Pioneering the Trail




Virginia Dale

Near the 1849 Evans/Cherokee company "Big Grass" camp, later the Virginia Dale Stage Station.

June 23, 1850...In the evening passed through the wildest--
most broken country I ever beheld. Rocks of all sizes piled
in all shapes. Many places risemble the ruins of stonehenge...

" Quesenbury" 20 Thursday Started soon, entering the black
hills..." Mitchell (1850)

 The Virginia Dale stage station was established in 1862 by Jack Slade, former station manager at Julesburg, Colorado where he famously got into a dispute with Jules Beni. Beni had previously shot Slade five times but Slade survived and exacted his revenge by ambushing Beni, tying him to a fencepost and shooting off his fingers before delivering a coup de grace to the head. Slade kept Benis' ears as trophies. While station master in Julesburg, Slade met and breakfasted with Samuel Clemens, "Mark Twain" and made quite an impression upon Twain. Twain wrote about his encounter with Slade in his 1894 publication "Roughing It".

When Ben Holladay took over the Overland Stage in 1862, he changed the route, taking it south from Julesberg along the South Platte River to Greeley and then up the old Cherokee Trail through Latham, LaPorte, Virginia Dale, Colorado, and into Wyoming.

Virginia Dale was a "home station" on the Overland Trail, meaning that passengers could disembark, get a meal, and stay overnight in a hotel if the stage was delayed by weather or nightfall. Thirty to fifty horses were kept at the station which was located in a pleasant, grassy glade (or "dale") along a clear bubbling stream, later named Dale Creek. Slade probably named the post after his wife Virginia, whose maiden name might have been "Dale". Slade was an excellent stage manager as long as he stayed sober. Many stories credit him with outrageous actions from shooting up a saloon in LaPorte for serving his stage drivers whiskey, or for having "a fondness of shooting canned goods off grocery store shelves" [5] to robbing the stage of $60,000 in gold, which later disappeared. Slade was fired as stage manager in November, 1892 after a drunken shooting spree at nearby Fort Halleck and left with his wife for Virginia City, Montana where he was hanged in early 1894 by angry miners.

The Virginia Dale stage station hosted many famous travelers such as author Albert D. Richardson ("Beyond the Mississippi") and an Illinois governor, probably Richard Yates. Samuel Bowles, editor of the Massachusetts Republican wrote in 1865,

"Virginia Dale deserves its pretty name. A pearly, lively-looking stream runs through a beautiful basin of perhaps one hundred acres, among the mountains - for we are within the entrances of one of the great hills-stretching away in smooth and rising pasture to nooks and crannies of the wooded range; fronted by rock embankment, and flanked by the snowy peaks themselves; warm with the June sun, and rare with an air into which no fetid breath has poured itself-it is difficult to imagine a loveable spot in Nature's kingdom."

The station itself was built with timber cut by Hiram 'Hi" Kelly, famous for importing and shepherding camels to the southwest in an attempt to establish trading routes across the American desert.

In 1865 Vice President Schuyler Colfax was detained at the post by Native American raids. It is possible that Virginia Dale served briefly as a telegraph station.


Virginia Dale Stage Station on the Overland Stage & Mail route Labeled "Robber's Roost" by Wm. Henry Jackson in this (his) photo.