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An account of frontier Pagosa Springs

Photo courtesy John M. Motter This photo of Pagosa Springs dates circa 1890. Many of the old Fort Lewis buildings remain on the west side of the river, even though the active fort had been moved to the La Plata River west of Durango.

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This photo of Pagosa Springs dates circa 1890. Many of the old Fort Lewis buildings remain on the west side of the river, even though the active fort had been moved to the La Plata River west of Durango.

The first post office in the Chromo area was called “Price” and was probably located about a half mile east of the present store on the county road, which follows the river for several miles.

The beaver ponds below Navajo Peaks and along the entrance road to the South San Juan Wilderness area are also named for the Price family.

The Price family came to Pagosa Springs in 1879 and established a stage stop up the Navajo River from the present Chromo store, probably at the first bridge up the river — a structure still known as the “Price Bridge.”

We wrote about the family scion, Barzillai, and his wife, Martha, last week.

Their son, C.W. “Will” Price was born in Iowa in 1862.  He came with his family to Pagosa Springs in 1879 while Fort Lewis was the focus of the town. Will spent most of his life in Pagosa Country, living in the Chromo area. His accounts of his boyhood days in Pagosa Springs have added much to our knowledge of those early days. Among those accounts was a description of visiting a bar in Pagosa Springs, and adventures while hunting grizzly bears in the southern part of the county in the Navajo River drainage. Will homesteaded the ranch on the Navajo River just downstream from the Chromo store and now owned by the Bramwell family. He passed away in November of 1950.

Another  son, Norman, was born in Thayer County, Neb., in 1875, and came with his family to Pagosa Springs in 1879. He was postmaster at Chromo in 1905 and a ranger for the U.S. Forest Service in Pagosa Springs. He passed away in June of 1936.

Following is an account recalled by Will Price in 1940: “In July 1879, we were camped in Post Lewis, on the San Juan River above the Cade Hotel, at the east  end of the street going to the bridge (Motter — today’s East San Juan Street, the town had not yet been surveyed). There were buildings on both sides. C.D. Scase’s sign was on the north side near the west end where Major Peabody’s store was and H.R. Bowling’s sign was shown.

“Another sign on the south side faced east, where I witnessed a tough fight between a drunken private and a sergeant. Other signs were on the south side of this street.

“My father was gone to Alamosa for a load of freight, and I passed the time at the parade ground watching the soldiers at target practice. Many were good shots, and there must be quite a lead deposit somewhere in back of Colton’s old log cabin.

“I got acquainted with a doctor there, who was a great fisherman and who told me the names of the peaks north of town as follows: the one farthest west is Pagosa, the round topped one is Boulder, and the third was Moody.

“Many freight teams did not come through town. They forded the river at Louck’s place. The bridge a short distance above his place had been burned.”

Continued next week.

This story was posted on June 13, 2013.