In the mid 1800s Jack Slade was the West s best know badman. The name Slade was seldom uttered without the word notorious attached to it as a danger sign. And nearly every Overland Trail journal of the time repeats the story of Slade cutting off the ears of the founder of Julesburg, Colorado, Jules Beni, and carrying them in his pocket as a charm.
His reputation was so colorful and outrageous during his lifetime that newspapers from coast to coast carried stories of Jack Slade, the efficient yet deadly superintendent of the Overland Stage Line and the Pony Express.The strange thing is that a man who was such a legend in the 1860s has been all but forgotten.
Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Sir Richard Burton all wrote about Slade and his exploits. Twain wrote that while having breakfast at Slade s stage station, Slade offered him the last of a pot of coffee. Though Twain wanted it, he declined because he was afraid that Slade had not killed anybody that morning and might be needing a diversion.
Yet Slade was known as the best superintendent on the stage route, and he is credited with making the Pony Express a success. His division covered much of the Wyoming trail, and parts of Nebraska and Colorado. With his Jekyll/Hyde personality, he was a good friend and a deadly enemy.
He was headquartered at Horseshoe Stage Station near present-day Glendo, Wyoming. When the stageline moved south, Slade built the Virginia Dale (Colorado) stage station and named it after his wife. However, his alcoholic binges continued until he lost his job with the Overland Stage line.
Later he moved to Virginia City, Montana, where he continued to be both heroic and threatening. There vigilantes, fed up with his drunken carousing and defiance of the law, ended the life of Jack Slade when they took justice in their hands and placed a rope around his neck. His wife then preserved his corpse in a whiskey-filled coffin to await spring.