Captain Jack: Colorado Springs Feisty and Fearless Woman in 1900
Colorado Springs hikers often follow Captain Jack’s Trail from the High Drive above North Cheyenne Cañon up to Jone's Park. Most folks, however, don’t know that Captain Jack was one of the most colorful characters in the Pikes Peak region.
Captain Jack was born in England in 1842 as Ellen Elliott. Later she traveled to the United States, meeting Charles Jack aboard her ship. They married and had children, but the kids and Charles died. Ellen headed west, opening Jack’s House, a cafe in Gunnison, then prospecting in Gilpin County where she owned the Black Queen Mine. She eventually ended up owning a boarding house in Cripple Creek in the late 1890s before moving down the mountain and mining tourists at a lodge on the crest of the High Drive.
Ellen adopted her late husband’s Civil War rank and called herself Captain Jack. She dressed in a wool skirt, loose cotton blouse, lace-up boots, and always carried a mining pick and loaded six-shooter tucked into her belt. Captain Jack was a true eccentric in the early 1900s, renting cabins, cooking fried chicken, posing for photos with tourists, and living with a burro, parrots, and cats.
Captain Jack wrote about her life’s adventures in The Tale of a Fairy or Twenty Seven Years in the Far West. She detailed gun fights, how she fought off “amorous” Utes, traveled over avalanche-ridden mountains, and how she fired at Utes in Gunnison despite a hatchet wound to the head. The Captain was adept with pistols and rifles, and always carried a loaded firearm.
She wrote: "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."
Ms. Elliott died in 1921 in Colorado Springs after being confined to a hospital bed. She was buried in Evergreen Cemetery with her head facing her beloved home on the High Drive and today’s Captain Jack Trail.