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Echoes of the past alive at inn as Pony Express trail explored   PDF  Print  E-mail 
Written by Jaromy Jessop  
Thursday, 08 December 2005

"He turns not back who is bound to a Star"

- Leonardo Da Vinci

In this article I will begin to outline a suggested route for traveling the Pony Express Trail. I will do this in sections along with some information regarding the scenery and interesting events that transpired at the station locations so that when you stop at a historical marker, it will be a bit more interesting. Due to the fact that many Utah pioneers and soldiers from Camp Floyd traveled to and worked as far west as Ruby Valley, I will cover all of the stations to that point. But first, Camp Floyd.

Camp Floyd, or more properly, the Carson Inn, was used as a Pony Express station beginning in April of 1860. Riders could exchange horses at the station located within the Carson Inn, a structure that has been beautifully restored and is now part of Camp Floyd State Park. More than likely, riders just blew past this station grabbing the military dispatches on the run. It is probable that a lot of Pony Express business was generated by the Army in the form of official government correspondence.

This site is very interesting because you can tour the Carson Inn for a small fee, which you pay in the only remaining military structure left at Camp Floyd, the commissary. This building now houses the Camp Floyd Museum and offices of the State Park. When my family and I visited Camp Floyd last year we paid our fee and then crossed the street to the stately old Carson Inn. It was kind of eerie walking through the building on the self guided tour. The interior was lit by the pale light of a late winter afternoon. The air was cool and still and the silence was shattered with each footstep on the narrow creaky stairs.

The interior is wonderfully furnished with artifacts from the period. Some people claim this building is haunted, and while interesting, it is possible to have a creepy feeling while walking through this building. Famous individuals such as General Sidney Albert Johnston and Porter Rockwell were frequent guests at the Carson Inn. Outside the building the grounds are populated with large, ancient cottonwood trees. The area is fenced and there are picnic tables and grass, which makes this a good spot for a picnic in the warmer months of the year.

Continuing west from Camp Floyd you can imagine the riders speeding toward Five Mile Pass. As you follow Utah Highway 73 look north up into Pole Canyon at the high majestic summit of 10,626 foot Flat Top Mountain, which is the highest peak in the Oquirrh Mountains. As you approach Five Mile Pass with the Thorpe Hills to the south, notice the old railroad grade on the north side of the road with its cuts, fills and ancient stone box culverts. Imagine the old Iron Horses spewing smoke and rumbling along this grade toward the Murray smelters from Topliff and Manning. The hills in the area are now part of the Five Mile Pass OHV area and the historic grade has been reduced to a dirt bike jump in many areas.

At Five Mile Pass you will see a sign on the north side of the road which reads "Pony Express Trail 1860-1861." At this point you will leave highway 73 and enter the "Faust Cut-Off" which is a short cut to the railroad siding named Faust Station and the town of Vernon beyond. This road is a pleasure to travel now that it is paved, but for many years it was a bumpy improved dirt road. Several miles along this road you will come to the "Rush Valley Station" Pony Express Monument. This station was known as "East Rush Valley Station" back in the day.

It is a bleak and lonely place upon a plain of dry grass and sparse sage. There is not much information available on this station but Howard Egan and H.J. Faust both mentioned its existence in their journals. In 1863 Captain Randolph B. Marcy published "The Prairie Traveler" & a handbook on overland expeditions. He noted that from Camp Floyd it was 18.2 miles to the next station, which was one mile west of Meadow Creek. Therefore, it is safe to assume that after the Pony Express, this station ceased to exist.

I spent a lonely summer night at this place several years ago with only the oppressive metallic lights of South Tooele Army Depot to the north for company. It was very quiet, and a little spooky out there. Even though you can see for miles in every direction from the station marker, I kept having the sensation of someone or something watching and waiting for an opportunity to sneak up on me. I can imagine how the station men or boys felt during the nights, wondering if the Indians were preparing to attack. After all, it was the station keepers that suffered the greatest depredations at the hands of the Indians during the Pony Express operations.

