Joseph Alfred ‘Jacky’ Slade was born in Carlyle, Illinois on January 22, 1831. After his father, Charles Slade, died serving in the Mexican War, Jack’s mother: Mary Dark (Kain) Slade remarried to Elian Dennis, a Civil War general. Around 1857, Jack returned from serving in the Mexican War and married Maria Virginia Salde.
After his service, he became a freighting teamster and wagon master along the Overland Trail sometime in the 1850s. Later he became a stagecoach driver in Texas from 1857-1858. It wasn’t long before he was prompted to become stagecoach division superintendent along the Central Overland route for Hockaday & Co. from 1858 to 1859. He was able to create very effective teams out of unruly men or animals and was able to travel in any weather condition, which helped him become a benevolent feudal lord for Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming. He protected settlers, emigrants, stagecoach passengers, and the U.S. Mail. These efforts were what helped him maintain contact with the federal government in the Far West.
Jack became a terror to outlaws and thieves, one of those being Jules Beni, a Frenchman, who was found to be thieving livestock and soon became Jack Slade’s greatest enemy and rival! Later on, people called their rivalry a ‘David and Goliath’ scenario. Their rivalry ended when Jules was finally captured. He was fatally wounded, tied to a stake then died while he was still tied up. Slade cut off one of his ears and wore it around his neck on a chain as a sign of his determination of following through on a threat. Jack Slade’s reputation spun out of control from then on.
Jack’s ferocious reputation combined with his drunken behavior led him to be hanged in Virginia City, in the Idaho territory, by the local committee of Vigilance on March 10, 1864. His wife, Virginia, took her husband’s body in a tin-lined coffin and planned to have him buried back in Illinois. Sadly, the coffin was shipped to Salt Lake City, Utah and no one came to pick it up to send it to Illinois. So he was buried in Utah and has been there ever since.