Mile 552: Julesburg

“On the south fork of the Platte River, nearly opposite the mouth of Lodgepole Creek, stood, from the late fifties, a flea-bitten collection of shacks—unpainted, unwholesome, and thoroughly unlovely. It was called Julesburg, and its presiding genius, Jules Beni, was a hulking French-Canadian trader as ill-favored by nature as his chosen place of residence.

At first it was an isolated ranch and trading post, but it was not long before the stagecoaches (instead of fording the South Platte at the Lower California Crossing) continued up the left bank as far as ‘Jules Ranch,’ which was then logically known as the Upper California Crossing. The dirty little settlement looked like a wart on the bare face of Nature, but its importance was enhanced because the roads forked here and the stages and mail destined for the recently discovered gold diggings near Pikes Peak left the ‘Old Trail’ at this point and followed the south bank of the South Platte without the necessity of fording.

A stage station was established at the forks of the road, and Jules was appointed stationmaster. Because he knew his prairie and his Indians and seemed to make money for himself, it was thought he would do equally well for the company. This was a mistake. Jules, who was a rogue, a liar, and a horse thief, spent much of his time drinking and continued to make money for himself instead of for the stage company. . . .”

“I was saying that we were somewhat dashed to find [in the site of the original settlement] nothing but a cornfield with most of the corn washed put and a bridge, which had washed in, sitting irrelevantly in the middle of it. Noting is left of the hard-boiled old town—not even a board or.a crumbling wall. Spotted Tail [who sacked the town in 1864] did a thorough job, and the Platte Valley weather has taken care of any minor details omitted at the time.”