Pony Express and Trails Room
The Pony Express and Trails Room, dedicated to preserving the history of the original Hollenberg Ranch near Hanover, Washington County, Kansas, was dedicated at the Museum on Sunday, October 22, 2006, marking over 148 years since the original station was built.
Gerat Hollenberg began construction of the now historic site in 1857. The following year he married Sophia Brockmeyer and the couple lived in the station together. Gerat saw great business potential for the ranch. It was strategicallly located on the Oregon Trail, close to Cottonwood Creek where the travelers crossed and often rested for the evening. Therefore, the station was also called Cottonwood Ranch.
Perhaps the station's greatest fame came in 1860. It was selected as a stop on the Pony Express route and was designated as the first home station out of St. Joseph,k Mo. It had stables and horses, providing fresh mounts for riders, and a loft where both Pony express riders and stagecoach drivers stayed. Even Mark Twain is know to have stopped at Hollenberg Station and he may have eaten there.
The building stands today and is designated as a Kansas State Historic Site. While the destination is a site itself, there are many relics that have been collected and preserved over the years by Washington Countians and friends and relatives of the Brockmeyer families. For these reasons, it was decided that a special space be set aside at the Museum to house the historical memorabilia.
Among the items to be found in the Pony Express and Trails Room are a table which Gerat and Sophia used in the original building; a Singer sewing machine given by Gerat to his niece Louisa; a pitcher and bowl set used by Sophia's niece Carolyn and her husband, Henry Korff; and a candlestick made of native Osage Orange by Sophia's nephew, Fred Brockmeyer. These were all donated by descendants of Henry and Carolyn Korff, Glenn and Kenneth Korff.
In addition to lithographs of Gerat and Sophia, the walls are lined with photos of Ezra George Perkins, a Pony Express rider and the first postmaster in Washington County. There is a photo of the SS Bolivia, the ship on which Gerat died. Maps of the Oregon Trail and Pony Express route, a poster of several Pony Express riders, a US Department of Interior geological survey of an approximate 60 square mile area in northeast Washington County showing the Oregon Trail with known swales, and photos of historical markers in the county all adorn the walls.
Also on display are two tombstones which were found on the Oregon Trail near the original station, and a pick and gold pan that was used by miners in the California Gold Rush of 1849. Among the items in glass cases are a quilt, believed to have been made and used by Sophia, family Bibles, guns from the era and a tin horn, believed to have been used by a Pony Express rider as he neared the station to announce his imminent arrival.
Most of the items in the room are memorabilia. However, some are of recent vintage, such as collector pins from recent Pony Express Festivals and other souvenirs.
The project was accomplished by many volunteers, county residents and through a very generous donation of cash and artifacts by brothers Glenn and Kenneth Korff. The Korffs were among the attendees at an open house and dedication at the museum.