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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




Really and truly, two thirds of the talk of drivers and
conductors had been about this man Slade, ever since
the day before we reached Julesburg. In order that the eastern
reader may have a clear conception of what a Rocky Mountain
desperado is, in his highest state of development, I will
reduce all this mass of overland gossip to one straightforward
narrative, and present it in the following shape:

Slade was born in Illinois, of good parentage. At about
twenty-six years of age he killed a man in a quarrel and fled
the country. At St. Joseph, Missouri, he joined one of the
early California-bound emigrant trains, and was given the post
of train-master. One day on the plains he had an angry dispute
with one of his wagon-drivers, and both drew their
revolvers. But the driver was the quicker artist, and had his
weapon cocked first. So Slade said it was a pity to waste life
on so small a matter, and proposed that the pistols be thrown
on the ground and the quarrel settled by a fist-fight. The
unsuspecting driver agreed, and threw down his pistol—whereupon
Slade laughed at his simplicity, and shot him dead!

He made his escape, and lived a wild life for awhile, dividing
his time between fighting Indians and avoiding an Illinois
sheriff, who had been sent to arrest him for his first murder.
It is said that in one Indian battle he killed three savages with
his own hand, and afterward cut their ears off and sent them,
with his compliments, to the chief of the tribe.

Slade soon gained a name for fearless resolution, and this


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 081. In-line image of two men fighting. One man has pulled a gun on the other man, who looks frightened.]
was sufficient merit to procure for him the important post of
overland division-agent at Julesburg, in place of Mr. Jules,
removed. For some time previously, the company's horses
had been frequently
stolen, and the
coaches delayed, by
gangs of outlaws,
who were wont to
laugh at the idea of
any man's having
the temerity to resent
such outrages.
Slade resented them
promptly. The outlaws
soon found that
the new agent was a
man who did not
fear anything that
breathed the breath
of life. He made
short work of all
offenders. The result
was that delays
ceased, the company's
property was let
alone, and no matter
what happened or
who suffered, Slade's coaches went through, every time!
True, in order to bring about this wholesome change, Slade
had to kill several men—some say three, others say four, and
others six—but the world was the richer for their loss. The
first prominent difficulty he had was with the ex-agent Jules,
who bore the reputation of being a reckless and desperate
man himself. Jules hated Slade for supplanting him, and a
good fair occasion for a fight was all he was waiting for. By
and by Slade dared to employ a man whom Jules had once
discharged. Next, Slade seized a team of stage-horses which


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 082. In-line image of a man with his back to an open door. Coming through the door is another man who has a gun aimed at him.]
he accused Jules of having driven off and hidden somewhere
for his own use. War was declared, and for a day or two the
two men walked warily about the streets, seeking each other,
Jules armed with a double-barreled shot gun, and Slade with
his history-creating revolver. Finally, as Slade stepped into a
store, Jules poured the contents of his gun into him from behind
the door.
Slade was
pluck, and
Jules got several
bad pistol
wounds in
return. Then
both men fell,
and were carried
to their
lodgings, both
swearing that
better aim
should do deadlier work
next time. Both were bedridden
a long time, but Jules
got on his feet first, and
gathering his possessions together,
packed them on a
couple of mules, and fled
to the Rocky Mountains to
gather strength in safety
against the day of reckoning.
For many months he was not seen or heard of, and was gradually
dropped out of the remembrance of all save Slade himself.
But Slade was not the man to forget him. On the contrary,
common report said that Slade kept a reward standing
for his capture, dead or alive!

After awhile, seeing that Slade's energetic administration
had restored peace and order to one of the worst divisions of


Page 83
the road, the overland stage company transferred him to the
Rocky Ridge division in the Rocky Mountains, to see if he
could perform a like miracle there. It was the very paradise
of outlaws and desperadoes. There was absolutely no semblance
of law there. Violence was the rule. Force was the
only recognized authority. The commonest misunderstandings
were settled on the spot with the revolver or the knife. Murders
were done in open day, and with sparkling frequency, and
nobody thought of inquiring into them. It was considered
that the parties who did the killing had their private reasons
for it; for other people to meddle would have been looked
upon as indelicate. After a murder, all that Rocky Mountain
etiquette required of a spectator was, that he should help the
gentleman bury his game—otherwise his churlishness would
surely be remembered against him the first time he killed
a man himself and needed a neighborly turn in interring

