CHAPTER VIII. THE PONY EXPRESS.
They carried Jules to the ranch, and tied him up to a dry-goods box. Slade shot at him for a while, aiming as near as he could without hitting him, finally shooting off one of his ears; and then he ordered his twenty-five men to empty the contents of their revolvers into him. They then threw his body into a hole which they dug.
The next day a lot of Slade's men came and took away all the goods in the trading-post; they left me about six hundred dollars. They got three thousand dollars that Jules had when he left, and they got the stock, I suppose. I never heard anything about them. They said afterward that Jules had money in the bank, but we could not find any bank-book, and if he had one it was probably on his person. I was just a child and did not know what to do. In a day or two a man came along who lived on a ranch farther west; he was going to Denver for goods; he took me, the man, and woman with him to Denver.
Slade eventually drifted into Montana, and in 1865 was hanged by the vigilantes on suspicion of being the leader of a band of road agents.
He was living on a ranch near Virginia City at the time, and every few days came into town outrageously drunk, alarming the people by shooting through the streets, riding into saloons, and proclaiming himself to be the veritable "Bad man from Bitter Creek."
The belief that he was connected with matters worse than bad whiskey had overstrained the patience of the long-suffering citizens. Soon the suggestive and mysterious triangular little pieces of paper dropped upon the sidewalks of the town, surmounted with the skull and cross-bones, called the vigilantes to a meeting at which the death of Slade and two of his companions was determined upon. The next morning following the evening of the meeting, Slade came to town with his two men, actually sober, and went into a drug-store for a prescription. While waiting for his preparation, twelve shotguns suddenly covered them, and they were ordered to throw up their hands. Slade complied smilingly, but proposed to reason with them as to the absurdity of taking him for a bad man.
The only concession granted, however, was permission to send a note to his wife at the ranch, and an hour allowed to make his peace with the unknown.
Ropes were placed around the necks of the three men, who at the end of the allotted time were given short shrift and were soon hanging between heaven and earth. While their bodies were swaying in the breeze, Slade's wife suddenly appeared mounted on a fine horse, with a cocked pistol in each hand, determined to attempt a rescue. On observing that it was too late, she quailed before the determined countenances of the vigilantes. She soon left the scene of the lynching, and in a short time moved out of the country, carrying with her, as it was believed, a large amount of the proceeds of her husband's robberies.
In the winter of 1860 Mr. Edward Creighton, who had for many years been engaged in constructing telegraph lines all over the United States, determined to inaugurate a pet project he had entertained for a long time, to build one to the Pacific Coast.
In the year above referred to, he had many consultations with the stockholders of the Western Union, the result of which was that a preliminary survey was decided upon. Notwithstanding that travelling by the Overland coach was beset with great danger from attacks by road agents and Indians, Mr. Creighton was compelled to cross the continent by the only means of transportation; and, stopping at Salt Lake City, he excited the interest and enlisted the support of the great head of the Mormon Church.
It had been arranged to invite the association of the California Telegraph Company in the enterprise, and, notwithstanding the terrors of a midwinter journey, Mr. Creighton pressed on on horseback for Sacramento. It was a fearful trip, but the man who made it was stout of heart and he braved the rigours of the mountains, accomplished his mission, and in the spring of 1861 returned to Omaha to commence the great work. The United States, meanwhile, had granted a subsidy of forty thousand dollars a year to the first company who should build a line across the continent. It may well be imagined that a great race was immediately inaugurated for heavy wagers, between Mr. Creighton's force and that of the Californians, who were building eastwardly, each party trying to reach Salt Lake City before the other.
Mr. Creighton had eleven hundred miles to construct, while the California company's distance from the objective point was only four hundred and fifty; yet the indefatigable Mr. Creighton reached Salt Lake City with his completed line on the 17th of October, one week ahead of his competitors.
On the 24th of the same month, but a little more than half a year after its commencement, Mr. Creighton had established telegraphic communication from ocean to ocean. For his remuneration he took one hundred thousand dollars worth of the stock of the new enterprise at about eighteen cents on the dollar. When the project was completed, the company trebled its amount of shares and Mr. Creighton's one hundred thousand dollars immediately enhanced to three hundred thousand. The stock at once rose to the value of eighty-five cents, and he sold out his original one hundred thousand dollars for eight hundred and fifty thousand, still retaining two hundred thousand dollars worth of stock.