Historical Details

Hat Creek Dateline: 1876/08/12

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 02/07/1990

Mail Carrier Walks to Hat Creek
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer

Brant Street, "Pioneer Pony Express rider, walked in last night carrying his mail pouches and rifle. He had been attacked by Indians about eight miles east of here (near Dan Kraft's ranch house). As usual he had been riding with only his mail pouches, Remington rifle and a pouch of cartridges. On this trip he was not expecting trouble since the Indians had been unusually quiet for the last week or so when suddenly a volley of shots was fired at him. He said that the world seemed to be instantly full of Indians. His horse fell dead at the first shots. One ball struck the pommel of the saddle and another knocked the heel from Street's boot.

Getting free from the downed horse as quickly as he could, Street grabbed his rifle and pouch of cartridges and scrambled to a near-by gully with bullets whistling by his head and kicking up dust at his feet. He threw himself full length into the ditch as the Indians were closing in on him and as he put it he started "pumping lead back at them."

Things got so hot for the Indians that they soon headed for cover but kept firing intermittent long shots at him until dark, when they apparently withdrew.

Street said the three or four hours he spent hugging the ground there "seemed longer than so many days at any other time of his life." The nerve of the man was shown in the fact that after dark settled down, he crawled out to his dead horse, disengaged the pouches of mail and carried them on his shoulder to the Hat Creek Station.

Note: During these early days of the gold rush in the Black Hills there was no government provision for mail delivery. This was a matter usually entrusted to freighters or individuals leaving the hills.

As early as December 1875 V. Dunlap established a pony express between Cheyenne and the mining camps. Mail on his route was to be deposited at Dyer's Hotel and he proposed it to go through in five days. There is no record of how long Dunlap's express functioned.

The Pioneer Pony Express had been launched in July by Seymor and Charlie Utter (Colorado Charlie) who had traveled to the hills with Wild Bill Hickok a few weeks ago. A Mr. Ingolls was also associated with them in this venture. They advertised that they were prepared to deliver express as well as mail. Their carriers made the Deadwood to Fort Laramie trip in 48 hours and often carried 3,000 to 4,500 letters at a charge of 25 cents each.

The Pioneer Pony Express met with general favor in Deadwood, however Utter and the others soon sold it to Clippinger whose services did not prove so satisfactory.

(Information sources: The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Route by Agnes Wright Spring. Black Hills Pioneer Years by Richard Hughes.)

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