While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Susan Miles and Mary Bain Spence

FICKLIN, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1827–1871). 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.

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).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Susan Miles and Mary Bain Spence, "FICKLIN, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN," accessed August 04, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffi01.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...