Ben Ficklin, Civil War blockade runner and stage operator, son of Benjamin and Ellen (Slaughter) Ficklin, was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, on December 18, 1827. He entered Virginia Military Institute on July 7, 1845, and even though he was temporarily kicked out for breaking rules and playing pranks, he graduated on July 4, 1849, after stopping to serve in the Mexican War as a corporal in 1846–47. He subsequently taught school for a time and then began operating stage lines. In 1857, under the command of Albert Sidney Johnston, he traveled on an expedition to Utah to settle trouble with the Mormons. In 1859 he helped organize and became general superintendent of the Central and Overland California and Pike's Peak Express Company. In this role he became known as the originator of the Pony Express.
Ficklin returned to Virginia to become state quartermaster general in April 1861. In 1861–62 he served in the Virginia campaign and was a staff officer at the battle of Malvern Hill. Later in 1862 he was sent west of the Mississippi River to control the Indians and lawless Whites. He assisted in the organization of the John B. Floyd Brigade and until the end of the war, as a Confederate purchasing agent, bought supplies in Europe for the Confederate government, including a steamer for running the blockade to carry cotton overseas. Ficklin was arrested for suspicion of complicity in Abraham Lincoln's assassination but was released a few months afterward, thanks to the efforts of a friend, Senator Orville Browning, from Illinois.
After the war Ficklin received a government contract for a weekly mail service from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to San Antonio, Texas, with a branch line to El Paso. He established the Concho Mail Station, headquarters for his stage operations, near the site of Fort Concho, in what is now Tom Green County. The stage stand grew into the community of Ben Ficklin, the county seat of Tom Green County in 1874. Ficklin died in Georgetown, D.C., on March 10, 1871, and was buried with Masonic honors in Maplewood Cemetery, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every penny helps.
Please make your contribution today.
Julia Grace Bitner, The History of Tom Green County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1931). James Evetts Haley, "Ben Ficklin, Pioneer Mail Man," The Shamrock, Spring 1959. Theodore Calvin Pease and James Garfield Randall, The Diary of Orville Hickman Browning (2 vols., Springfield, Illinois: Trustees of the Illinois State Historical Survey, 1925, 1933). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. John Wilkinson, The Narrative of a Blockade-Runner (New York: Sheldon, 1877).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Susan Miles and Mary Bain Spence,
“Ficklin, Benjamin Franklin,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 23, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
October 22, 2020
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: