Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hero of Hundred Hold-Ups - Charlie Parks

Below is an article from the Salt Lake Herald. Our family had the original which I scanned (below) but was unable to read parts of it. I emailed the Herald and they had a micro-phish copy that they sent. Charlie Parks is my Great/Great grandfather Love the flowery descriptions of the time !!

Hero of Hundred Hold-Ups is Dead In San Francisco

Charlie Parks, Intrepid Pony Express of Pioneer days, Succumbs Remembered in Salt Lake.

Special to the Herald. (March 28, 1907)

San Francisco, March 27 -- One of the picturesque characters of the pioneer days of the west passed away today when Charles E. Parks died at his home, No. 1198 O'Farrell street in this city. In the early '60's Parks was a pony express rider in Utah, Nevada and California. For a time he rode into and out of Salt Lake City. Afterwards he became a member of Wells Fargo's corp of armed messengers. As such he engaged in numerous battles with road agents and was often grievously wounded. It is said that he bore more bullet scars on his body than any other man in California. He had made San Francisco his home for half a century and was engaged in the insurance and brokerage business. He was about 70 years of age. He was survived by a widow and four daughters, Mrs. R.S. Martin, Mrs. H.C. Rickard, Charlotte Parks and Mary Parks and one son, Walter S. Parks. He had amassed a comfortable fortune during his lifetime.

"Charlie" Parks was one of the 80 pony express riders who served Salt Lake City during the early 60's. Many of the old-time residents of this city recall the name well but as Parks was on the Salt Lake division only for a short time, he is not so well remembered as some of the other lightening mail carrying heroes of those days. Captain Thomas Dobson of Centerville says he recalls the fact that Parks was regarded as one of the most capable and faithful men of the western division.. Parks work was chiefly performed in Nevada and California, where he became famous for his daring courage and loyalty.

A Famous Mail Service

The death of Parks brings to mind the stirring times when the pony express was the swiftest of all things in these regions. The first of the riders to reach Salt Lake City arrived here on April 7, 1860: he carried mail four days old from Sacramento. The first mail from the east by pony express come on April 9: the service was inaugurated on April 3 simultaneously at Sacramento an St. Joseph. Between St. Joseph and Sacramento eighty riders were constantly on the road, forty going in one direction and forty in the other. The 1,900 miles were covered in eight days, or at the rate of 250 miles per day. The stage coaches covered the distance in from fifteen to sixteen days, making between 100 and 125 miles per day. The pony express service had 400 of the swiftest horses obtainable continuously at work.

Tribute to the Riders

Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) pays a deserved tribute to the pony express riders in his delightful work on western life and the scenes in the days of the pioneers. "Roughing It." He writes: "Think of that for perishable horse and human flesh to do. The pony rider was usually a little bit of a man brim full of spirit and endurance. No matter what time of day his watch came and not matter whether winter or summer, raining, snowing, hailing or sleeting, or whether his 'beat' was a level, straight road or a crazy trail over mountain crags and precise or whether it lead through peaceful regions or regions that swarmed with hostile Indians, he must be always ready to leap into the saddle and be off like the wind. There was no idling for a pony express rider on duty. He rode fifty miles without stopping, by daylight, moonlight, starlight, or through the blackness of darkness -- just as it happened. He rode a splendid horse that was born for a racer and fed and lodged like a gentleman: kept him at his utmost speed for ten miles, and then, as he came crashing up a station where stood two men holding fast a fresh, impatient steed, the transfer of the rider and the mail bag was made in the twinkling of an eye and away flew the eager pair were out of sight before the spectator could hardly get a ghost of a look.

No Unnecessary Weight

"Both the rider and the horse went 'flying light'. The riders dress was thin and fitted close: he wore a 'roundabout' and a skull cap and tucked his pantaloons into his boots like a race rider. He carried no arms -- he carried nothing that was not absolutely necessary, for even the postage on his literary freight was worth $5 a letter. He got but little frivolous correspondence to carry -- hi bag had mostly business letters in it. His horse was stripped of unnecessary weight too. He wore a little wafer of a racing saddle and no visible blanket. He wore light shoes or none at all. The little flat mail pockets strapped under the riders thighs would each hold about the bulk of a child's primer. There they held many and many an important business chapter and newspaper letter, but these were written on paper as airy and thin as gold leaf nearly and thus bulk and weight were economized.

Past Like the Wind

In another part of his description Mr. Clemens tells of the anxiety with which a stage coach full of people awaited the coming of the pony express rider. At the cry of "Here he comes" the writer says, every neck is stretched further and every eye strained wider. Away across the the endless dead level of the prairie a black speck appears against the sky and it is plain that it moves. Well I should think so, in a second or two it becomes a horse and a rider, rising and falling, rising and falling -- sweeping towards us nearer and nearer -- growing more and more distinct -- more and more sharply defined -- nearer and still nearer, and the flutter of hoofs comes faintly to the ear -- another instance and a whoop and hurrah from our upper deck, a wave of the riders hand but no reply, and man and horse burst past our excited faces and go winging away in a belated fragment of a storm.

"So sudden is it all, and so like a flash of unreal fancy but for the flake of white foam left quivering and perishing on a mail sack after the vision had flashed by and disappeared, we might have doubted that we had seen any actual horse and man at all, maybe."

First News for Salt Lake

The first pony express rider from the east brought to Salt Lake City news of alarming and momentous import. He carried the announcement of the intended introduction in the federal senate of a bill removing the seat of government from this city and establishing it at Carson Valley; furthermore changing the name of the "Territory of Utah" to that of the "Territory of Nevada".

The pony express riders carried the rumor's of war and the internecine strife that followed. Their coming, it can be easily imagined, was eagerly awaited each day.

A Shotgun Messenger

Parks, after the abandonment of the pony express entered the employ of Wells-Fargo Express company in the capacity of a "shotgun messenger". It was the duty of these messengers to guard the treasures that were contained in the iron boxes in the boot of the coach, his seat beside the driver and his "sawed-off" weapon ever ready for use. In his encounters with road agents who abounded in the early days of placer mining in California, Parks won undying fame as a defender of the trust over which he watched. It is said that he carried to his grave more than a score of bullet wounds in token of the fact that he had done his duty well.

Sparks Genealogy


Anonymous said...

Researching Parks Family that went West. Have it traced to William Sterns Parks, son of Amos. A Reunion is set for June 26-28 near Reese, MI. You can email me at
Terry Parks

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