HW50 -Pony Express and Eureka

The ride from Austin to Eureka took us along The Pony Express route – here we found lots of points of historic interest.

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.

Once upon a time, a Pony Express station stood here

I was sent off down a track to look at the actual remains – I kept my beady eye open for rattlers all the way down the track

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.

Remains of the actual Pony express station

Pony Bob Haslam

Born: January 1840, London, England
Died: February 29, 1912, Chicago, Illinois

“Pony Bob” Haslam, was one of the most daring, resourceful, and best known riders on the route. He was born January 1840 in London, England, and came to U.S. as a teen. He was hired by Bolivar Roberts, helped build the stations, and was assigned the run from Friday’s Station at the foot of Lake Tahoe to Buckland’s Station near Fort Churchill 75 miles to the east. Perhaps his greatest ride, 120 miles in 8 hours and 20 minutes while wounded, was an important contribution to the fastest trip ever made by the Pony Express. The message carried, Lincoln’s Inaugural Address.

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.

Pony Bob Haslam’s is credited with having made the longest round trip ride oft he Pony Express. He had received the east bound mail (probably the May 10th mail from San Francisco) at Friday’s Station. At Buckland’s Station his relief rider was so badly frightened over the Indian threat that he refused to take the mail. Haslam agreed to take the mail all the way to Smith’s Creek for a total distance of 190 miles without a rest. After a rest of nine hours, he retraced his route with the westbound mail. At Cold Springs he found that Indians had raided the place killing the station keeper and running off all of the stock. Finally he reached Buckland’s Station, making the 380-mile round trip the longest on record.

It was only about 130 miles to the next town, Eureka.

*Eureka!* a miner is said to have exclaimed in September of 1864, when the discovery of rich ore was made here. And so the town was named.

First priority was breakfast. There were 2 motorcycles park outside the diner and the reg plate on one caught my eye immediately, so I went in and asked which of the only 2 biker-looking-guys, ‘Who has the iron butt?’

This is a mark of a serious rider – to earn membership to the Iron Butt Association, you need to ride at least 1,000 miles in a 24 hour period.

Respect, man!

The breakfast was tasty and, afterwards we went out to chat to the other tow bikers, Frank and Steve – both police officers from California. what a nice couple of chaps they are too. Steve is also a part-time crooner, singing Frank Sinatra and Rat pack songs. Check out his great voice here


The amazing thing was, Frank (left) had recently visited Gran Canaria and been in Las Palmas – now what is the chance of meeting an American, on the Loneliest Road In America – who has been to our home port? He had heard (may actually have been there around the same time) about the nut-job who had decapitated an English woman in a supermarket on one of the islands! It was a pleasure to meet these two lovely guys and chat.

The Courthouse, Eureka

I like Eureka – it’s a really clean, friendly town that takes great pride in its history and the Historical society goes out-of-the-way to promote it – last time here, I was given a free CD with lots of stories about the towns on HW50.

Eureka County was established in 1873. Its lands were derived from Elko, Lander and White Pine counties. The Town of Eureka was first settled in 1865 and was subsequently designated the County Seat in 1873.

Eureka prides itself on being “The Friendliest Town on the Loneliest Road.” And small though it may be, the town has more than a few interesting offerings for visitors and residents alike.

Another historic treasure is the Eureka Sentinel Museum, home of the former Eureka Sentinel newspaper from 1879 to 1960. On the ground floor, visitors can see an authentic 1880s pressroom complete with original newspaper equipment. The museum also features vintage mining equipment and ledgers, military uniforms, a reconstructed 1880s barbershop, and various exhibits depicting life in the early days of Eureka. Other interesting sites include the Eureka County Courthouse, which boasts two large bells cast in Cincinnati, Ohio, and San Francisco; the Jackson House Hotel, which was remodeled in 1998; and Al’s Hardware, once a saloon and cash store.

The Eureka Opera House was built on the ashes of the Odd Fellows Hall, destroyed by the great main street fire of August 1879. The Opera House was used for the first time for the New Years Eve Costume Ball in 1880.

The Opera House has always served as a gathering place for the people of Eureka. It has been the site of entertainment of all types as well as the annual Nob Hill Fire Company Masquerade Ball held every year from 1880 until well into the 1900’s.

The first silent movie was shown in 1915 and then in the 1920s the opera house was changed into the Eureka Theatre and talkie shows were presented. In 1923 the original oleo curtain on the stage was destroyed by fire and was then replaced with the curtain with advertisements from local businesses from 1924. The last movie was shown in 1958 and the building had fallen into disrepair.

In 1990 Eureka County acquired the structure and began a three-year restoration. The building received the 1994 National Preservation Honor Award after being reopened on October 5, 1993.

Production companies such as the Utah Shakespeare Festival have graced the Opera House’s stage for special performances of the Bard’s great works.

The Opera House, Eureka
Opera House, Eureka - the corridors and stairwells are signed by the hundreds of performers who have appeared here

The historic elements such as the original projectors from the early days of the silent movies, the first “talkies” projector, and a carbon-arc spot light are on display. The 1924 Oleo curtain still hangs at the front of the stage. Historic graffiti has been preserved back stage from the early days and the tradition has been continued with signatures of the people who have performed at the Eureka Opera House since it was reopened.

And there are some wonderful old photos - signed by many famous people

We dithered – should we stay the night in Eureka or carry on to the next town, Ely? Well great as Eureka is, Ely was calling – a larger town with more choice of motels and a few more things to do – one of which, was my hope to talk to the girls in the state-run brothel.

To be continued 😀

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