QUESTION: I CAN’T FIND ANY REFERENCE TO A RADIO SHOW CALLED NORTHERN COLORADO HERITAGE CONNECTION ON GOOGLE OR THE KCFR SITE. IS THE SHOW NAME RIGHT?
Jack Slade and Friends will arrive June 4 at the Hilton Hotel, 425 W. Prospect Road in Fort Collins, to spend a gala evening dedicated to supporting renovation of the historic Overland Stage Station in Virginia Dale.
The fun starts at 5:30 and goes until 10 p.m. In addition to entertainment by the notorious Slade and his friends, there will be a dinner, live and silent auctions, live music and a cash bar.
Because Slade met a violent end at the hands of a vigilante committee in Montana in 1864, he can’t be there in person. But Gordon Chavis, a professional actor and super Slade impersonator, will take his place.
Chavis certainly won’t be short of material. Slade, formerly the Overland Stage station manager in Julesburg, already had a reputation when he established the Virginia Dale station in 1862. He’d reportedly killed a man, cut off his ears, nailed one to a post and carried the other on his watch chain.
But despite his past, Slade was known to be a good stage station agent—except when liquor got the best of him. Before the end of 1862, he’d been fired and moved on to Montana.
The gala is presented by members of the Virginia Dale Community Club, a group dedicated to the rural lifestyle and specifically to the preservation of the Overland Stage Station and nearby Hurzeler House.
The Virginia Dale station is the only stage station still standing on the historic Overland Trail. Travelers up and down highway 287 can see the abandoned Virginia Dale Café and Post Office, but often are not aware that the stage station lies 1.5 miles to the east, on the original site of the old Cherokee Trail.
The route was moved west during an upgrade in 1932, leaving the stage station isolated down a winding dirt road, CR 43F. It’s worth the trip to see a part of Colorado history that has been kept alive by a dedicated group of history lovers.
Virginia Dale Community Club Events Coordinator Marcie Wells is so committed to the stage station and Western history in general that she thinks she must have journeyed across the prairie in another life.
“I love this place,” she said, referring to the land, graced by meandering Dale Creek, on which the stage station and Hurzeler House sit. She shares her love of history on a radio show, Northern Colorado Heritage Connection, on local station KCFR.
Virginia Dale’s 20- by 60-foot stage station was built from yellow pine, using pièce sur pièce construction. This building technique uses chinking rather than nails, which allows for the addition of 20-foot sections as the need arises. The stage station features a lookout in the center, which was used to watch for approaching stagecoaches or unfriendly Indians.
Passengers could get a meal and spend the night at this “home station.” Travelers slept on the floor, while beds were reserved for the drivers. Home stations were placed about 40 to 50 miles apart. In between were swing stations, which were available for meals and to change horses.
Virginia Dale Community Club President Sylvia Garofalo shared the story of the discovery of a pair of 201 Levis stuffed into the ceiling of the stage station, probably to plug up a hole. A workman doing some repairs found the jeans, which turned out to be circa 1890. The club sold them for $3,000 and added the money to its restoration fund. “Much better than encasing them in glass and having them on display,” Garofalo said.
With the arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad, the Virginia Dale station closed in 1868. It later became a post office and general store. In 1909, Emil and Ella Hurzeler built a home nearby and ranched on the land. The most recent owners, Maude and Fred Maxwell, left the buildings and 10 acres of land to the Virginia Dale Community Club.
The club has recently replaced the station’s rafters, windows and the electrical system. Future plans include installing a pellet stove, adding a covered porch and repairing the ceiling and roof.
It is important to club members to keep renovations as authentic as possible. All work is done by volunteers, but the club hires restoration experts as needed.
Along with the June 4 gala, the club will also sponsor a Western Dance and Pie Auction featuring the band “Barely Getting By” from 7 to 11 p.m. on June 10 at the stage station. To buy tickets for either event, visit virginiadalecommunityclub.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.