Canaan Fall Festival

Postal workers to ride Canaan Pony Express run

The 10-mile horse ride is a tradition
at Canaan Fall Festival

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (September 2004) – At 7:15 p.m. on April 3, 1860, Johnny Fry left Pike’s Peak Stables in St. Joseph, Mo., and headed west by horseback. Fry’s purpose was simple: to deliver mail. He was met halfway by Billy Hamilton, who similarly had left Sacramento, Calif., in the wee hours of the morning of

Pony Express

Photo by Don Ward

Last year’s Pony Express riders
arrive at the Madison Post Office with
mailbag in hand. It took them 54 minutes.
They are (from left) Bonnie Pegg, Sherry
Schack, Ron Bladen, Jennifer Babb
and Robert Jones.

April 4. Ten days later, Fry returned to St. Joseph carrying the eastbound mail, making history with the first ever delivery by Pony Express.
In the tradition of those early mail carriers, on Sept. 11 Postmaster Carolyn Hankins of the Canaan, Ind., U.S. Post Office will prepare mail for delivery by riders on horseback to Madison, a distance of 10 miles. The event, the longest running Pony Express Mail Run of its kind in the country, is the highlight of the Canaan Fall Festival, Sept. 10-12. Festivities also will include a parade, live music, games, contests, an arts and crafts flea market, plenty of food and an old fashioned church service.
Typically, the Clifty Creek Saddle Club provides the riders. This year, for the first time in many years, the new postmaster at Madison, Mike Bowen, has arranged for post office employees to take part in the run. Those scheduled to ride include Winona Lake, Ind., postmaster Pam Ford and husband, Keith Ford; Milroy, Ind., postmaster Angie Fette; Winslow, Ind., postmaster Cheryl Hill and husband, Marvin; and Vevay, Ind. postal carrier Tom Rogers.
The first Canaan Pony Express Mail Run, held on Oct. 14, 1967, was organized to draw attention to the Canaan post office.
“This was a small post office and they were going to close it,” explained Hankins, who became postmaster in May following the retirement of Minnie Kessler. According to Hankins, the community rallied behind the post office and planned the Pony Express ride in conjunction with the Canaan Fall Festival. The first rider was Louis Griffin.
The ride was a success and the following year a stagecoach, driven by Elbert Hartman, was used. Every year since, the mail has been carried by several experienced horseback riders.
After being sworn in by DeAnna Lackney, acting manager of Post Office Operations of the Greater Indiana District, the riders dressed in period clothing will carry the mail in authentic 19th century saddlebags to Madison.
Each year the Canaan Post Office receives hundreds of letters and post cards from all over the world to be included in this popular tradition.
“In the past, we’ve received letters from Germany, Japan, China – all over the world. Sometimes we have 1,400 to 1,500 pieces of mail,” said Hankins. All requests for mail to be included in the now famous event are honored, as well as many more for mail to be postmarked with the commemorative, hand-stamped pictorial cancellation for up to one month following the event.
“From Madison, (the mail) is put into the regular mail stream, but they are really careful not to stamp over the (commemorative) cancellation,” said Hankins. The mail that is not carried by horseback is sealed in larger, return envelopes and sent back to requesting parties.
Those who want mail included in the 38th annual Canaan Pony Express Mail Run can send stamped, addressed cards and letters (placed in larger envelopes) to Pony Express Mail Run Station, Postmaster, 8842 N. Canaan Main St., Canaan, IN 47224-9998.
A commemorative post card featuring a historic photograph also can be purchased from the Canaan Post Office. For more information, call (812) 839-4600.
In addition to the popular Pony Express run, the 40th annual Canaan Fall Festival will be brimming with activities for families, according to chairman Gale Ferris. “We try to have a family oriented event that’s laid back and casual, something that people can just relax and enjoy,” he said.
A parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and an old-fashioned community church service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the stage on Main Street. Bands appearing during the festival include The Sundowners at 8 p.m. Friday, Tommy Day Band at 7 p.m. Saturday; and Musical Resource, the Nancy Turner Group at 1 p.m. Sunday. Also performing at 5 p.m. Saturday will be Indiana Boots and Jeans Line Dancing and throughout the weekend will be a balloon twisting exhibition. Other activities include the Little Indiana Papoose Contest at 7 p.m. Friday, a frog jumping contest and a Chief White Eye painting contest.

• For more information, call Ferris at (812) 839-4770.

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