John Braden (18??-1896) – Braden hailed from Pennsylvania or Ohio, but made his way westward when he was still quite young. By the 1850s, he was employed by the Northeastern Stage Company, driving in Minnesota and Iowa. Later he began to drive for the Overland Stage traveling on the Platte River in Nebraska before driving for the Kansas Stage Company out of Leavenworth, Kansas. By the 1860s he was blazing the Smoky Hill Traill through Kansas to Colorado for Wells-Fargo. Next, he was back driving again for the Overland Stage Line between Fort Bridger, Wyoming and Salt Lake City, Utah.
When Ben Holladay sold the stage route to Wells-Fargo, Braden continued to work for the line for a couple of years before drifting south to Albuquerque, New Mexico. There, he was employed for about 15 years in a livery stable until he met his end on October 17, 1896.
At the age of 74, Braden was hired to drive a wagon load of fireworks the Territorial Fair Parade. Suddenly, when a firecracker landed in the wagon, the load of fireworks began to explode, sending rockets directly at the spirted horses, which bolted and ran into the back of a hack containing four little girls. Though Braden was badly burned, he remained at the reigns, trying to control the team. Finally, he fell to the ground dying. His last words were: “Did I save the little girls and the queen of the carnival and her attendants?” His funeral was one of the largest that ever took place in Albuquerque up until that time. His last act, did in fact, save the little girls from burning to death. Shortly after his death, a monument was placed in Robinson Park in his honor, which continues to stand today.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, August, 2017.