Slade took up his residence sweetly and peacefully in the
midst of this hive of horse-thieves and assassins, and the very
first time one of them aired his insolent swaggerings in his
presence he shot him dead! He began a raid on the outlaws,
and in a singularly short space of time he had completely
stopped their depredations on the stage stock, recovered a large
number of stolen horses, killed several of the worst desperadoes
of the district, and gained such a dread ascendancy over
the rest that they respected him, admired him, feared him,
obeyed him! He wrought the same marvelous change in the
ways of the community that had marked his administration at
Overland City. He captured two men who had stolen overland
stock, and with his own hands he hanged them. He was
supreme judge in his district, and he was jury and executioner
likewise—and not only in the case of offences against his employers,
but against passing emigrants as well. On one occasion
some emigrants had their stock lost or stolen, and told
Slade, who chanced to visit their camp. With a single companion
he rode to a ranch, the owners of which he suspected,


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 084. In-line image of a lynching. There is one man hanging, and another one about to do the same. Around them is the lynching mob.]
and opening the door, commenced firing, killing three, and
wounding the fourth.

From a bloodthirstily interesting little Montana book[1] I
take this paragraph:

While on the road, Slade held absolute sway. He would ride down to
a station, get into a quarrel, turn the house out of windows, and maltreat
the occupants most cruelly. The unfortunates had no means of redress, and
were compelled to recuperate as best they could. On one of these occasions,
it is said he killed the father of the fine little half-breed boy Jemmy, whom
he adopted, and who lived with his widow after his execution. Stories of
Slade's hanging men, and of innumerable assaults, shootings, stabbings
and beatings, in which he was a principal actor, form part of the legends
of the stage line. As for minor quarrels and shootings, it is absolutely certain
that a minute history of Slade's life would be one long record of such


Page 85



[Description: 504EAF. Page 085. In-line image of a shop keeper being held up by a man with a gun, who seems to be interested in the liquor.]

Slade was a matchless marksman with a navy revolver.
The legends say that one morning at Rocky Ridge, when he was
feeling comfortable, he saw a man approaching who had offended
him some days before—observe the fine memory he
had for matters like that—and, “Gentlemen,” said Slade,
drawing, “it is a good twenty-yard shot—I'll clip the third
button on his coat!” Which he did. The bystanders all
admired it. And they all attended the funeral, too.

On one occasion a man who kept a little whisky-shelf at
the station did something which angered Slade—and went
and made his will. A day or two afterward Slade came in
and called for some brandy. The man reached under the
counter (ostensibly to get a bottle—possibly to get something
else), but Slade smiled upon him that peculiarly bland and
satisfied smile of his which the neighbors had long ago learned
to recognize as a death-warrant in disguise, and told him to


Page 86
“none of that!—pass out the high-priced article.” So the
poor bar-keeper had to turn his back and get the high-priced
brandy from the shelf; and when he faced around again he
was looking into the muzzle of Slade's pistol. “And the next
instant,” added my informant, impressively, “he was one of
the deadest men that ever lived.”

The stage-drivers and conductors told us that sometimes
Slade would leave a hated enemy wholly unmolested, unnoticed
and unmentioned, for weeks together—had done it
once or twice at any rate. And some said they believed he
did it in order to lull the victims into unwatchfulness, so that
he could get the advantage of them, and others said they believed
he saved up an enemy that way, just as a schoolboy
saves up a cake, and made the pleasure go as far as it would
by gloating over the anticipation. One of these cases was
that of a Frenchman who had offended Slade. To the surprise
of everybody Slade did not kill him on the spot, but let
him alone for a considerable time. Finally, however, he went
to the Frenchman's house very late one night, knocked, and
when his enemy opened the door, shot him dead—pushed the
corpse inside the door with his foot, set the house on fire and
burned up the dead man, his widow and three children! I
heard this story from several different people, and they evidently
believed what they were saying. It may be true, and
it may not. “Give a dog a bad name,” etc.

