Fur trapper Joseph Robidoux founded this town on the Missouri River in 1843, and westbound travel helped it grow. Emigrants stopped here by the thousands to buy supplies, their wagons crowding the streets as they waited to be ferried across the river and continue their treks.
But for modern travelers, Jesse James and the Pony Express draw most of the attention.
The Pony Express National Museum offers a terrific venue to relive the braveryof the young men who made breakneck rides from St. Joseph to Sacramento and back.
When visitors step inside the refurbished Pony Express stables, a sensor triggers a recording telling the story of Johnny Fry. To the sound of a cannon blast, he rode out of the stable at 7:15 p.m. on April 3, 1860, beginning the Pony Express era, which lasted only 18 months.
See life-size figures of Fry, his father and another man preparing to open the stable door. One museum room has multiple panels with information about heroes like Bronco Charlie. He started as a substitute rider for Pony Express at age 11 and became the last living former rider, dying at age 105.
In 1860, the first floor of Patee House Museum, now a National Historic Landmark, served as the Pony Express’s headquarters.
After Bob Ford killed Jesse James in St. Joseph in 1882, the outlaw’s family spent two nights at Patee House, then called World’s Hotel. The home in which Jesse was shot, originally two blocks away, was moved to the Pat