Years after the Mormon War forced Latter-day Saints from Missouri, troubles followed the Mormons as they settled in Utah Territory. The U.S. Army played a role in keeping track of Mormon activities as the Civil War was about to split the country apart. Samuel Cox of Daviess County, MO, was chosen to help with communications considered crucial between the Army out West and the government back East.
Cox tells about a 1200-mile ride he accomplished in 30 days during 1859 in order to avoid Sioux Indians. This feat, accomplished on the use of two good mules, is considered as extraordinary in Western history.
Stories from the U.S. Army’s days of the Old West tell how infantry units could normally out-walk the cavalry and artillery and often were well in camp each night before horses got there. The old Army standard for horses was to select a horse 15 hands and 1000 pounds with a small rider for a 16 mph pace (in an extended gallop). But the best rapid movement was an alternating gallop and trot averaging about 10 mph. The rate was limited by the weakest animals and rest, feed, and water stops.
This knowledge simply magnifies the story of Samuel P. Cox.
In 1859 Cox covered over 1200 miles in 30 days, riding from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Nebraska City — the full length of the North Platte River and then some — by mule. His trek includes one leg of 125 miles without stops in order to avoid Sioux Indians.
Cox worked for Alexander Majors of Russell, Majors & Waddell. Prior to Cox’s journey, Majors reported that the best ride he could confirm was by Francis X. Aubery. In 1853, Aubery rode 800 miles from Santa Fe, NM, to Independence, MO, in 5 days, 13 hours or roughly 6 mph. Aubery had made the same trip the prior year in just over 8 days. Aubery rode horses in relay, taking an extra horse in lead. By contrast, Samuel Cox accomplished his trip by pack mule in lead, completing the trip without change of animals.
Pony Bob Hasham once rode 380 miles in 36 hours and, at one time, used up 15 horses in one hour trying to make a record trip. At age 15, William Frederic Cody rode 384 miles without rest but exchanged horses several times. Louis Remme once rode from Sacramento to Portland — 700 miles — in 6 days and made his own horse trades en route. The best Pony Express mail trip was 2000 miles in 7 days, 17 hours (10.8 mph).
Majors’ supply trains took about 6 months to make the same trip that Samuel Cox accomplished in 30 days. He was a lone rider and without companions or support, other than two good mules.
— written by David Stark, Gallatin, with Cox’s biography and book by Alexander Majors as sources