Thump, clack, thump. All heads turned. Crystal Newborn rode her galloping horse, a red rose delicately placed on her white cowgirl hat.
She raced to the plaza in Old Sacramento and came to a hard stop. The route was officially complete.
Newborn, 22, completed the last leg Thursday of an annual Pony Express reenactment tracing the historic mail route from St. Joseph, Mo., to Sacramento. The 10-day ride marked the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express founding.
“It is important to reenact history,” Newborn said. “To know where we come from and how our civilization started.”
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From April 1860 to November 1861, the Pony Express delivered letters, news and telegrams. The Central Overland California and Pike’s Peak Express Company used the service, attempting to win a federal mail contract by showing the route could be traveled year-round.
Although the central route did not win a contract, Congress added it to the National Trails System as a historic trail organized by the National Park Service.
Davey Waiser, the first rider, left the Patee House in St. Joseph, Mo., on June 15 at 10 a.m. Newborn arrived at 2nd and J streets in Old Sacramento on June 25th at 2 p.m.
Over 600 riders from various organizations and over 44 in California took part in the event, riding in relays of one to five miles. In total, they covered eight states: Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California.
Riders carried a GPS device so people could follow the historical reenactment using new technology, according to Chris McSwain, executive director of the Old Sacramento Business Association.
“It is a mix of something that is old tech with something new like social media, and it is charming,” McSwain said. “History is being retold and it is completely new.”
Before departing, participants receive a commemorative Bible and take the Pony Express Oath, a pledge to not drink liquor, swear or fight with other members of the association.
In the 1860s, riders would take the oath when they signed up as employees, said Lyle Ladner, the President of the National Pony Express Association. The original owners and developers of the Pony Express were religious and lived by the Bible.
David Kittle, third vice president to the National Pony Express Association and a past rider, said riding is reliving one of the most romantic parts of history. He said men would plunder across rivers and desert just to deliver news and the mail.
The association aims to accurately re-enact the ride every year, matching the price of letters delivered in the 1860s and the outfits worn. At the Old Sacramento plaza where a statue commemorates the mail route, members of the association were dressed in western attire, wearing blue jeans, red shirts, yellow scarfs and brown vests, boots and hats.
In the 1860s, mail cost $5 per letter and took about 10 days of travel until it reached its destination, Ladner said.
This year, a general letter could be purchased for $5 and a personal packet, letter and stationary, could be bought for $10. Both letters were carried by the pony riders in a mochila – a leather square with four pockets – and were dropped off in Old Sacramento.
Ladner said the event is important to himself and the community because it focuses on the country’s diverse history.
“We keep the history in front of the public,” Ladner said. “It draws a lot of interest in our history, the trails and the parks that we have.”