Pony Express Monument

Victoria Beach
Annapolis County
Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia: Original Pony Express Monument, 1949

The plaque reads:
Erected by
the Government
of Canada

The Pony Express

From February until November,
1849, when the telegraph office
in Halifax was opened, news
from Great Britain to the
United States brought by the
Cunard steamers was expressed
for the Associated Press and
a rival organization from
Halifax to Digby Gut, by riders
who changed at Kentville but
had fresh mounts every twelve
miles of the 144 mile route;
carried by steamer to Saint
John and thence despatched to
its destination by telegraph.

Plaque Marks Achievement
in Co-Operation

The Story of the Bronze Plaque
in Victoria Beach, Nova Scotia

By Hortense Spurr Gilliatt

The Halifax Chronicle-Herald
Date not known (believed to be after 1966)

The author, a long-time correspondent for this newspaper, is honorary president of the Historical Association of Annapolis Royal, a former president (for 3 years), and former secretary of the association (for 33 years).

ANNAPOLIS ROYAL — In the village of Victoria Beach, Annapolis County, Nova Scotia, there is a big boulder on the water side of the paved road, surmounted by a bronze tablet 2½ feet by 1½ feet 75 cm by 45 cm, bearing this inscription:

Erected by
The Government of Nova Scotia (sic)

Pony Express

From February until November, 1849, when the telegraph office was
opened in Halifax, news from Great Britain to the United States, brought
by the Cunard steamers, was expressed for the Associated Press and a
rival organization, from Halifax to Digby Gut, by riders who changed at
Kentville but had fresh mounts every 12 miles on the route; carried
by steamer to Saint John and despatched to its destination by telegraph.

The Historical Association of Annapolis Royal was instrumental in having this plaque erected, and thus a wonderful bit of history is recorded.

It is interesting to remember that when this narrow road to Victoria Beach was being widened and paved a few years ago, the boulder could not be moved.  A thoughtful workman removed the plaque, and kept it safely in his barn, until a member of the Historical Association found it and caused it to be replaced two years later.

The late Dr. D.C. Harvey, of Halifax, then honorary president of the Historical Association of Annapolis Royal, and provincial archivist, presided at a ceremony in 1949 (sic, this unveiling ceremony actually took place on 26 August 1953) of unveiling.  Miss Gertrude Anderson, RN, granddaughter of the late James King, of Halifax, who operated the express, unveiled the plaque.  R.J. Rankin, of Halifax, then vice-president of the Canadian Press, and managing editor of the Halifax Herald Ltd., was the guest speaker.

The Pony Express must not be confused with the carrying by mounted carriers, in the early days, of the mail.  The Pony Express was started by six newspapers in New York for the purpose of forwarding European news to Boston and New York in advance of the arrival at Boston of the English mail steamers from Halifax.

The Pony Express service was inaugurated on the morning of February 21, 1849, covering the distance of 144 miles 232 km between Halifax and Victoria Beach in eleven hours.  The time was reduced on the second trip to eight hours, making an average of one mile in 3.29 minutes one kilometre in about 2 minutes 3 seconds, or 29 km/h. The Pony Express brought into existence the Associated Press, the greatest news-gathering organization in existence.

The journey was performed by riders who changed at Kentville, and the ride was divided into twelve stages with fresh horses about every twelve miles.  When the Pony Express rider arrived in Granville Ferry, a gun was fired at the old Fort Anne, in Annapolis Royal, signalling the steamer The Conqueror at Victoria Beach to be in readiness for immediate departure for Saint John.

A story is told of a rider who, one dark night, felt his horse leap into the air, but didn't know until the next morning that his horse had spanned twenty feet six metres of water because a bridge had been swept away. (sic)

Mr. Rankin said in his address:

The significance of what transpired during the earlier period increased over subsequent years until today a great co-operative known as the Canadian Press extends to the remote parts of the world, has come into being.  There is no more highly competitive business in the world than the newspaper business, yet here we found a group of publishers banding together to bring raw material — the lifeblood of their various enterprises — to the same city in which they fought each other, tooth and nail, for readers for their publications.  Nowhere in the business world will you find a similar parallel.

Mr. Rankin also said:

A free press was the strongest asset a nation could have ... Nova Scotia played a prominent part in its development.

Not only was Nova Scotia the scene of pioneering efforts, through its Pony Express, but the province was also the birthplace and home of that great statesman, Joseph Howe.  No more staunch champion of freedom of the press ever had a place in Canadian public life.

It was 14 years before the Pony Express was originated that Howe argued and won his great libel trial.  Howe's eloquent stand, and his victory, did not apply to Nova Scotia alone; as a matter of fact, the heritage he defended then is ours in the present.

Some of the details in this article are open to question,
in particular the missing bridge.  Other sources tell the
story of the horse making a great leap over a gap due
to a swing span being left open overnight, which is
not the same as the bridge having been "swept away."

More About the
Nova Scotia Pony Express

The 1849 Nova Scotia Pony Express

Photographs of the Nova Scotia Pony Express monument

Pony Express Monument Unveiled, Halifax Chronicle-Herald 27 Aug 1953

Halifax Express The Novascotian, 26 February 1849

Halifax Express The British Colonist, 10 March 1849

Halifax Express The Acadian Recorder, 10 March 1849

The Second Run of the Nova Scotia Pony Express 8 March 1849

Nova Scotia Pony Express 1849, by John Regan 5 January 1912

Nova Scotia Pony Express 1849, by George Mullane 1 Jan 1914

Nova Scotia Pony Express 1849, by Murrille Schofield 1973

Nova Scotia Pony Express, by D. A. MacNeill April 1940

Nova Scotia Pony Express, by CBC Radio 11 June 1999

The Cunard Steamship fleet, 1849
These ships brought the news carried by the Pony Express

Burket's Exchange News Room Halifax 1848-1849

Pony Express Editorial, Halifax Chronicle-Herald 15 Feb 1999

Radio Station X1J1F Victoria Beach, Nova Scotia, 1999
set up in recognition of the 150th anniversary
of the 1849 Nova Scotia Pony Express

The Oregon Boundary dispute, 1849
Britain and USA close to war – the Nova Scotia Pony Express
was the fastest link carrying breaking news to U.S.A.

Go To:   Nova Scotia Pony Express 1849

Go To:   Timeline of the First Thirty Years of Radio, 1895-1925

Go To:   Marconi Wireless Telegraph in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Telegraph and Telephone Companies in Nova Scotia

Go to:   Ode to the Code ...Morse Code is officially retired...
Go to:   Farewell to Morse Code
Go To:   The Duke of Kent's Signal Stations by S.G. Roscoe
Go To:   Communications Links between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1849
Go To:   History of Railway Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Electric Power Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Automobiles in Nova Scotia

Go To:   Nova Scotia History, Chapter One

Photographs of War Memorials, Historic Monuments and Plaques in Nova Scotia

Go To:   Nova Scotia Quotations

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