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An inn and a doodlebug dugout

Photo courtesy John M. Motter This Alamo-fronted building still stands on the north side of U.S. 160 near the west end of the Piedra River Bridge. It was formerly an inn operated by John Peterson during the very early days of local settlement and located about one mile south of its present location.

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This Alamo-fronted building still stands on the north side of U.S. 160 near the west end of the Piedra River Bridge. It was formerly an inn operated by John Peterson during the very early days of local settlement and located about one mile south of its present location.

Jay Randolph Scott was an early Pagosa Country pioneer, having arrived here in 1880.

He first settled along the old Pagosa/Durango stage coach road a little west of the Piedra River crossing on Yellowjacket Creek.

He left us a delightful description of the first settlers in that area, one of the first parts settled in what was to become Pagosa Springs.

J.R. Scott was born in Steubenville, Ohio, March 7, 1848. He died in Pagosa Springs June 3, 1939, having celebrated reaching the age of 91.

In 1868, he married Clara Walters. The couple had one child who soon died and Clara died shortly thereafter. In poor health, J.R. moved west to Colorado Springs in 1874, two years before Colorado became a state. He was well educated, as the following description of the settlers along Yellowjacket Creek will attest. I am quoting from my book, “Pagosa Country, The First Fifty Years,” published in 1984.

“John Peterson, a disciple of Confucius, who had worn out a number of shovels prodding the Santa Fe railroad westward, resigned at Pueblo, materialized in this rockbound landscape and unloaded his possessions on the west bank of the Piedra near where Colonel Baker had bridged it in 1862 or in1863. His cuisine and pioneer caravansary were well known far and near, and there, if the Devil himself had stepped in, would have given his tail a friendly shake ‘son.’

“He was our first postmaster. The post office consisted of a time varnished desk, where patrons picked out their mail, then took a snort from a part-filled flask and went about their business. “

Scott has just described John Peterson.

Peterson arrived on the Piedra in 1878, the same year construction began on Fort Lewis in Pagosa Springs. As his name alludes, Peterson was of Scandinavian origin and added a “son” to much of his newly-learned English. He ran an inn at the end of the bridge crossing the Piedra about a mile south of the present bridge. Many events of historic interest happened at Peterson’s place, but those events are too much to put into this narrative.

Peterson’s inn was moved by the Farrow family to the small community on the west side of the river and north of the existing bridge where it remains to this day.

Returning to the origins of the settlement known as “Piedra” or “Chimney Rock” in the early days, let’s return to more of Scott’s writing.

During 1876, one of the earliest cabins in what was to become Archuleta County was built there. That was when Eli Perkins took a homestead there.

Writing about Perkins, Scott said, “Along about 1876 Anno Domini, there came to this virgin land of promise a bachelor named Perkins, whose outlines reminded one of Kit Carson and one-half mile west of the Rio Piedra, and just off the present highway, excavated himself a primitive doodlebug dugout with a periscope in its attic for observing Loo’s early morning habits. Nearby he tilled a few acres of wild soil all by his lonesome.”

This story was posted on July 25, 2013.