Jack Slade and the Virginia Dale Stage Robbery

Chris Kirkland at the Virginia Dale stage stopBandit gangs who regularly terrorized the stage lines, chose several areas that were well scouted to work, one is along the famous Overland Trail in Colorado, as hide-outs. The gang felt so comfortable in the remote landscape that they even went so far as to build a cabin. A hideout cabin was built at the top of “Robber’s Roost”, on Table Mountain, about a mile to the northeast of the Stage Station. The hideout was well placed, with a great 360 degree view it was hard to sneak up on, and it was very difficult to climb because of the rim of shale and practically perpendicular cliffs. It was a widespread rumor that Jack Slade, the Station Master at Virginia Dale was in reality the leader of the gang, and was definitely known to have a close connection with some of the bandits.

Johnny Walker at the Virginia Dale stage stopA gold shipment of over 200 lbs that amounted to $60,000 in freshly minted coins (about $2.6 million dollars today) was being shipped by the US Government, and the shipment represented several month’s of back pay for soldiers at the fort. Masked men ambushed the stage carrying the gold, and made off with the entire payroll about a mile north from the Virginia Dale station. The robbers were chased down and killed by the US Cavalry, the troopers did eventually find the iron strong box in a nearby creek, broken open and empty. The stage line suspected that Slade was the mastermind for the holdup, but were unable to prove it. The owners of the stage line felt they had no other choice and fired him.

Everyone thought it was strange that Jack went very meekly, it may have been that he was tired of the job, or… maybe he simply had stolen enough money and thought it would be a good time to avoid the heat and move to Montana. Because of this suspicious behavior he remained under the watchful eye of the overland stage coach company’s agents. Apparently Jack never recovered his loot because he died pennyless a few short years later when he was hanged for horse robbery by vigilantes in Virginia City, Montana, on March 10, 1864. By all accounts the treasure of the lost payroll still lies hidden somewhere not very far to the west of the old Virginia Dale stage station near the Wyoming state line.

Virginia Dale historical sign

Jack Slade and the Virginia Dale Stage Robbery

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