Virginia Dale Stage Station
In 1863, a stagecoach along the Overland Trail
carrying an army payroll of $60,000 (which would be about $1 million
dollars today) in ten and twenty dollar gold coins was destined for Fort
Territory. The gold shipment represented several months of back pay for
the soldiers at Fort Sanders; however, the unfortunate soldiers never saw
Only about a mile from the Virginia Dale
Station, the stage was robbed by six masked outlaws at Long View Hill. The gang took the strongbox from the stage and headed west towards the
wooded foothills, where they blew the lock off of the box, removed the
gold coins, and buried the
However, before they
could spend their ill-gained wealth, the bandits were pursued and
killed by the U.S. Cavalry. The Cavalry later found the iron strong
box in a nearby creek, the sides and bottom gone, riddled with bullet
holes – and, obviously, empty.
The Overland Trail stage line was
regularly terrorized by outlaws, where the surrounding area provided
multiple opportunistic hideouts. One hideout, labeled the
Robbers Roost atop Table Mountain, was so popular that the
outlaws built a cabin there. Table Mountain, only about a
mile northeast of the Virginia Dale Stage Station, was a perfect
hideout, as it is difficult to climb with practically perpendicular
cliffs and a rim of shale.
At the time, it was rumored that
Slade, the Station Master was the leader of the gang. Jack Slade, not as famous as many other
outlaw characters, was nevertheless, as notorious as many of them.
Slade was said to have had an uncontrollable temper, was a heavy
drinker, had murdered in the past, and was eventually hanged in
Montana. Though the stage line suspected
Slade, they could not prove it, so
they just fired him. Uncharacteristically, the
bad-tempered Slade, left without any problems.
Montana. A heavy drinker with a bad temper, he wrecked a
soon after his arrival. Jack was arrested but he tore up the
arrest and threatened the judge. Though he pleaded for his life,
he was immediately hanged.
Virginia Dale, his
girlfriend (or common law wife) was brought to town by one of
friends, took his body home, pickled it in alcohol in a metal casket,
and kept it under her bed for several months. She then took it to Salt
Lake City, Utah and buried him in the old Mormon Cemetery where his
body remains today.
The gold taken by the
robbers at Virginia Dale has never been found.
Today, Virginia Dale
is nothing more than a
town, located in the northern part of Larimer County, about 45
miles northwest of Fort Collins, and just about four miles south of
Wyoming border on US Highway 287. The old Overland
Trail Stage Station is listed on the National Register of Historical
sites and recently efforts have been made to preserve the old station.
The stage station is
situated at the very end of County Road 43F, about 1 mile east of US 287. A monument erected for the station marks the beginning of CR 43F. Follow the county road through a narrow gorge beneath Lover’s Leap, past a
ranch, and it will take you right to the door. The station itself is on
private property, but the access to the site is on a county road. If
you intend to visit the Stage Station, you can take pictures of the
grounds and the exterior of the building, but please do not trespass onto
the private property.
More Treasure Tales Next Page