Jerry Bowen, August, 1995

An account of an attack on the Egan Canyon Pony Express Station that almost echoes a Hollywood script was written by Billy Fisher, one of the riders who was an eye witness during the days of its operation in 1860-61. William F. “Billy” Fisher was one of the fast riding men whose first job at age 20 was riding with the mail between Ruby Valley and Egan Canyon. Egan Canyon is located about 3 miles south of Cherry Creek, Nevada

Billy Fisher was born Nov. 16, 1839 at Woolich, Kent, England. During the Paiute uprising in Nevada, Billy made one of the longest rides in history. He was in the saddle for 35 hours between Ruby Valley and Salt Lake City, carrying the mail through dangerous Indian country. In July, 1860 he was moved east on the run between Rush Valley and Salt Lake City, and his dangerous run was turned over to Pony Express rider William Dennis. Billy left the Nevada run to take the Salt Lake - Rush Valley run, because his bride to be, Millennium Andrus Van Etten, convinced the route superintendent to have him changed. They were later married in 1860 and first child, William E., was born in the Fall of 1861, the month the Pony Express closed down.  Billy took a job on the stage line handling horses and putting in hay for the stations, many of which were former Pony Express Stations. He died at Rigby, Idaho, September 30, 1919, and was buried on October 3, 1919 at Oxford Idaho where he was the towns first Mormon Bishop. It is not far from the northern Utah line where his son, Ray, was born March 9, 1883.

The following is a copy of the old faded pencil-written account of a raid on Egan Canyon Pony Express Station by Billy Fisher:

“In the early part of July 1860, after the death of the war chief Leatherhead, it was supposed that the Indian war between Rush Valley and Reese River, Nevada was over, and the U.S. troops under Lieutenants Weed and Perkins were ordered home to Camp Floyd, and all the soldiers that had been detailed to help guard the Pony Express stations were ordered to join their respective companies at Ruby Valley and get ready to March to Camp Floyd.

It was about the 15th of July the command started from Ruby for Camp Floyd and camped that night at Butte Station about 18 miles southeast of Ruby Valley Station. I must here give you an idea of how Egan Canyon Station was located. It was situated in a very pretty little valley about a half mile across either way. On the east was a canyon between steep, high, rugged mountains, with a stream of water running through towards the east and emptying into Steptoe Valley. About 200 or 300 yards west of where you emerged from the canyon was a large mound or knoll about 100 feet high, the emigrant road running on the north side of it. The Station was about 220 yards south of the knoll so that when you get even with the knoll the Station was out of sight from the road coming from the west. We came from Nipcut Canyon and rode to the mound and then diverged south to the Station, and the rider could not see the station until he got past the mound.

On the 16th of July the only men at Egan Canyon Station were Mike Holton, station keeper, and Wilson, rider, who took the express from Will Dennis who had my ride from Ruby East, and carried it to Schell Creek. The soldiers had left and the other 3 employees of the Express Co. who had been there for a month past, were sent to work on other portions of the route, as we all supposed the Indian war was over. But on the referred to about 80 of the renegade Reds, who had fought under Leatherhead, in all their war paint, rode through Egan Canyon up to the station and demanded of the boys, flour, bacon, and sugar. The boys handed out the provisions knowing it would not do to refuse. Mike then started out to gather the Express horses up and put them into the stockade corral, but one big Indian, who could talk some English, to go in the house, that the Indians would take care of the horses and them too after they had their feast.

Holten and Wilson were brave men, well armed, and expecting to be massacred by the murderous red devils after their pow wow was over, closed up the only door and window they had in the log cabin with grain sacks, leaving a few chink holes to shoot through, determined to sell their lives as dearly as possible. It was a trying time for those two men, but they had nerves of steel and expected to make several reds bite the dust before they lost their hair. They knew it would soon be time for Dennis, the Pony Rider from the west, to arrive and they thought as he did not show up that the Indians must have waylaid and killed him, but such was not the case.

After Dennis came through Nipcut Canyon, which was steep and rocky, he rode fast with the express until he came even with the knoll I have referred to, when he pulled up his horse for a moment to get his wind, as we usually would let our horse walk until we came into sight of the station. Dennis caught sight of the Indians before they saw him. He comprehended the situation instantly and whirled his horse out of sight of the Red Skins. He had passed the soldiers who were on the road to Camp Floyd, about 5 miles back, so he rode back as fast as possible to the command and informed Lieutenant Weed of the situation, who immediately started for Egan Canyon with 60 Dragoons. They rode fast until they got to the knoll.

Orders were then given to Corporal Mitchell to take 20 men and go on to the mouth of Egan Canyon and cut off the retreat of the redskins, but in the excitement of the moment, Mitchell got his orders mixed up and instead of going to the mouth of the canyon, he led his men around on the east side of the knoll and charged the Indians. As soon as Lieutenant Weed heard the shooting he rode around the west side of the knoll and charged right into the fight.

When Holten and Wilson saw they were going to be rescued they did rapid shooting themselves. The fight was soon over; 18 Indians fell to rise no more, and the rest of the murderous horde made their escape through the canyon. Had Corporal Mitchell not made any blunder the whole band of reds would have been killed. The soldiers got 60 of the Indians horses; three soldiers were killed and several were wounded, Corporal Mitchell receiving three shots, one through the back. He recovered from his wounds, but died about six months afterward.

After that battle the Indians sued for peace, but did not keep it, as they committed many murders on the road after that and during the next summer. It was lucky for me that Dennis had my ride as I might have been discovered by the Indians and not permitted to ride back to the command.

Egan Canyon Pony Express Station in White Pine County Nevada


Last Updated on 07/10/2001



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