During the Civil War, the Overland Trail (aka Overland Stage Line) was a vital route for transporting mail and gold. The Virginia Dale Stage Station, north and west of Fort Collins, is believed to be the only station on the Overland Trail that is still standing in its original location. In 1985, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Established in 1862 by the infamous frontiersman Jack Slade, the 150 -year-old building is in need of some serious restoration. Last weekend, the Virginia Dale Community Club held a celebration to kick off their fundraising campaign.
Tucked back off the beaten path, the station doesn’t appear to be a stop on the way to anywhere these days, but it was once a place where passengers could get a meal and stay overnight if necessary. Heading up the dusty unpaved road toward the station, with the air conditioner keeping the 90 degree heat at bay, I couldn’t imagine making that trip in a stagecoach, especially while dressed in the layers of heavy garments women wore back then. (Seriously, ladies, aren’t you so glad to be able to slip on a pair of shorts?)
The visit to the station had personal significance for me, as my dad's master’s thesis was entitled Early Stage Lines in Colorado, 1859-1865. He died many years ago, but I like to think he was there in spirit on Saturday, trading stories with the ghost of Jack Slade.