Generally, the express rider's mounts were much better than the wild ponies that the Indians were riding and as a result, they could usually outrun the Indians. The station keepers were "stationary" and thus provided the Indians with an easy target. Many stations were burned and several men were killed at different points along the route.

The only evidence remaining that proves a station stood at this spot is the old monument erected by the CCC in 1939. Some complete idiots have stolen the interpretive plaque off the marker but the metallic rider medallion remains. According to the BLM, vandalism of these historic markers is a constant problem. They are in the process of working with the same company that made the medallions and plaques way back in the 1930s, but the set-up cost for a new mold alone is more than $3,000. Too bad natural selection can't weed out the fools who vandalize these monuments.

Probably the most interesting story that I know off that transpired at Rush Valley station happened about a year after the Pony Express stopped running. In 1862 Richard Erastus Egan, son of Howard Egan, camped at this spot while taking some cattle from Salt Lake to Ruby Valley, Nev. Richard stated he had his camp fire near the road and in the morning, Porter Rockwell drove up with several other deputies on a stage coach. Porter asked Richard if he was OK and Richard says he noticed a dead body in the stage. Turns out the body was that of Lot Huntington who was killed in a shoot-out while trying to escape from Porter's Posse out in the Fish Springs area.

Continuing west from the marker at Rush Valley, the road rambles along up and down a few hills and dips and comes to a rather significant railroad crossing. This is the Faust Siding and there are at least three tracks here. This is a very busy rail line and the trains blast through at high speed on their way to Los Angeles, so be very cautious when crossing the tracks here. In another mile or two you will cross Faust creek, which was known as Meadow Creek back in the time of the Pony Express.

The Express Station was located one mile west of the creek. This station was the first "Home Station" west of Salt Lake City, a distance of 75 miles. Richard Erastus Egan was the assigned rider for this route and he charged along the trail riding a mare named "Miss Lightning." He once made a 22 mile stretch in one hour and five minutes. This station was operated by Henry Jacob Faust and was often referred to as "Faust's Station." Sir Richard Burton spent the night here in late September of 1860 and described Doc Faust as "a civil and communicative man, with knowledge of books, drugs and local history".

Mr. Burton stated he went rabbit hunting that night and that the rabbits became very wild in the evening. According to Mr. Burton, he paid $3 for three feeds at this station. On one occasion, Doc Faust and his wife were nearly killed by Indians here. The story goes that Mrs. Faust had made some food for a few Indians that were hanging about the station and that the Indians became ill after eating the food. The Indians believed that Mrs. Faust had poisoned them and were preparing to kill all the whites present when Chief Pe-Anum rode up with some of his warriors and spoke on behalf of Doc Faust and saved the lives of the people there.

Another interesting thing that transpired here in 1865 was when a Mr. Robert Sutton killed a sleeping man here because the man called him a son of a you-know-what earlier that day. The unfortunate murdered man was buried in the small cemetery located near the station and Mr. Sutton was arrested, taken to Tooele, and by order of Bishop John Rowberry, executed by firing squad and buried on the spot he fell.

The station marker is well preserved on the west side of Utah Highway 36 just as you emerge from the west end of the Faust Cut-Off. A large fence has been erected around the marker and interpretive panels. The medallion and plaque are in place on the monument in a great state of preservation. The trail was quite tame up to this point but further west, it got down right ugly in what was known in the early 1860s as "Piute Hell". Here ends the first leg of the Pony Express Trail/West Desert exploration.

Jaromy D. Jessop grew up in West Valley City where he attended Kearns High School and earned the Eagle Scout award while exploring the Utah Desert. A graduate of the University of Utah, B.S. in geography, U.S. Army Reserve Captain Jessop lives with his family in Dugway where he is employed by Jacobs Sverdrup at Michael Army Airfield.

Last Updated ( Friday, 09 December 2005 )



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