Captain Jack, Colorado Springs, Colorado

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History of Jones Park and the Colorful Characters

that Pioneered the Cheyenne Canyon 

 Colorado Springs, Colorado 

 

       

 

     
 

Captain Ellen Jack

 

Capt Jack Pick Ax  

Captain Ellen Jack (1842-1921)

In 1900 the Giles family moved to Cripple Creek and lived several blocks from a boarding house operated by Ellen Jack at Bennett Avenue and 4th Street.  She was well-known as “Captain Jack” a name acquired from her late husband.  She was somewhat a legend for her being a woman prospector and miner in Gilpin County and her ownership of the Black Queen Mine. 

Articles about her say: “it is doubtful any woman in early Colorado ever lived a wilder life.”   “Of the numerous times she was arrested, Ellen was always justified in shooting the man or men who tried to steal, cheat or kill her.”  

Accomplished at handling pistols and rifles, Captain Jack had to use these weapons more than once throughout her life. She took part in gun fights, fought off “amorous” Native Americans, and traveled through avalanche-prone mountains that kept everyone else off the trails. It is said she always carried her pistol and pick-ax no matter where she traveled. 

 

     
Jack By Fence  

“I do not fear man or devil; it is not in my blood, and if they can shoot any straighter or quicker than I, let them try it, for a .44 equalizes frail women and brute men, and all women ought to be able to protect themselves against such ruffians,” she had said.

In 1903, Captain Jack moved to Colorado Springs. She opened a wild-west tourist cabin and resort operation near what is now Captain Jacks trailhead or Trail #667. 

Tourists were hawked to visit her cabin where she lived with her pet burro, cats and parrots, and a snake.  

Her tourist attraction suffered from competition, floods, financial woes and an aging legend.

     
Jack_ AndPets   By 1921, the cabins off of High Drive closed.  Captain Jack’s competitor, Nora Gaines, purchased the property two years later.

After her death, a memorial tombstone was placed at the site on high drive by unknown community persons.

In the 1960s, the remaining cabins were demolished by the City of Colorado Springs.
   

 

 


http://www.flickr.com/photos/aff7/5988269502/sizes/o/in/photostream/
 
Captain Jack is likely the gunslinger by the fence in the center of the page
  Women's Gold Tapestry of Colorado

"Ellen Jack - The lady also called "Captain" Jack left her home in England in 1872 after her husband and children tragically died. Moving to Gunnison, Colorado, Mrs. Jack opened numerous successful businesses, and spent much of her spare time prospecting. She was well respected by her male counterparts because of her marksmanship, business savvy, and overall tenacity."

The nine-foot by twelve-foot tapestry that hangs in the capitol honors the women who were integral in the settlement and development of Colorado. The tapestry was made to commemorate the state's centennial and the country's bicentennial in 1976.

The title "Women's Gold" alludes to the yellow roses found in the mining camps. The words on the parameter of the tapestry are America the Beautiful written over a century ago by Kathryn Lee Bates after her visit to the top of Pikes Peak.

This massive project that incorporated hand-stitched embroidery and appliqué on Irish linen, took 4,500 hours to complete, 1,600 expert artisans, 1,800 amateurs, and imported skilled artisans from thirty-eight states and nine countries.



http://www.colorado.gov/dpa/doit/archives/cap/tapest.htm
     
Book  

The Fate of a Fairy - Colorado's Eccentric Captain Jack

Book Description

March 1, 2010

Of all the women who came to Colorado to start a new life in the 1860s and 1870s, Ellen E. Jack (also known as "Captain Jack") could well have been the most unusual.

 As a young woman, she was touched by tragedy with the deaths of her husband and two of her three children. Leaving the sadness, she said goodbye to her "civilized" life and moved to Colorado. She lived briefly in Pueblo and Denver and then moved to the new gold discoveries in the Gunnison Country. There, she ran several businesses, including a series of boarding houses that she ruled with an iron fist; and she became a partner in the successful Black Queen Mine, located between Crested Butte and Aspen.