Slade was captured, once, by a party of men who intended
to lynch him. They disarmed him, and shut him up in a
strong log-house, and placed a guard over him. He prevailed
on his captors to send for his wife, so that he might have a last
interview with her. She was a brave, loving, spirited women.
She jumped on a horse and rode for life and death. When
she arrived they let her in without searching her, and before
the door could be closed she whipped out a couple of revolvers,
and she and her lord marched forth defying the party. And
then, under a brisk fire, they mounted double and galloped
away unharmed!

In the fulness of time Slade's myrmidons captured his


Page 87
ancient enemy Jules, whom they found in a well-chosen
hiding-place in the remote fastnesses of the mountains, gaining
a precarious livelihood with his rifle. They brought him to
Rocky Ridge, bound hand and foot, and deposited him in the
middle of the cattle-yard with his back against a post. It is
said that the pleasure that lit Slade's face when he heard of it
was something fearful to contemplate. He examined his enemy
to see that he was securely tied, and then went to bed,
content to wait till morning before enjoying the luxury of
killing him. Jules spent the night in the cattle-yard, and it is
a region where warm nights are never known. In the morning
Slade practised on him with his revolver, nipping the flesh
here and there, and occasionally clipping off a finger, while
Jules begged him to kill him outright and put him out of his
misery. Finally Slade reloaded, and walking up close to his
victim, made some characteristic remarks and then dispatched
him. The body lay there half a day, nobody venturing to
touch it without orders, and then Slade detailed a party and
assisted at the burial himself. But he first cut off the dead
man's ears and put them in his vest pocket, where he carried
them for some time with great satisfaction. That is the story
as I have frequently heard it told and seen it in print in California
newspapers. It is doubtless correct in all essential particulars.

In due time we rattled up to a stage-station, and sat down
to breakfast with a half-savage, half-civilized company of
armed and bearded mountaineers, ranchmen and station employees.
The most gentlemanly-appearing, quiet and affable
officer we had yet found along the road in the Overland Company's
service was the person who sat at the head of the table,
at my elbow. Never youth stared and shivered as I did when
I heard them call him Slade!

Here was romance, and I sitting face to face with it!—
looking upon it—touching it—hobnobbing with it, as it were!
Here, right by my side, was the actual ogre who, in fights and
brawls and various ways, had taken the lives of twenty-six
human beings,
or all men lied about him! I suppose I was


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 088. In-line image of two men sitting at a dinner table eating and drinking, while they converse.]
the proudest stripling that ever traveled to see strange lands
and wonderful people.

He was so friendly and so gentle-spoken that I warmed to
him in spite of his awful history. It was hardly possible to realize
that this pleasant person was the pitiless scourge of the
outlaws, the raw-head-and-bloody-bones the nursing mothers
of the mountains terrified their children with. And to this day
I can remember nothing remarkable about Slade except that
his face was rather broad across the cheek bones, and that the
cheek bones were low and the lips peculiarly thin and straight.
But that was enough to leave something of an effect upon me,
for since then I seldom see a face possessing those characteristics
without fancying that the owner of it is a dangerous man.

The coffee ran out. At least it was reduced to one tin-cupful,
Slade was
about to take
it when he saw
that my cup
was empty.
He politely offered
to fill it,
but although
I wanted it,
I politely declined.
I was
afraid he had
not killed anybody
morning, and
might be needing
But still with
firm politeness he insisted on filling my cup, and said I had
traveled all night and better deserved it than he—and while
he talked he placidly poured the fluid, to the last drop. I
thanked him and drank it, but it gave me no comfort, for I


Page 89
could not feel sure that he would not be sorry, presently, that
he had given it away, and proceed to kill me to distract his
thoughts from the loss. But nothing of the kind occurred.
We left him with only twenty-six dead people to account
for, and I felt a tranquil satisfaction in the thought that in
so judiciously taking care of No. 1 at that breakfast-table
I had pleasantly escaped being No. 27. Slade came out to
the coach and saw us off, first ordering certain reärrangements
of the mail-bags for our comfort, and then we took leave of
him, satisfied that we should hear of him again, some day, and
wondering in what connection.


“The Vigilantes of Montana,” by Prof. Thos. J. Dimsdale.