilst his were the friendly hands that performed the last kind services for the lamented Ormsby.
"Among the last to leave the field, Riley did not reach Buckland until the Express going east arrived on the 15th of May. The rider upon whom developed the duty of going forward with the Express shrinking from its performance and when there seemed no alternative but a failure, Riley, fresh from the battle field and tired as he was, stepped forth and volunteered to ride to the next change, a distance of 85 miles. He did so in excellent time.
"On the following day, at Cold Springs Station, by the accidental discharge of a weapon in the hands of a friend, he received wounds from which he died last night. He sleeps - he has fought his last battle - may the last trump awake him to glory again."
After the Indian problems of the spring and summer of 1860, Sir Richard Burton passed through Cold Springs in his travels and gave this account on October 15, 1860:
"The station was a wretched place half built and wholly unroofed; the four boys, an exceedingly rough set, ate standing, and neither paper nor pencil was known amongst them. Our animals, however, found good water in a rivulet from the neighboring hills and the promise of a plentiful feed on the morrow. Whilst the humans, observing that a beef had been freshly killed supped upon an excellent steak. The warm wind was a pleasant contrast to the usual frost but as it came from the south all the weather-wise predicted that rain would result. We slept however without such accident, under the haystack, and heard the loud howling of the wolves, which are said to be larger on these hills than elsewhere."
Station keepers and riders were continually changing. Another rider that stayed at Cold Springs was William James. He rode in 1861 between Simpson Park and Cold Springs. Today at Cold Springs a substantial fortress still stands out on the trail. Living quarters and corral are easily recognized as well as windows, gun holes, and a fireplace. The "rivulet of good water from the neighboring hills, that Burton found so refreshing is still running by the old ruins.
Source: Mason, The Pony Express in Nevada, 1976.