According to her writings, she took part in gun fights, fought off "amorous" Native Americans, and traveled through avalanche-prone mountains that kept everyone else off the trails. In her later years she moved to Colorado Springs and filed several mining claims nearby, but she mainly catered to tourists - taking them on mine tours, hiring out her burros for rides, telling tall tales, and selling her self-published autobiography, The Fate of a Fairy.

It is doubtful that you will ever read a wilder tale of the life of a woman in early Colorado. What is fact and what is fiction is for you to decide.

     
Jack_InAction  

from an Article About Caption Jack:

Ellen Elliott Jack
(November 4, 1842 – Unknown)

"I do not fear man or devil; it is not in my blood, and if they can shoot any straighter or quicker than I, let them try it, for a .44 equalizes frail women and brute men, and all women ought to be able to protect themselves against such ruffians."
- "Captain Jack", prospector

Ellen Elliott Jack was born in New Lentern, Nottingham, England, on November 4, 1842. As a young girl, Ellen encountered a gypsy queen who foretold of a life of tragedy and treasures. Who would have believed these predictions would come true? Ellen met her future husband, Charles E. Jack, in 1860 while aboard the steamer, James Foster. Once married, Ellen settled with Charles in New York, but soon he left the city and became a Navy captain during the Civil War. While he was gone, Ellen gave birth to their first daughter and soon after the war gave birth to a son. Tragedy struck when both children were lost to scarlet fever. Later, Ellen had two more daughters, losing one to scarlet fever. It was not long after these deaths that Captain Jack died of an enlarged heart.

Ellen decided she would head west and placed her surviving daughter in the care of her sister-in-law. She established a thriving boarding house in Gunnison, Colorado, and began her search for treasures in the mines of Colorado. During one of her trips into the mountains, Ellen discovered the very profitable, Black Queen silver mine. The mine provided Ellen with happiness as well as heartache. Several men proclaimed their love for her but Ellen did not return that love until she met a man named Walsh. It turned out that Walsh was a con man and he tried, and failed, to steal all of Ellen’s wealth.

Accomplished at handling pistols and rifles, Ellen had to use these weapons more than once throughout her life. The boom towns she traveled through required that she be ready to defend herself and face arrest for doing so. Of the numerous times she was arrested, Ellen was always justified in shooting the man or men who tried to steal, cheat or kill her. Ellen spent the rest of her life prospecting in the Colorado area. It is said she always carried her pistol and pick-ax with her no matter where she traveled.

     
   

 

 

By happenstance an encounter with her children’s former nanny, Jennie, changed Ellen’s life. Jenny, now a prosperous working woman  encouraged Ellen to head west,  to Gunnison Colorado. In Gunnison she opened a eating house, “Jack’s Cabin, which proved to be quite profitable. The Indians, at the time, did not take to being pushed off their ancestral land. Collarow(sic) a well known renegade  and several others,  decided to storm the town of Gunnison. As the Indians were taking the town, Ellen stood her ground,  firing her 45s, even though she was bleeding profusely from a hatchet wound to the forehead.  It was Collarow himself, who rode into town, under a white flag to save the Pale Face, suffering from the poisoned hatchet. These fantastic stories must be true, after all, Ellen wrote them all down in her autobiography, The Fate of A Fairy or Twenty Seven Years in the Far West.
Unfortunately, none of Ellen’s adventures in Colorado are captured in the book.

 Ellen soon found herself in Colorado Springs. She located a much more prosperous commodity than gold.  She mined for tourists.

