April 2010 is the 150th Anniversary of the Pony Express, which operated from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California running day and night, east and west, for just 18 months. Closing of the original company was a result of the completion of the telegraph from coast to coast and because of the impending Civil War. The route and logo, however, continued for a number of years as a part of Wells Fargo and finally the United States Postal Service.
Benicia became a part of this journey whenever the horse and rider missed the ferry at Sacramento. The route then became overland, with the horse and rider traveling into Benicia, taking the ten-minute ferry ride to Martinez, and continuing by land to Oakland and by ferry to San Francisco. It is reported that the Pony Express “missed the boat” 20 times.
Also of special concern in Benicia was the worry that General Albert Sydney Johnston, the Commander of the Arsenal, might be pro secessionist in the wake of the impending Civil War. A secret message was sent via Pony Express to Washington, D.C. and President Lincoln. New officers were dispatched to Benicia, as maintaining the Arsenal for the Union was imperative for recruiting and sending munitions and funds to assist the Union forces. General Johnston did resign his commission and later became a Confederate General.
On Sunday, April 18 at 2pm, Dr. Robert Chandler, senior research historian for Wells Fargo Bank and author of Wells Fargo will present a program on the Pony Express at the Benicia Historical Museum. The program to be held in Stone Hall is free of charge and open to the public.