In my Prescott Pioneers Series, my characters complain about the poor communication and lack of correspondence from family members. The slow and sporadic mail service in the town’s earliest days was fairly typical for the remote areas in the West at the time. Prior to the town’s formation in May 1864, settlers had little hope of communicating with the outside world other than sending mail with military couriers. Since couriers had to ride across miles of Indian controlled land, many never made it to their destination.
In the summer of 1864, things began to change. At the end of June, Duke & Company’s Pony Express established a mail route from Prescott to Mohave and on to California. They ran on the 1st and 16th of each month between Los Angeles and Mohave, then only monthly to Fort Whipple just outside of Prescott.
July brought another express route: The Pioneer Express (also called The Pioneer Pony Express). This line ran from Prescott to La Paz twice per month. It was run by two men, Robertson and Parish. In Prescott, they delivered mail to the Juniper House, the major hotel in the town. They also had offices in Lynx Creek and Weaverville. At La Paz, Chris Muir’s saloon served as an office. By the end of September, just two months after opening, the express closed.
Then, in February 1865, a gentleman by the name of James Grant started a semi-monthly run between Prescott and La Paz. The La Paz Express & Saddle Train ran mail out of Barnette & Barth’s store in Prescott and at the Quartermaster’s office in Fort Whipple on Thursday evenings. Once in La Paz, mail was again picked up at Chris Muir’s saloon. The La Paz run back to Prescott left on Wednesdays.
While many of these lines used individual horse riders to deliver the mail, for speed, some included the mail on the stage line. The typical stage could cover 4 to 5 miles per hour, versus the 10 miles per hour the lone riders covered, thus taking twice as long to cover the distance.
Other express lines started and stopped throughout the fall of 1864 and spring of 1865, mostly due to the rough conditions. Water supplies were limited. Sometimes a rider would reach a watering hole, only to find the well dry. Attacks from Indians and robbers were a great concern. Many express riders lost their lives to these threats.
All of these fun facts led me to incorporate the life of an express rider into the series, starting with the introduction of a new character in A Heart Renewed. His story continues on in the third book in the series, A Life Restored.