In the early 1900’s, High Drive was constructed as a scenic drive,  intersecting at Gold Camp Road and North Cheyenne Canyon, above Helen Hunt Falls. Hack drivers met the incoming trains, at the Denver and Rio Grande Depot, each competing for the business of these Eastern Tourist  who wanted a Wild West experience. Ellen exploited the tourist’s gullibility. Outfitted in a simple cotton blouse, wool skirt with lace up boots, she accessorized with a mining pick, and a six shooter, tucked into her belt. Ellen posed for photo postcards she sold at Captain Jack’s Place.  She rented cabins, cooked up a delicious friend chicken dinner to those who braved the narrow winding road up High Drive. Quite the eccentric on her own, she lived with her pet burro, cats and parrots, often posing for photographs. Posing as a prospector could easily had been for publicity, however, one could only wonder. In a 1905 February 5, Gazette Telegraph article, she claimed to have discovered a cave to rival that of Cave of the Winds. Whether that was true or not we may never know.
In 1920 a flood washed out the road to High Drive. Luckily, Ellen was in town at the time. Although not in the best of health, Ellen yearned to return to her beloved High Drive. Due to finances, the city decided not to go to expense of rebuilding the road.Ellen’s health deteriorated and she found herself confined to a hospital bed. She died on June 16, 1921. Leakage of the heart was listed as cause of death, however, those who knew her best, believe she died of a broken heart, unable to return to her beloved home.
Ellen Jack was buried by the Ladies of The Grand Army of the Republic. Her grave, in Evergreen Cemetery, faces High Drive.

 

http://evergreencemetery.blogspot.com/2011/02/real-captain-jack.html

     
     
   

Captain Jack and her many odysseys

by Linda Wommack lomm3258@aol.com

http://coloradogambler.com/captain-jack-and-her-many-odysseys/  

She was a tough lady, eccentric and legendary as one of Colorado’s most colorful pioneers. Ellen Elliott was born on Nov. 4, 1842, in New Lentern, Nottingham, England. By the time she made her way to Colorado in 1880, the woman had suffered tragedy and loss.

In 1860, Elliott boarded the “James Foster” ship bound for America. While aboard, she met Charles E. Jack. The two were soon married after they settled in New York. When the country erupted in Civil War, Charles Jack served the Union, eventually rising to the rank of captain. During the war, Ellen gave birth to their first child, a girl. Not long after the war ended, the couple welcomed their second child, a boy. Tragedy struck the Jack family when both children later died of scarlet fever. The couple eventually had two more daughters. Sadly, one of the daughters died, again due to scarlet fever. Then not long after the death of their third child, Charles died in 1872, of an enlarged heart.

Devastated by so much tragedy and loss, Ellen Jack eventually placed her surviving daughter in the care of her sister-in-law and headed to the West. Her first stop was Denver where she learned of the gold discoveries in the Gunnison area on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. In Gunnison, she opened a boarding house and with the income she was able to buy into a partnership in the Black Queen Mine, located between Crested Butte and Aspen.

It was at this time that history records her name as “Captain Jack,” which she had taken from her deceased husband. This was also the time when her colorful Colorado legend took on a whole new persona.

According to her autobiography, Fate of a Fairy or Twenty-seven Years in the Far West, Captain Jack was well accomplished with firearms, including pistols, shotguns and rifles. She wrote she was involved in several gunfights, including a few with local Indians. Traveling alone through the heavy snows in the mountains, she always carried a pistol and pick-ax to get her through the snow-packed passes.

She later said, “I do not fear man or devil; it is not in my blood, and if they can shoot any straighter or quicker than I, let them try it, for a .44 equalizes frail women and brute men, and all women ought to be able to protect themselves against such ruffians.”

Among the many events related in her book is a somewhat fanciful tale involving gypsies. Captain Jack relates that at the age of 7, she attended the Goose Fair in her hometown of Nottingham, where she met a  gypsy queen who supposedly said to her mother, “The child will meet with great sorrows and be a widow early in life.” Whether the event is true or not, the prediction certainly proved to be correct.

