Jack Slade

By Rick Cooper

There probably was never a man’s who’s character has been exploited more than Captain Jack Slade. Described as The Jekyl and Hyde of the old west. Jack, born in Illinois in January of 1831 was a stagecoach driver, pony express rider and what I would call a quartermaster for the stage line.

It was said that he had a certain charm about himself and if you ever met him, you instantly liked the guy. Jack and his wife lived just off the Vigilante Trail in Montana. He and his wife could be seen about the area, well dressed and riding the finest horse stock available. So why was he called Captain Jack ? Well it was because he was a charismatic man and called a natural born leader.

Life in the West around this time was tuff, unpredictable and it took hard men to survive. By the age of 30, Jack had already developed a reputation as a Gun Fighter. It was rumored that he had killed up to 26 men. Jack was said to be a healthy man. He stood just over five and half feet tall weighing about 150 lbs. Jack was said to have a great sense of humor and his friends said, when he told a story the look on his face sold the story, even if it was a lie.

When Jack was sober, he was polite and courteous, but when he drank that fire water, he was labeled a demon.

Jack’s first victim was a man in his hometown of Carlyle Illinois. Jack instantly fled to the west. Jack was an educated man and it didn’t take long before he had his bearing and was doing just fine for himself. He found that life on the plains was cheap and the prestige of having the reputation of a killer carried weight.

Jack’s first job was a trainmaster for a wagon train headed to California. Before long, jack had issues with one of the wagon drivers. The situation became so heated that they squared off to a gun fight. The wagon driver being a better hand with a gun, jack realized he needed to counter the man. So he advised that they should settle the issue like gentleman and without guns. The driver tossed his gun ready for a fight, but jack laughed at him and shot him dead. Jack, lost his job with the wagon train over the murder, so he ventured further into the wilds. Soon after he was attacked by 4 Indians. Jack killed all of them, cut their ears off and hung them on a limb near a trail for the other Indians to find.

Jack had to stay on the move. He had a warrant out of Illinois for his first murder and had developed a reputation as a gunfighter and Indian fighter. It was said that every man west of Fort Kearney, were more afraid of Jack Slade more than God himself. About this time highwaymen, were having their way with the Overland Stage lines. Not many stages got to their designated destination without being harassed by highwaymen. The owner of the stage line decided they needed brave men to provide security for the stages. Jack’s reputation got him the job. He was granted the title of Division Agent with his office in Julesburg, Co. He was given orders to track down and kill every man that was involved with or part of the Highway Bandits that were robbing stages.

Jack hit the ground running as they say. His first order of business was to get acquainted with his men and they all liked him. Next he found and killed about 6 of the most dangerous members of the group. The former division agent had been a man named Jules Reni, he had been fired because it was believed that he was part of the group of highwaymen. Horses and other hardware belonging to the Overland stage line had disappeared and Jules couldn’t explain what had happened to it. With Jack making quick work of the desperadoes, Jules resented Jack.

Jules had threatened Jack many times and when Jack located a team of horses that he thought Jules had tried to hide, he confronted him. Jules a jealous man and a hated enemy of Jack’s declared revenge for the slight or accusation. One day Jack went to the hardware store, as he opened the door, Jules fired both barrels of a scatter gun at Jack. Jack being wounded by the shot managed to get his pistol out and fire into Jules, wounding him also. Both survived, but Jules recovered more quickly than Jack. Jules soon paid a visit to where Jack was recuperating and yelled into the door, when he dies, bury him in a dry goods box. Jack even close to death yelled back, I will live long enough to wear your ears on my watch chain. It was said that eventually Jack did what was said.

The superintendent of the stage line ran Jules out of the territory by ghost hanging him three times until h was black and blue in the face. Jack was taken to St.Louis for treatment and when he was strong enough to return, he showed his friends where eight bullets of the buckshot was still in his body. Jules, having left Montana and was now trading cattle in Colorado, bragged that one day he would return and finish the job on Jack Slade.

Jules made the mistake of coming into Montana and stopping at a stagecoach station. Word was sent to Jack of his location. Jack sent me to the station to arrest Jules and hold him until Jack arrived. It is said when Jack arrived the men had tied Jules to the corral and Jack took out his pistol and started firing bullets into Jules. But only making flesh wounds. and then Finally while Jules was alive, he cut off his ears and then shot him, aiming at his head, but the bullet struck Jules in the mouth. Jules played possom and pretended to be dead, but Jack noticed he was still alive. Jack made the statement, I intended to kill you, but since your still alive, I will give you time to get your affairs in order. (make a will). Jules, agreed and one of the bystanders agreed to write it up for him. When it was finished they needed ink to seal it with, the writer of the will went to the station to get the ink but when he returned, Jack had shot Jules dead.

For several weeks after, Jack was seen wearing one of Jule’s ears as a watch charm and the other was nailed to the corral.

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