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Stories from the valley

Pleasant Grove House: A Historic Pony Express Station

Contributed by Keli Gwyn

Although short-lived, the Pony Express played an important part in connecting East and West. Youthful, wiry riders—some reputed to be as young as 14—mounted swift ponies to carry the mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento and, via ferry, on to San Francisco. Each of these brave young men rode between 75-100 miles in a shift, changed horses 5-8 times, and earned between $100 and $150 per month, depending on the difficulty of his portion of the route.

Pleasant Grove House

A rider would start at one home station and ride to the next, stopping along the way at relay stations. One such relay station, Pleasant Grove House, was located on Green Valley Road in Rescue, opposite Pleasant Grove School. In its prime, Pleasant Grove House boasted an inn with nine rooms upstairs, a 60-foot combination sleeping-dining room downstairs, a blacksmith shop, and two barns, one of which included a 1,160 square-foot dance floor upstairs. Pleasant Grove House served as a relay station from July 1, 1860 to June 30, 1861.

Pleasant Grove House historic marker sign

Built in 1850 by Rufus Hitchcock, Pleasant Grove House saw many changes of ownership over the years. There are conflicting reports about who owned the property when the first set of pounding hooves showed up bearing a Pony Express rider, but one thing is certain: that rider wasn’t there long. In just two minutes, he would leap from his spent pony, grab the leather mochila bearing up to 20 pounds of mail, sling it over the saddle on a fresh horse, mount up, and be on his way. 

horse barn at Pleasant Grove House

Sadly, Pleasant Grove House, which is privately owned and vacant, has fallen into a state of disrepair. At present, there are no plans for restoration. Unless the situation changes, an important piece of history will be lost. If you’re traveling along Green Valley Road between Folsom and El Dorado Hills, I encourage you to pull over, take a few minutes to see this sight for yourself, and reflect on the role this special place played. As you watch the few head of cattle grazing before you and listen to the roar of cars on the road behind you, envision the flurry of excitement that ensued as a Pony Express rider approached. If you give your imagination a free rein, you just might hear hoofbeats.