Captain Jack poses for one of her many odd curio shots. Photos courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

In 1900, Captain Jack was living in Cripple Creek where she ran a boarding house for three years at the corner of Bennett Avenue and 4th Street. Nothing else is known of her time in Cripple Creek and her autobiography makes only one reference to her time there. In 1903 she had relocated to Colorado Springs where she operated a few rental cabins for tourists on the High Drive above Bear Creek Canyon. In a time when automobile tourism became a rage, Captain Jack set out to corner the new market. She set up an eclectic tourist trap complete with a curio shop featuring erotic pets including snakes and macaws. She regaled her customers with fanciful stories of magical gypsies and wild stories of her life.

Captain Jack became something of an oddity in the area of Colorado Springs. Rumors and whispers regarding her sanity floated around the city at the base of Pikes Peak. One of her many competitors was Nora “Ma” Gaines. She had a reputation in the town as well. Gaines was one of the first to capitalize on the tourist trade. She ran a hotel in town and was one of the many hoards of carriage drivers that clamored at the train depot to take the visitors, businessmen and tourists to their establishments. Gaines, who could out-smart, out-swear and out-fight any competitor, eventually out-smarted Captain Jack.

As Gaines launched a heavy marketing campaign, Captain Jack escalated her wild tales of her adventurous life. As time went on the Indian stories got wilder and the mountain tales included fights with beastly animals. She had photos taken of herself outlandish mountain garb, complete with pistols and shotguns, that she sold in her curio shop.

The photo captions, in her own handwriting read, “Mrs. Captain Jack Lost in the Mountains” and “Mrs. Captain Jack Looking for Mountain Lion.” Today copies of these photographs can be found on the Internet and often show up on ebay as the “original” photo card.

Meanwhile, Gaines’ tourist business was cutting into Captain Jack’s, forcing her to take out loans she was unable to pay back. Financial difficulties led to three separate lawsuits in 1906. Nearly broke, she became a recluse, living alone with her cats, parrots and burros. However, the wild tales continued. In an interview published in the Feb. 5, 1905, issue of the Gazette Telegraph, she claimed she had located a cave to rival the nearby Cave of the Winds, another tourist attraction. However, she said she was keeping the location secret until she could develop it as tourist destination.

In June 1920, heavy rains turned into a horrific flood, washing out the road to Captain Jack’s tourist cabins on High Drive. With her business virtually wiped out, and in ill health, 78-year- Captain Jack died the following year, on June 16, 1921.

She was buried in the city’s Evergreen Cemetery, where her tombstone ironically faces the High Drive. In another irony, “Ma” Gaines bought Captain Jack’s tourist property a few years later and operated it quite successfully.

http://coloradogambler.com/captain-jack-and-her-many-odysseys/

Capitan Ellen E. Jack

The Adventures of Captain Jack

c 2002 by Jan MacKell

 

If anyone dared to follow their flights of fancy, it was Captain Ellen E. Jack. Born in 1842 to a family of nine, Ellen was raised in England before making her way to America. Indeed the exciting and whimsical story of her life, outlined in her book, Fate of A Fairy, reads like pulp fiction of the early 1900's. But as Captain Jack might say herself, if it ain’t true, it oughta be.

Ellen’s fantastic memoirs date back to the age of seven, when she attended the Goose Fair at Nottingham. According to her, a gypsy queen took her by the hand and led her home. The gypsy’s mother gave an ominous prediction for Ellen: “The child was born to be a great traveler…She is a Rosicrucian, born to find hidden treasures. She will meet great sorrows and be a widow early in life. Fire will cause her great trouble and losses.”

Ellen claimed the gypsy’s predictions paralleled her life throughout her days. She also said thatspirits, including her dead husband, talked to her constantly and advised her in all matters of her life. Not all of the advice was good. Ellen’s first foray into the outside world happened when her Russian lover stabbed her after spying her at the opera with a male cousin. Shortly after the incident, Ellen boarded a cruise ship for New York. On the way, she claimed, she assisted the ship’s doctor when he was forced to amputate an Irish girl’s legs.

