A county runs dry as anti-saloon sentiment grows

We’ve been talking about 1895-1896, boom years for the Pagosa Country economy.

The year 1896 ended with a masquerade ball in the Gross Hall. I believe Gross Hall was located on the north side of San Juan Street and on the east side of McCabe Creek, perhaps where an auto parts store stands today.

Gean Gross was a prominent Pagosa Springs merchant whose contributions to the community were many. I believe he was greatly involved in establishing Hilltop Cemetery, among other things. He was born in Rock Island County, Ill., May 16, 1868, and died in Sebastopol, Calif., during 1914. His business was called Gean Gross & Co. and featured wagons, buggies, farm machinery and hardware.

The masquerade ball was colorfully described by Pagosa News editor D. L. Egger in the following flowery language:

“There was Uncle Sam dressed in his accustomed suit of stars and stripes; a young man dressed in female bloomers; two ladies representing the original southern darkies (Remember Stephen Collins Foster? For his time, the editor is doing his best to be politically correct by using the term darkies.); a lady representing a nun. The latter’s dress and actions were so perfect that she obtained money from gentlemen for the support of some hospital under her solicitation. The dance did not break up until early morn.”

Social news filled the columns of The News during the spring of 1897. Pagosa Springs could boast of an active Dramatic Club, a Ladies Aid Society, and in March plans were developed to construct a Methodist Episcopal Church.

Hatcher Bros., a mercantile name eminent in Archuleta County during the early 1920s, opened for business selling groceries, dry goods, boots and shoes, etc. Hatcher Mercantile was located in the building which began as the Phillips Building, then became Hatcher Mercantile, and eventually was known as the Hersch Building. The upper floor of the building was used for a variety of community gatherings.

Whisperings of change in the public’s attitude toward one of the most venerated institutions of the Old West — saloons — appeared in Egger’s columns during March.

Egger reported: “Some citizens are advocating a higher license for saloons in town — some because they desire to drive them out of business, and others from a selfish motive. They probably never have considered the matter from a financial standpoint. It is now six years since Pagosa Springs was incorporated and the taxpayers have never been called on to contribute a cent towards town government, all of the revenue derived from the license paid by saloons. Without the revenue derived from saloons a levy of from ten to twenty mills would be required to meet current expenses. The News is of the opinion that no change for the better can be made for the town from the present system in vogue.”

Did I mention that Egger was on the committee developing plans for the Methodist Church?

Whether Egger liked it or not, a new wave of anti-saloon sentiment was growing across the country and swept across Pagosa Springs as well. By 1911, Archuleta County was dry.