Summitville: Once a bustling mining town

We’ve been writing about Summitville, probably the nearest ghost town to Pagosa Springs. Summitville is closely tied to the pioneer history of Pagosa Country. We’ve mentioned that a goodly number of Pagosa’s first settlers came from Summitville and many of them have descendants still living in this area.

One of those was a man named Berlin, who had been a mine foreman at Summitville. Berlin later moved to the West Fork of the San Juan long before Wolf Creek Pass was built. Another old timer from Summitville who impacted Pagosa history was Asa Pangborn.

I used to attend the meetings of the most recent (at that time) version of a Pagosa Country historical society during the 1970s. Colorado became a state in 1876 and the 100-year celebration was in 1976. There was a lot of historical interest stirring at that time. Because I was working for the newspaper, some of the historical society members asked me to write on Pagosa history. That’s how I fell into the quicksand of local history, an inundation from which I have never escaped. But, back to my point.

Oldtimers at those meetings (people such as Emmet Martinez, Earl Mullins, Paul Decker, Mrs. Adams, a Kleckner lady who worked for the gas company and whose name I have forgotten, Archie Toner, Bill Warr, Bud Seavy, and many others) spoke frequently of Asa Pangborn as the first white child born in Pagosa Springs. Asa’s dad worked at Summitville for some time. That was the connection I was aiming for.

Incidentally, Bill Warr’s family and the family of his wife had both been at Summitville. Bill’s dad, Wade, if I remember correctly, was a Welsh hardrock miner. Much of what I know about Summitville and the East Fork/Elwood area I learned from Bill.

Since then I have learned that a George Smith was born at Pagosa Springs during the late 1870s and may have been born before Asa Pangborn, but I never seem to have time to check the facts of the case. Both names should be in the 1880 Conejos County census of this place.

During those early days, a book was published annually called “Crofutt’s Gripsack Guide to Colorado.” Crofutt’s book contained a list of businesses and other features of most of the towns in Colorado, including Pagosa Springs and Summitville. Copies of Crofutt’s books remain at the Denver public library museum, along with copies of many of Colorado’s early newspapers, other sources of historical information, and photos. Here is Crofutt’s description of Summitville:

“Summitville is the most elevated mining town in Colorado, altitude 11,042 feet above seal level. Summitville is located 27 miles southwest of Del Norte by good wagon road in the summer, saddle and snow shoes in the winter.

Here are located some of the richest mines in the state. There are at least 2,500 mining locations. Only about a dozen of them are successful.

The principal mine is the Little Annie, yielding from $80 to $2,000 a ton. Some of the other mines are the Ida, Golden Queen, Major, Yellow Jacket, Golden Star, and Summit. At Summit are six mills, 113 stamps, several stores, more saloons and a population of about 500. Summitville is connected to Del Norte by telephone. Its distance from Pueblo is 188 miles; the fare (stagecoach) is $16.95. Its distance from Denver is 308 miles, the fare $21.85.”