Whether her tales were tall or true, one fact is certain. Upon returning to England, Ellen became ill with jaundice and met first officer Captain Charles E. Jack. The couple married in 1860 and migrated to America. Among their adventures was the time the Captain was given a ring dated 1314 from General Robert E. Lee. Ellen also claimed to have dined with Abraham Lincoln and said she once intervened when the government planned to bomb a Spanish ship, diverting a war in the process.

 In truth, life for the Jacks turned tumultuous. Charles Jack died in 1873 and Ellen gave up her only surviving child. True to the gypsy’s prophecy, she also lost her belongings in several fires.  Still, Ellen remained adventure bound. She adopted her husband’s name, Captain Jack, and set about traveling west. Upon reaching Colorado, Captain Jack made her way to Pueblo and then Denver. There, a chance meeting with her former nursemaid resulted in a trip to Gunnison in1880 or 1882.

In Gunnison, Captain Jack invested in the Black Queen Mine with some diamonds and bonds she had allegedly sewn in her bustle. Other wild tales about her life in Gunnison included the time an Indian hit her in the head with a poisoned tomahawk. She claimed to have been rescued by Ute Chief Colorow, who exclaimed, “Pale face! Me wants to save her! Bloody poison killy the white squaw, and we lovey the pale face.” The Captain also took credit for establishing the nearby community of Jack’s Cabin (the camp was actually named for Jack Howe) and participating in several Gunnison gunfights.

Captain Jack’s adventures next landed her back in Denver, where she married a man named Walsh. During the ceremony, she said, the voices of invisible children and also a man shook Ellen so hard she dropped her wedding ring on the floor. Despite the experience, the marriage went on as planned. But hindsight is indeed 20-20; Captain Jack later claimed Walsh tried tostick her head in an oven.

Walsh had disappeared by the time Captain Jack surfaced in Cripple Creek in 1900. By then she had also traveled to Utah, was nearly 60 years old and needed some retirement cash. According to census records, she managed a boarding house at Bennett Avenue and 4th Street, probably while formulating what she was sure would be her award-winning autobiography.

Unfortunately, Cripple Creek was too crass for an old woman spouting magical tales of gypsies and fairy dust. By 1903 Ellen was in Colorado Springs, where her fantastic stories really took root. Upon securing some tourist cabins and a curio shop along High Drive, Ellen created an eclectic tourist trap complete with rustic wood decor and such fanciful pets as snakes and macaws.

The plan failed. During 1906, Captain Jack was sued by three different people for loans amounting to over $1000. When Fate of a Fairy was published a few years later, the book did not sell as well as she expected. Captain Jack was struggling financially to maintain her winter cottage on Nevada Avenue while keeping one step ahead of a rival tourist operator, Nora “Ma” Gaines. Scrambling for success, Captain Jack began telling even wilder tales. In 1909 she claimed to have found a fabulous cave somewhere on Cheyenne Mountain that she was keeping asecret until she could turn it into a tourist attraction.

A year later she was selling photographs of herself in various costumes and poses around her little mountain home. The photos bore daring captions, such as “Mrs. Captain Jack Looking for Mountain Lion” or “Mrs. Captain Jack Lost in the Mountains” or, more hopefully, “Mrs. Captain Jack Looking for a Company to Buy Mine”. Other advertising simply demanded, “Stop at Captain Jacks”.

No matter how fanciful her advertising, however, Captain Jack could not deny her visitors the true picture of herself: a tiny aged woman bearing a great scar on her forehead, whose ramblings verged on crazy chatter. Slowly but surely, time took its toll. When a June flood washed out the road to Captain Jack’s in 1921, it was her undoing. Captain Jack died on June 17, some say of a broken heart over the loss of her self made tourist attraction. She was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.

