Buildings at Julesburg
“At Julesburg—in early staging days one of the most important points along the Platte—were erected the largest buildings of the kind between Fort Kearney and Denver. They were built of cedar logs, hauled from near Cottonwood Springs by oxen, a distance of 105 miles. . . .
Julesburg, located at the Upper (California) Crossing of the Platte (which went by several names), was named after Jules Beni, a pioneer French Indian trader who bad been made station agent by Beverly D. Williams. One of Ficklin’s reforms (1860) was the removal of “Old Jules” for theft and other abuses, and the appointment of Jack Slade as his successor. See Overland Stage, pp. 217.”
[quoting from Root and Connelly, Stagecoaching to California]
This stretch of the road, from Julesburg to “French Louie’s” [Pole Creek Station] was known as the “Jules Stretch.” The stretch of road going from the Pole Creek crossing and “French Louie’s” northward, to the next Pony Express Station, Mud Springs, and was known as the “Thirty Mile Stretch.”
Lower and Upper California Crossings
“Between Fort Kearny and Fort Laramie there were only two divergences that are noteworthy; both pertain to the late period of the trail. Until 1859 all travel on the south bank of the Platte crossed the south fork of the river west of its junction with the north fork. The trail then moved northwest up the ‘peninsula’ between the south and north forks of the river and through Ash Hollow before reaching the valley of the North Platte. It then continued up the south bank to Fort Laramie. The discovery of gold in Colorado let to the Pike’s Peak trail southwestward up the South Platte and another connecting trail northward to the North Platte via Courthouse Rock, for which Julesburg, Colorado, became the new junction point.”
[N.B. The first crossing became known as the Lower California Crossing, and the later crossing near Julesburg was the North California Crossing. The Pony Express used the North California Crossing. Julesburg was the most problematic station at the opening of the Pony Express.]
Mile 546: Devil's Dive
Just past Mile 546 is Devil’s Dive, a spot on the South Platte River where “[t]he hill was so steep here that stage coaches had to slow down to climb it. The passengers would get out and walk. That’s when the outlaws would swoop down from the river and hold them up.”
[N.B. More info online at hmdb.org/m.asp?m=79877]
Mile 546: Devil’s Dive
” Elston and a detachment were sent down ahead of the train to where it would pass a very bad piece of road, a few miles east of Julesburg ; there was at this point a very bad arroyo coming in from the south, and the hills of the plateau protruded north to the river-bed, obliterating the valley at that point. This place at the arroyo went by the name of ‘The Devil’s Dive.’ When the train had passed that, it reached open country, and could see where it was going.”
Mile 550: Jules Stretch
“Old Julesburg was a very busy place, primarily because it was at the junction of the main roads up the South and North Platte rivers, respectively called the Pikes Peak or Denver road, and the California Road or Overland Trail. The stages and Pony Express used the latter route, here fording the south Platte (wide and rough during spring runoff) to a point just above Lodgepole Creek, then following that stream westward to a point three miles east of present Sidney, then crossing Lodgepole and heading north. This route was surveyed by Lieutenant Bryan of the topographical engineers in 1858 and was called ‘Jules Stretch.'”
—The Oregon Trail: Rock Creek Station, Nebraska to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, p.10 (http://npshistory.com/publications/oreg/oregon-trail-nebraska.pdf)
“Before we started out in the morning, we gave our horses all the water they would drink, for it was said to be fully thirty-two miles across the ridge from water to water. This was the short line which Jules [Beni] had laid out, so as to change the route and bring the pilgrim travel past this ranch. This particular strip of road was called ‘Jules Stretch.’ The road became considerably rocky as we ascended.”
— The Indian War of 1864, Eugene Fitch Ware (1911), p. 264
“Leaving Fort Kearny, the surveyors’ route lay along the valley of the Platte, the usual way traveled by Oregon-bound trains, to a point sixteen miles beyond the much used Laramie crossing. Here was located a new ford where the river was reported to be 610 yards wide, with a gravel bottom and water scarcely covering the axle trees of the wagons. Like all previous explorers, Bryan realized that bridging the Platte was out of the question and trains must take their chances in locating a good ford.
“From the Platte crossing the party ascended the south fork of that stream and its tributary, Lodgepole creek, to the Pine Bluffs, just across the present western Nebraska boundary in Wyoming. This area was known as a favorite winter residence of the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. The members of the expedition gathered dwarf pine for several days’ use because fuel, even buffalo chips, was reportedly scarce at the headwaters of Lodgepole creek.”
— The Army Engineers as Road Surveyors and Builders in Kansas and Nebraska, 1854-1858, W. Turrentine Jackson, Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains (February 1949 (Vol. 17, No. 1), pages 37 to 59.) https://www.kshs.org/p/the-army-engineers-as-road-surveyors-and-builders/13089
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.”
Mile 552: Julesburg Station
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.
Mile 554: Lodgepole Creek Road
“The Lodgepole Creek Road was unknown until 1857 and was used very little until ’61, when the government routed the new mail stages that way. Within a year or two the Indians grew so belligerent that the mail was rerouted to avoid the Sioux country along the North Platte . . . and the Pole Creek Road stepped out of the staging limelight as abruptly as it had stepped in. In its few years of intense activity, running the gamut of Civil War drama, romance of the mail coach, swarming tumult of the emigrant trail, and the horror of Indian warfare, have won for it a permanent place in history.”
[N.B. The Lodgepole Trail runs (roughly from Ovid (at Mile 554) to Bridgeport (Mile 642) where it rejoins the Ash Hollow Road up from the South California Crossing. (Paten, pg. 145]
Mile 554: Lodgepole Creek Valley
“Here is the valley of Lodgepole Creek through which passed historic trails, telegraph lines, and railroads. The famed Pony Express followed the valley in 1860-61. “Nine Mile” Pony Express station was located just southeast of present Chappell; “Pole Creek No. 2” station was a few miles west of here. Near Sidney, the Pony Express trail turned northwestward, passing Mud Springs station and Courthouse Rock en route to the North Platte River. In 1861 the first transcontinental telegraph line was built through the valley. Stagecoaches of the Central Overland Route soon followed, carrying passengers and mail. Former Pony express stations continued to serve the stage line, providing lodging and provisions for travelers. When the tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad reached here in 1867, wagon and stagecoach travel declined. Today modern highways retrace historic trails through the valley. Two miles east is Chappell, at first only a railroad siding. The townsite was surveyed in 1884 and a post office was established two years later. Chappell became the county seat of Deuel County in 1894.”
Names of the Upper Crossing
“The Upper Crossing of the South Fork of the Platte apparently went by several names including ‘Laramie Crossing,’ ‘Goodale’s Crossing,’ ‘Morrell’s Crossing,’ and later ‘Julesburg’ or ‘Overland City,’ although Julesburg came to be preferred. Julesburg became widely known, the station and stable were then ‘long, one-story, hewed cedar-log buildings; there was also a store and blacksmith, shop. . . . The Pacific telegraph line at this point also crossed the Platte, having been completed through to San Francisco via Fort Bridger and Salt Lake. . . . lt cost ten dollars a wagon to get ferried across the Platte [by rope ferry in 1864 ]. “-Overland Stage, pp. 219, 220”