Mile 552: Julesburg Station

Pony Express Monument, Julesburg, CO
Pony Express Monument, Julesburg, CO

This is the sight of the Upper California Crossing, and the original site of Julesburg (which moved across the river and east 5 miles when the Transcontinental Railroad was built on the other side of the river). The town is named after Old Jules Beni who started a small trading post here in 1858. Julesburg was positioned at a split in the Emigrant Trail, with coast-bound traffic continuing up the North Platte to South Pass, and prospectors and others headed south along the South Platte to Denver (aka Pike’s Peak). Apparently, you can still see wagon tracks, as well as discarded “two-bit glass,” bottles of watered-down whiskey that saloonkeepers sold to emigrants off the side of the road (Rottenberg, p. 6).

This is a notable spot on the Pony Express Trail. Old Jules apparently had a side business ripping off the stagecoach companies (originally Hockaday’s line, which he sold to Jones and Russell, which then sold it to Russell’s main venture, Russell, Wadell & Majors’s Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express) which had a station here. Ben Ficklin, superintendent  of the stage line under Russell, Wadell & Majors, appointed Jack Slade as overseer of this division of the line (which stretched nearly 500 miles from Julesburg to South Pass), primarily, it seems, to take care of Old Jules. After some rancor between Slade and Jules over a period of months, Jules shot the unarmed Slade both with a pistol and a shotgun. To everyone’s surprise, Slade survived. Later, after some of Slade’s men had killed Jules, Slade sliced off and carried one of Jules’s ears in his pocket.

Jack Slade has been mythologized and vilified by Mark Twain and Sir Richard Burton, among others. Dan Rottenberg has written a fascinating biography of him, well worth reading.