Ellen E. Jack, aka “Captain Jack”, was never one to shy away from adventure. She was always on the lookout for opportunities fostering self-promotion, infused with colorful storytelling. Her journey into Colorado’s Rocky Mountains began when she set off from Denver, traveling by stagecoach. Along the way, Ellen, as a single woman, would be forced to draw her .44 to protect herself from the amorous intentions of lonely Western menfolk, outlaws and wolves. She would encounter snowstorms, treacherous mountain passes, prospectors and tobacco spitting cowboys. Finally, she arrived in a “new” valley; a Ute Indian reservation recently opened up for settlement by the U.S. Government; a tent city that resembled a “military camp”.

Captain Ellen Jack in front of her boarding house.

Everyone wore buckskin clothing, slung gun belts from their hips, and strapped bullet cartridges across their chests! Whatever was a lady to do? The only place for her to sleep was a lounge in the lobby of the half-finished Gunnison House Hotel. For her safety, she was told to sleep in most of her clothes and hide her valuables on her person. After her first night in “Bedlam”, Ellen walked into the middle of a gun fight where “Wild Bill” was shot in the back! Before dying, he whispered that she should have his gun. The excitement must have gotten under Ellen’s skin. She decided to stay, purchasing building lots and setting up a tent eatery. As more people moved into town, she opened a boarding house known as Jack’s Cabin, headquarters for freighters and surveyors. They brought her exciting stories of Ute uprisings, snow slides, ore strikes, railroads and mining camps. Her business ventures enabled her to buy a one-half partnership in the Black Queen Mine near Crystal. The mine eventually produced around $100,000 in pure silver ore!

As time marched on, so did Captain Jack. After many more incredible adventures, she moved to Colorado Springs. By 1903 she was renting out tourist cabins and selling photos of herself with her menagerie from her wild west resort on the High Drive, above Bear Creek Canyon (see photo). She died in 1921 and is buried nearby in the Evergreen Cemetery. For more of Captain Jack’s amazing tales, her self-published autobiography, The Fate of a Fairy or Twenty Seven Years in the Far West, is available for purchase in the museum gift store.For more information on Captain Ellen Jack, visit our gift shop for her autobiography.

-Research by Barbara Mason, anthropologist

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