Today people often use the term "snail mail" when referring to U.S. Postal Service, but today's mail delivery is super-sonic compared to that of the 19th century.
However, mailing a letter out or receiving one in early Dodge City was relatively easy. In other places, it wasn't so simple.
The ease of mail service here was due to the luxury of having the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad run through town.
This luxury is what helped Buffalo City, and later Dodge City, thrive in frontier days.
Our mail came and left by train along with many other goods and commodities. Things shipped out included buffalo hides and longhorn cattle, both of which built this City.
Before the railroads came west, mail took months to travel from coast to coast. It had to be shipped cross-country over trails or take a perilous journey sailing around the notorious Horn at the bottom of South America.
In the 1860s, our region benefited from a network of wagon roads connecting U.S. Army outposts. Along with the Santa Fe Trail, trails ran from Fort Dodge to other forts including Fort Hays, Fort Larned, Camp Supply in Indian Territory, and Fort Lyon in Colorado.
As settlers moved west, stage lines moved into the fill the need of movement of people and goods, including mail. But, stagecoaches and wagons were slow and had to stop at night.
To speed things up, William Russell, along with Alexander Majors and William Waddell, instituted the Central Overland Pony Express Co., which began delivering mail on April 3, 1860.
Their endeavor was to get mail across the country at the speed of continually galloping horses, which turned out to be as little as 10 days.
The effort required hundreds of horses, scores of riders and numerous stations to trade horses every 10 to 15 miles and riders every 75.
The Pony Express, which ran from St. Joseph, Mo. to Sacramento, Calif., did not come through Dodge City, but the eastern end ran through the northeast part of our State.
The trip was dangerous as it went through Indian country. To attract young riders Russell had to pay the riders up to $2,750 per month in today's money. Ads for riders read "Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred."
Only one of the 183 riders, aged from 11 through the 40's, was killed by Indians and his pony completed his route mail intact to the next station.
Russell ended the Pony Express two days after the first coast-to-coast telegraph made this service obsolete. Despite delivering 34,753 pieces of mail during the 19 months of its existence, the venture lost nearly $200,000.
Even after the railroads made services such as the Pony Express even more outdated, the railroads did not go everywhere.
P.G. Reynolds filled a need in our area by operating the Dodge City and Panhandle Stage Line which carried passengers and freight, as well as U.S. mail, south into Texas, north to Wakeeney and as far west as New Mexico. This stage line lasted until 1888.
The history of mail delivery in this part of the country, including the Pony Express, demonstrates just how much we take our "snail mail" service for granted.
We would be outraged if a letter from St. Joseph to Sacramento took as long as 10 days.