The following is taken from the book SOME DREAMS DIE, Utah's Ghost Towns and Lost Treasures, written by George A. Thompson. I included these excerpts because of the fact that Nathan Smith (cemetery marker) rode at times as a pony express rider and also a freighter taking mail and other needed items across the plains to the east of Utah. It is interesting to see the route he would have taken and the stops he would have made during these trips. The excerpts are taken from Chapter One entitled, "Along the Overland Trail."
"No sooner were the Mormon Pioneers settled in the valley of the Great Salt Lake than problems of communication and mail delivery began. At first, the settlers were more interested in keeping in touch with their friends in the east than they were with the people farther west. As early as 1850 a mail contract was awarded ... to carry the mail from Independence, Missouri to Salt Lake City..." but, "mail delivery was slow and uncertain,... and the contract was cancelled" (map of the Pioneer Trail).
"In 1856 a little known mail service was started by the Mormon Church. Named the Brigham Young Express & Carrying Company, but almost always called the 'Y-X Company', it was a fore-runner of both the Overland Stage and the Pony Express. Y-X Company was planned as 'A swift pony express to carry the mail' and would establish, 'A coach line for passengers.' Way stations, which were actually settlements with farms and business buildings, were established at regular intervals from Salt Lake City to Independence, Missouri."
"The stations were set up alternately as mail stations or express stations. Mail stations were operated by an agent and five or six employees, while express stations had only a company agent and a relief rider.... All of the pony riders were young, weighed 125 to 135 pounds and were armed with a revolver and bowie knife. The combined weight of their saddle and other gear was about 14 pounds, and the mail pouch never exceeded 20 pounds."
"From the 1850's Salt Lake City was the central point along the overland route. Much of the history and romance of the Overland Trail occurred at those seldom remembered stations strung out across the deserts and mountains of Utah. Today those ghost stations ... still evoke those exciting days when daring pony riders and shotgun guards rode the rutted tracks of the Overland Trail."
From the Great Salt Lake City the trail went up Emigration Canyon (earlier named Big Canyon) climbing steeply up to Little Mountain Pass and over to Hanks Station. Hanks Station was located on Mountain Deli Creek in Salt Lake County in the deep vale between Big and Little Mountains. It was run by a man named Ephraim K. Hanks, who with Porter Rockwell belonged to the infamous Sons of Dan, or the Avenging Angels. One might remember reading in Church history about these men who were attributed for many mysterious killings.
One half mile inside Morgan county just east of the top of Hogback Summit is Dixie Station (also known as Carson House) and west of the Mormon Pioneer Trail. Before getting to this point though the rider had to endure a steep rocky trail up the side of the mountain and many hard crossings of Bauchmin's Creek.
After resting here the journey continued on through Echo Canyon and to Weber Station which was located at the mouth of the canyon on the side of the Weber River. Because of the many travelers coming to this station, there were many robbers on the trail. "Stagecoach robberies were almost daily fare along the road through Echo Canyon...." Mail carriers were also in jeopardy and so in order to thwart these outlaws men were hired to capture the criminals and ensure that they would pay for their crimes.
Next came Echo Station located in Summit County on Echo Canyon Creek (then called Red Fork Creek). One traveler described it as "A mere structure of slabs to keep the wolves away." It was here in 1857 on the high vertical cliffs that Mormon minutemen built rock fortifications to keep Johnston's Army out of the Valley. "Pine poles were cut square and blackened with stove black, and when seen from the canyon below, looked exactly like cannon barrels. 500 men with whatever weapons they could find stood guard behind those fortifications."
Needlerock Station was the easternmost outpost on the Utah/Wyoming border. It was named for the natural landmark that was used as a guide by all the early pioneers. The trail opened up at this point and there was open sage brush country, quite barren and hot in the summer and cold in the winter. There is an interesting cave in the area called Cache Cave where mountain men, explorers, and pioneers used it for cover and protection. "During the Utah War, Mormon military leaders used it as their headquarters while Mormon militiamen, under the leadership of Lot Smith, burned Fort Bridger and Fort Supply and barricaded Echo Canyon against the approach of Johnston's Army. The cave contains the names of more than 150 trappers, explorers and pioneers, some dating back to 1820."
From Needlerock Station the trail crossed the Green River in Wyoming and then met and followed the Sweetwater River. The Sweetwater flows into the North Platte River and later combines with the South Platte River until it flows into the Missouri. The trail followed these rivers past Independence Rock, Fort Laramie, Chimney Rock, Fort Kearney, and to Winter Quarters.