Old Jules’s Horse Thievery

“At the end of January 1860, in anticipation of the Pony Express, Slade’s jurisdiction was shifted slightly eastward. It now stretched from Fort Kearney on the east to his headquarters at Horseshoe on the west—a domain of nearly 400 miles. By this time most of the outlaws had paid him the inadvertent compliment of fleeing his division and relocating in the Rocky Ridge region just west of his own. . . .

Although most outlaws had departed from Slade’s division, Jules Beni could not be cowed so easily. He remained at his trading post in Julesburg, requiring Slade to coexist uneasily with him and extracting a measure of retribution—as well as cash— by continuing his practice of stealing the company’s horses and tricking Slade into buying them back.

Having taken an Indian woman as his de facto wife, Jules ‘was in with the Indians around there,’ one of Slade’s stagecoach drivers, Charles Higginbotham, later recalled, ‘and when the horses were turned out for feed they [the Indians] would run them off and cache them in the gullies. Then Jules would go to Slade and offer to find the horses for a reward, and when he got the money he’d send out and have the Indians bring them in.’

Ficklin, after investigating, concluded that Jules had been stealing from the company and forced Jules into a settlement. Jules blamed Slade for some of Ficklin’s acts. Slade, for his part, convinced of Jules’ rascality, maintained a wary watch on him. He and Ficklin could turn a blind eye to Jules’s petty acts of horse thievery as long as the Central Overland was a stagecoach company primarily dependent on mules for transportation. But horses—the best and most costly horses that could be found—were essential to Russell’s and Ficklin’s new strategy for saving the line: the Pony Express.