The next Pony Express station we come to when traveling east along the Fort Churchill Road from Miller’s Station is really the site of two stations serving the same general area. The first one, established in 1860, was Buckland’s Station. At that time, Fort Churchill didn’t exist. It wasn’t until the summer of 1861, after the Pyramid Lake Indian Wars, that Fort Churchill was constructed to provide a military presence to protect the citizens of the Nevada Territory from hostile Indian attacks.
Samuel S. Buckland, originally from Ohio, established a ranch near the Carson River about 30 miles east of Dayton along the Overland Route to California. Buckland and James O. Williams had been partners in several ventures before coming to Nevada and when they arrived here, they both established stations on the Overland Stage route. Buckland built a log cabin and a saloon on his ranch which became known as Buckland’s Station. The stage company kept horses at the station and Buckland furnished livestock, hay, whiskey and other essentials to emigrants, ranchers and travelers.
Samuel Buckland constructed the first bridge across the Carson River adjacent to his station. This was the only toll bridge east of Carson Valley to provide a crossing on the river. In March 1860, Bolivar Roberts of the Pony Express made arrangements with Samuel Buckland to use his “good-sized cabin” as a Pony Express station. Buckland was too busy with other affairs to become the station keeper, so the position was taken by W.C. Marley. The place served as a rider-relay, or home station until Fort Churchill was established in the summer of 1860.
During the short time between March and July 1860, several memorable events took place at Buckland’s Station. Robert “Pony Bob” Haslam regularly made his run from Friday’s Station at Lake Tahoe to Buckland’s Station, a distance of about 75 miles. A few days later he would make the return trip. On May 10, 1860, Pony Bob completed his regular run from Friday’s to Buckland’s, where he expected his relief rider would be waiting.
The rider, Johnson Richardson, had heard of Indian troubles east of Buckland’s, including the massacre at Williams Station, and refused to take his turn carrying the mail. The station manager offered Haslam extra money to continue the route, which he gladly accepted. Pony Bob rode all the way to Smith Creek, then, after resting nine hours, he made the return trip to Friday’s, making the longest run in Pony Express history.
While Pony Bob was making his famous longest ride on May 11, the quickly formed militia from Carson, Dayton and Virginia City stopped and stayed at Buckland’s on their way to avenge the attack of Williams Station. When they continued on their way, they took the Pony Express horses with them. Four days later, the badly beaten survivors of the first battle of the Pyramid Lake Indian War straggled back to Buckland’s Station. Among the surviving volunteers was John “Snowshoe” Thompson. Of the 105 volunteers who participated in the campaign, 76 were killed, including their unofficial leader, Maj. William Ormsby. This was the most serious Indian battle in the history of Nevada.
The Pyramid Lake Indian wars and repeated attacks on Pony Express stations and riders across the territory caused a disruption in regular mail service by the Pony Express for the remainder of May 1860 until July when service once again resumed. Fort Churchill was established during the summer of 1860 to provide some protection along the route and a military presence to deter hostilities.
Once Fort Churchill was established, the Pony Express station was moved about one mile west of Buckland’s to the fort headquarters. Samuel Buckland continued to operate his station and raise livestock, hay and other crops for the Pony Express and the Overland Stage Co.
This article is by Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli, who can be contacted on his blog at denniscassinelli.com. All Cassinelli’s books sold through this publication will be at a discount plus $3 for each shipment for postage and packaging.