Friday, August 26, 2011

Pony Express in my Family

Mary Ann (Minnie) Fisher & Richard Erastus (Ras) Egan

 Parents of Tamson Minnie Egan (wife to William A Marshall)
who was the mother of Minnie Marshall McKinnon
Who was the mother of Byron Eugene McKinnon

Mary Ann Fisher was born at Woolwich, England, May 21st, 1844. She was the fifth child of Thomas Frederick and Jane Christen Fisher. She had 3 older brothers named Thomas, William and John, 1 older sister named Jane who died at age 3, and 1 younger sister name Georginna. Mary Ann was known by Minnie through her life and while in London attended school and excelled in needlepoint and dancing. While living there, her parents were introduced to the gospel and were baptized. They were faithful followers, her father being a branch president in the area.
When Mary Ann (Minnie) was ten years old, the family left Liverpool in the summer of 1854 and sailed to America.  They landed at New Orleans, Louisiana, where they took a river boat up the great Mississippi to Council Bluffs. They fitted out a wagon and ox team and crossed the plains with the Robert L. Campbell Company.
During the difficult and lengthy journey, Mary Ann's little sister Georginna, who was 8 at the time, was riding on top of a load, evidently fell asleep and slipped to the ground. The wagon wheels ran over her, killing her, and  they had to bury her on the side of the road. This was a terrible blow to the family, since the parents were still dealing with the death of their other daughter, Jane, back in London.
They arrived in Great Salt Lake City, Utah, October 28th, 1854. Their first home was in East Bountiful, later they moved to South Bountiful. Her family endured hardships much the same as the other pioneers of that day. At one time mother used up the last bit of flour, the only food left in the house to make biscuits. They had no idea where more flour or food could be obtained when the biscuits were eaten. Her father took a sack and went in search of food, when he returned after dark he had a half bushel of wheat to show for his day's labor. They ground the wheat in a coffee grinder and made more bread from the coarse flour, but from this time on, they always had plenty to eat.
Mary Ann (Minnie) had a sweet, loveable disposition, was very popular among her friends and was an excellent dancer and was considered one of the most graceful figures on the floor. She had a very pleasant and happy childhood. She loved dolls, and it has been said that she was interested in sewing for them when she was being courted by Erastus Egan, and would rush to put them away when she would see him coming.

Mary Ann Fisher married Richard Erastus Egan  on January 1, 1861 in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. Erastus was 17 and Mary Ann was 15. 
Richard Erastus was the scond son of Howard Egan and Tamson Parshley. He was born on March 29, 1842  in Salem, Massachusetts. Interesting sidenote: Erastus is an unusual name, but is found on both McKinnon and Bingham sides (my dad also named one of his horses Erastus). Known throughout his life as "Ras", he was five years old when he and his family left Massachusetts to travel across the plains to Utah with the Heber C. Kimball company in 1848. 

When word of Johnstons Army  was heard among the settlers in 1858, Ras was left in charge of his father's  home with the orders to set it on fire should the soldiers enter the city. He was just 16 years old.  While he was growing up, Ras had gained much experience in handling horses and cattle when he would frequently accompany his father to California from Utah on his livestock deals. 

That same year in 1858, Ras got a job with the government transporting mail between Brigham city and Salt Lake City.  In 1859 he accompanied the Superintendent of Indian Affairs to make a treaty with the Shoshone Indians that were living in western Utah.  He had various jobs with the Government, all of which included riding his beloved horses.

Six-Mule Supply Wagon

 It was about this time Ras Egan was put in charge of three six-mule trains freighting and carrying mail from Salt Lake City to Carson City, Nevada. His father had purchased a ranch in Ruby Valley, Nevada and also operated stores there and in Deep Creek. Ras hauled the merchandise to stock them.

 In April of 1860, the Pony Express was created and Ras' father, Howard Egan, was assigned as the superintendent over the Utah to Nevada route. Ras was hired along with his brother as a Pony Express riders, his run being between Salt Lake City and Rush Valley, a distance of 75 miles west of Salt Lake. The first mail out of Salt Lake City was carried by him on his sorrel mare "Miss Lightning," making the first station, twenty-two miles, in one hour and five minutes.  Ras was known in the Pony Express for having the fastest ride ever. The President of the US called this section of Pony Express - The Lightening Express.


Ras had many harrowing experiences while engaged in his work with the Pony Express. He also had several encounters and some trouble with the Indians. At one time he came upon a stage that he been held up and all the passengers killed and the horses stolen. As Egan pounded along the trail one of the raiders appeared armed with a rifle and bows and arrows and started to chase him. At first, Ras rode just fast enough to keep out of gunshot range; then suddenly he turned and charged straight at the Indian who turned and fled.

Another time his horse fell on him while he was crossing a bridge at night and he was thrown into the icy water, breaking the neck of the pony. Ras was compelled to walk five miles carrying the saddle and heavy express material back to the station where he could obtain another horse.

