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Leadville’s Jane Kirkham

Photos Mike Sinnwell September 2016

On the old stagecoach line between Leadville and Buena Vista, there is a grave marker that states, “My Wife, Jane Kirkham, Died March 7, 1879, aged 38 years 3 months 7 days.” Unfortunately, some vandals have used it for target practice.

I have collected four Legend for this grave site. Now the disclaimer, all the Legend are just that. Legends, none of which have been verified as accurate. I do have a favorite. It is the most interesting and the last.

Legend number one - Jane Kirkham was a stage passenger who died during the journey and was buried beside the road. I doubt this one as the grave site is close enough to Granite for a proper burial.

Legend number two - Jane Kirkham was a pregnant passenger on the Leadville stage who went into labor because of the rough travel over the stage road. The coach stopped and the crew and passengers attempted to deliver the baby beside the road, but the woman died in childbirth. Again, this is an awkward place for a grave. And no mention of the baby.

Legend number three - A highwayman had frequently robbed the stage at that location. After several successful robberies, the stage company assigned a deputy to ride along to protect the passengers and cargo. As the stage rounded the curve, the masked highwayman leapt out with a pistol from behind the nearby rock outcrop. The deputy drew and fired his weapon, killing the highwayman in his tracks. But when the deputy pulled off the mask of the dead highwayman, he discovered that it was not a highwayman but a highwaywoman who had been terrorizing the stage.

Legend number four - In 1879 shipments of gold were getting robbed with some regularity just outside Leadville. The bandit seemed to always know when the shipments were headed out and the route they would take. Almost as if he had inside information. The sheriff reportedly hid out on a stage. When the pistol-wielding bandit leaped from rocks, the sheriff revealed himself. The robber ran, but could not escape a bullet in the back. The robber, of course, turned out to be Jane, and she was the sheriffs wife. The Legend says the sheriff was too ashamed to take her back to Leadville and buried her along the stage trail.

While there were Kirkhams in the 1879 Leadville City Directory, no Jane Kirkham is listed,