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St. Joseph – Home to the Pony Express and the last stand of Jesse James

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By Wayne Lazarus on March 3rd, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

The Wild West is not as far west as you might think. St. Joseph, Missouri was the starting point for the Pony Express — and also where Jesse James was living when he was killed in April 1882. You can see artifacts from his life, the hole left in the wall by the bullet that Bob Ford shot at him, even the evidence from the 1995 exhumation which was to determine whether James was really the man who was killed at the Jesse James Home on Penn Street in St. Joseph.PXP Riders

The home is managed by the Patee House Museum, which is just a block away. The Patee House was a luxury museum at the time, and James’ family stayed for two nights after his murder. Investigators questioned witnesses there. Prior to that, the building was the headquarters for the Pony Express from 1860 to 1861. It is now a history museum with exhibits reflecting transportation, communications and other aspects of the west, including Western art by George Warfels.

A few blocks further down Penn is the Pony Express Museum, inside the orginal Pikes Peak Stables where the horses were kept. The year 2010 marks the 150th year since the first rider, Johnny Fry took off across the country with a saddlebag full of mail, intending to reduce delivery time from almost a month to ten days. The museum and St. Joseph are celebrating the Sesquicentennial with a parade, re-enactments and period food in April.

St. Joseph was involved in Civil War history as well. (Legend has it that the Civil War is what turned James to a life of crime.) The city describes itself as “where the west started getting wild” and has more than a dozen museums celebrating art and history. Those particularly interested in the Jesse James legend can download the Jesse James driving tour, created by the St. Joseph Convention and Visitors Bureau. The drive crosses four counties and takes visitors from the house he was born in through banks he robbed and on to St. Joseph where he was killed.

(Post image courtesy Pony Express Museum.)

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