1860's Melodean

Nine months after starting with the Pony Express, Ras and Minnie (Mary Ann) were married in 1861 and his father presented them on their wedding day with a Melodian - a organ type instrument which was a luxury to have in those days. It was the only instrument of its kind in the community and people in the town would come by to practice on it.  For about two years they made their home in Salt Lake City while Ras continued to ride for the Pony Express. In telling of his experiences as a rider, Ras Egan said:

 "At first the ride seemed long and tiresome, but after becoming accustomed to that kind of riding, it seemed only play, but there were times when it didn't seem so very playful. For instance, I was married January 1st, 1861, and of course, wanted a short furlough, but was only permitted to substitute a rider for one trip, and the poor fellow thought that was plenty. I had warned him about the horse he would start with from "Rush" on his return trip, telling him that he would either back or fall over backwards when he got on him. 'Oh,' said he, 'I am used to that kind of business.' 'But,' said I, 'Bucking Bally is a whole team and a horse to let, and a little dog under the wagon, so be careful.' So as a precaution, after he had tightened the saddle, he led him out about a quarter of a mile from the station and got on; when the horse true to his habit, got busy, and the next thing the rider knew he was hanging by the back of his overcoat on a high stake with his feet from the ground. He could not reach behind to unhitch himself. He could not unbutton his coat so as to crawl out of it, but he could get his hands in his pocket for his knife to cut the buttons off and release himself; after which a search was made for the horse in the darkness of the night. He finally found him and made the trip, getting a black eye for loss of time. He said to the boys, 'No more Bucking Bally for me'."
Minnie with baby Tamson

 Ras and Minnie had their first child, a girl,  on March 2, 1863. Her name was Tamson Minnie. Tamson Minnie is my great-great grandmother.
While Tamson was still a baby, they moved to Ruby Valley (now in Elko), Nevada, where Ras' father, Howard Egan, was in charge of the Ruby Valley Pony Express Station. While there, Ras worked as a rancher.  The station was a two-room log cabin with a dirt roof. One room was used for the family living quarters; the other part was used for a store and commissary repair shop and mail station. For light they used the home made candles; a very crudely built fireplace furnished warmth and light. Ras took care of this station which was used as a trading post.  On this ranch they raised pigs, chickens, and mostly milk cows. Most of the milk was set in milk pans allowing to stand, then the cream was skimmed off with a hand skimmer. The cream was churned in an up and down churn, and the butter was packed in forty-gallon barrels and shipped to Erueka, Utah andwas sold for 50 cents per pound.

Their home in Ruby Valley

They hired Indians at low wages to help about the ranch. Indian squaws could be hired to wash on the board all day for 50 cents. Two boys were born at Ruby Valley, Erastus Howard (September 10, 1864) and Harry Owen (October 20, 1866).
About 1868, Erastus was called on a three-year mission to England for the L.D.S. Church. When he left they leased the ranch and Mary Ann, being pregnant with her fourth child moved with her three small children  to Bountiful where she lived with her father Thomas Fisher.
Shortly after Erastus left, another son was Minnie's father build her an home on a lot adjoining the Fisher home in South Bountiful, and built a six-room brick home for her. When the home was completed, Mary Ann moved in and waited for Richard Erastus' return.  During his absence, she conducted in her home a class. She taught eyelet work, and the money earned in this way was sent to her husband to help support him while he was in the mission field.
At the end of three years, Ras was released from his mission and returned home as far as Ogden, on the first train that came this far west. He was met by his small son Rass, and  father-in-law, Thomas Fisher, and they drove the rest of the way to Bountiful in a carriage.
Soon after his return they rented out  the home in Bountiful and moved again to the Ruby Valley Ranch where Ras took up farming. While they were in Ruby Valley, they had born in the order mentioned: John Leroy, October 3rd, 1870; William Fisher and Willard Richard (twins), on April 5th, 1872; Joseph Ranson, September 7, 1874, who died at Ruby Valley Ranch and was buried there; Ira Irvine, September 17, 1875, was born next.
Soon after this they started to journey back to Bountiful, with teams, wagon and cattle. When they reached Tooele there was such a bad storm that they put Mary Ann and the three small children on the train to go on to Bountiful, while little Rass and Mary, Ras and his brother-in-law, John Fisher, stayed with the teams and cattle. They moved into the new home once more and Ras took up farming and gardening. Soon after they arrived in Bountiful a baby girl was born who died at birth and was buried at Bountiful.
Ras had bought some farming land to the north of Bountiful, the place now known as Clearfield. From this place he received livelihood for his family. At the time of the nationwide diphtheria epidemic, Harry who was then twelve past, contracted the dreaded disease and died. Horace F. also took it but was nursed back to health by his father. Mary Ann fell ill during this time and was never completely healthy again. Due to the state of Mary Ann's poor health and their large family, she had lots of help.
The rest of their family was born in Bountiful as follows: Linnie Jane, February 25, 1878; Mary Adelaide, February 5, 1880; Charles Merritt, August 27th, 1881; David July 13th, 1884; a baby boy born December 1887 who died. He was also buried at Bountiful.  Two weeks after giving birth to her last baby - who did not survive - Mary Ann passed away never fully recovering from labor and delivery of the baby.  She was 43 yrs old, had 15 children and had been married for 27 years to Ras.

Two years after the death of wife, Mary Minnie Fisher, he married Mary Beatrice Noble July 10, 1899 in the Logan Temple.  In 1905, he took his second family, also two married sons and families of the first wife, to the Big Horn Basin in Wyoming to establish homes. Soon after, he was set apart as a Patriarch which position he maintained until his death in April 29, 1918. Interment was in Bountiful, Utah.
The Egan Brothers
LtoR: William, Ira, Howard, Ras


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