The Overland Trail Mail route was established in 1862 to assist passengers in avoiding Indian uprisings that were occurring on the Oregon Trail further north. It followed the Cherokee Trail until it split between LaPorte and Virginia Dale. Virginia Dale was the westerly route, eventually rejoining the Oregon Trail at Ft. Bridger, Wyoming. About 20,000 pioneers traveled the Overland Trail each year from 1862 – 1868. Indian attacks became more common as more emigrants arrived.
Virginia Dale was the most famous of the Overland Trail stage stations. The notorious stationmaster, Jack Slade, named it after his wife Virginia. Slade was reported to ride wild mustangs and shoot up the countryside when he was not drunk. He may have been responsible for a stage hold-up one mile from Virginia Dale during which $60,000.00 disappeared.
When the station was abandoned as a stage stop, settlers were attracted to the area by the streams and meadows, which were exceptional for grazing cattle. Although the original building has been preserved, the school and church are not standing.
Once the Central Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad were joined at Promontory Point, Utah in 1869, much of the traffic was diverted from Virginia Dale.
Mark Twain added to the lore surrounding Virginia Dale in his novel, Roughing It.
You can visit this historic site by traveling 45 miles north of Ft. Collins, Colorado on Highway 287.