 Captain Jack’s competitor, Nora Gaines, purchased her place two years later and Captain Jack was virtually forgotten. Her cabins were demolished in 1965, but old timers still recall a small grave that appeared on her old stomping grounds. A tombstone at its head bore the name Captain L. Jacks. Who put it there was never discovered, but everyone knew there was no body in the grave. It’s mysterious appearance was simply a last eccentric gesture towards an eccentric lady.

Pioneers Museum

 

Description:

41-197
Photograph

Creator:Unknown. Written on back, “Captain Jack. Picture presented by Gazette Dec. 1 - 1959.”
Description:Photo of Ellen E. Jack, “Captain Jack,” posed sitting on the front walk of her cabin in Colorado. Jack is pictured in various mining gear, two parrots on a chair and is holding “the gun that Captain Jack killed the Indian with.” Copyrighted. #26. Remarks: “Ellen E. Jack was born in Nottingham, England. Married Capt. E. Jack of Farragut Fleet, U.S. Navy. Lived as a prospector in Colorado. Known as ‘Queen of the Rockies’ and ‘Captain Jack’ in Colorado Springs.”

41-198
Postcard

Creator:NOKO?
Description:Unused postcard of a photograph of Ellen E. Jack, also known as “Captain Jack” in front of her home with her burro. Jack’s home was at the summit of High Drive. Rustic shingled house with a framed shelter above several tables and chair. Jack is an elderly but tough woman holding a shovel. Copyrighted by Ellen E. Jack.

41-199
Postcard

Creator:Unknown
Description:Unused postcard of a photo of Ellen E. Jack, also known as “Captain Jack,” dressed in her prospector’s outfit in front of her shingled log cabin, which sits at the top of Bear Creek Canyon on High Drive. Remarks: “Ellen E. Jack was born in Nottingham, England. Married Capt. E. Jack of Farragut Fleet, U.S. Navy. Lived as a prospector in Colorado. Known as ‘Queen of the Rockies’ and ‘Captain Jack’ in Colorado Springs.”

59-103-12
Postcard

Creator:Von Lackum View Co. Colorado Springs Colo.
Description:Unused postcard of a photo of Ellen E. Jack, also known as “Captain Jack,” in front of her home at the summit of High Drive at the point of descent into Bear Creek Canyon. Copyright by Ellen E. Jack. No. 40. Jack’s house is a shingled building along with an outdoor shelter. Remarks: “Ellen E. Jack was born in Nottingham, England. Married Capt. E. Jack of Farragut Fleet, U.S. Navy. Lived as a prospector in Colorado. Known as ‘Queen of the Rockies’ and ‘Captain Jack’ in Colorado Springs.”

59-103-13
Postcard

Creator:Von Lackum View Company, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Description:Unused postcard of a photograph of “Mrs. Captain Jack Looking for Mountain Lion.” “Copyright by Ellen E. Jack.” Shows Ellen E. Jack dressed in her mining outfit, pick in one hand and gun in the other, posing with other mining gear on a rock. Remarks: “Ellen E. Jack was born in Nottingham, England. Married Capt. E. Jack of Farragut Fleet, U.S. Navy. Lived as a prospector in Colorado. Known as ‘Queen of the Rockies’ and ‘Captain Jack’ in Colorado Springs.”

71-309
Photograph

Creator:Unknown
Description:Small photograph of a grave site or memorial of Ellen E. Jack. Headstone reads, “In Memory of Ellen E. Jacks.” Written on back, “Captain Jack’s Grave -- High Drive, off N. Cheyenne Canyon. Newspaper article states her being buried in Evergreen Cemetery.” Remarks: “Ellen E. Jack was born in Nottingham, England. Married Capt. E. Jack of Farragut Fleet, U.S. Navy. Lived as a prospector in Colorado. Known as ‘Queen of the Rockies’ and ‘Captain Jack’ in Colorado Springs.”