What is certain is that the division superintendent for the Pony Express who stopped to enlist the Gilman brothers in the crosscountry mail relay was a name that Mark Twain knew well. In writing about Joseph (Jack) Slade in Roughing It, Twain recalled a famous and notorious published description of the bad man: “From Fort Kearny, west, he was feared a great deal more than the Almighty.”
Joseph Slade was not a figment of Mark Twain’s imagination. Nor was he a tall tale. Slade is perhaps the most solid example that everyone in the employ of Russell, Majors & Waddell was not enjoying a glass of sarsaparilla and the Psalms in the evening. The Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Company hired men who could get the job done, and some of those men were plainly outlaws. Joseph Slade was the most stunning example.