Mountain Charley was prospecting in 1859 when he met famous newspaper man Horace Greeley who was out west writing about the Colorado gold rush.
Greeley invited Charley to his tent at the mining camp to get some local insight into prospecting.
He was aware that like most prospectors, Charley drank, cussed, smoked and worked like the rest of the gold seekers.
What was different about this young person, was the fact that his face was too soft and feminine, his voice high and breathy.
It suddenly came to Greeley that Charley was a woman.
Named Elsa Jane Forest, she liked dressing in men’s clothes and working like a man. She had been married at a young age and became a widow not long after.
Elsa was known to carry a gun or two and long knife in her boot sheath. She was able to protect herself against anything that would arise.
Under the guise of gold prospecting, Elsa held onto a secret that burned her heart. She was really looking for the man who murdered her husband.
The man, named Jamieson, brutally murdered her husband on a riverboat in Mississippi. There was a trial, Jamieson was convicted, but released on a technicality.
Elsa was in shock. She vowed to track this man down and kill him. So she used the disguise of dressing like a man, cutting her hair and obtained jobs where Jamieson was seen. Using the moniker of Mountain Charley, she seemed to blend in.
She followed his trail into gambling halls and saloons, where killers and other despots drown their sorrows in alcohol. After five years of searching, she heard Jamieson was in St. Louis.
Charley arrived in St. Louis and stalked her prey down a dark street. She called out his name, told him who she was, both adversaries drew their guns and fired.
After several rounds of gunfire, Jamieson and Charley were wounded but not severely. Suddenly they heard the townspeople coming to check out the shots and both took off in different directions. Charley knew she wouldn’t rest til this man was dead.
Months later, she heard that Jamieson was heading west to check out the new gold rush. This brought her to the Pikes Peak region and the gold mining scene.
After working in the mining camp, she decided the best place to find Jamieson was a dirty saloon, the kind he liked to frequent, and she packed up and headed for Denver, where she rented a dive and called it the Mountain Boy’s Saloon.
Charley bided her time. She was quite successful with the saloon and obtained information about Jamieson brought to her by customers passing through on their way to the gold fields.
In the spring of 1860, as she traveled along a road outside of Denver, a stranger on a mule was approaching from the other direction.
Recognizing each other immediately, the pair drew their guns and fired. Charley was faster and shot Jamieson and knocked him off his mule.
Charley shot him again and he fell to the ground. As she was preparing for her third shot to kill Jamieson, hunters came by and stopped her.
They carried the wounded man back to Denver. The police were called and Charley was detained and questioned.
The police then visited the rooming house in which Jamieson was recovering from his wounds. As he was being questioned, he confessed to everything, Charley had told the police thereby absolving her of wrong doing.
Mountain Charley went back to her saloon, married one of her customers and years later learned that Jamieson had returned to the Mississippi and died in New Orleans of yellow fever.