Bowenton, a town long gone

Following are some Pagosa news items from the 1880s extracted from the Del Norte Prospector. Del Norte was a major gateway to the San Juans at that time. Pagosa Springs had no newspaper during the 1880s.

Bowenton, named for Sen. Tom Bowen of Rio Grande County, no longer exists. For those Pagosans who like to recreate up the east fork of the San Juan River, there are a few rundown old buildings near where the road to Summitville crosses Quartz Creek. That was the location of the Bowenton mentioned in the following newspaper articles. Most of the people mentioned lived nearby.

A correspondence from Bowenton to the Del Norte Prospector contains, among other items, the following: “A new mining district has been formed on Quartz Creek, south of the San Juan River, by Joe Mann and A.P. Johnson of Summitville, named Quartz Gulch Mining District, which is showing up to be a bonanza district of gold quartz. Mann and Johnson have run in on one of their claims to 32 feet and on another 20 feet, and this fall will go in on one of their claims 100 feet further. Halstead and Claypool have made a location and intend to put the winter in on it. Elwood Camp is looking up. Jacob Lane’s property is becoming noted and he has a sale on hand, which if it goes through, will enable him to take a trip to Europe. Robert Young has parties now on the string from Kansas City, and if the sale goes through he intends to take a trip through the lowlands of Scotland, or to New York State. Sept. 4, 1890.

“Hon. D.P. Belden, who has charge of building the new county road between this place and Bowenton, was in town today, and reports that they are doing some fast and good, substantial work, and that the road will be open for travel the latter part of next week. This road will prove quite a benefit to our trade people, as then we will get the trade from Bowenton, Elwood, and other mining camps on the head of the San Juan, which now goes to Pagosa Springs. Aug. 4, 1883.

“It has been generally known in this section for years that there are strong indications of oil near Pagosa Springs on the Blanco and Navajo, and many still concede that the time is not far distant when the oil of that section will give the county a boom. There are heavy indications of coal also in the section referred to. A late dispatch from Pagosa to the Denver Post says: ‘There has been some local excitement here about oil since last fall which is still increasing. Those who have had experience in the oil regions of Pennsylvania say the indications here are favorable in a degree almost unprecedented, and that if they existed in some locality where oil was known to exist they would be the cause of the wildest excitement. Without a doubt this is destined to be one of the most prolific oil producing regions in this country. Even though it is remote and as yet has been little prospected, it is strange that so few men moneyed men have been attracted here. A company will commence testing in the eastern part of the county this month, but still there is a vast territory here having equally as good indications inviting others to avail themselves of the chance to get rich. Oil is found near this place exuding from a bluff of sandstone in great quantities and if a blast is put in, the concussion causes oil to flow freely until gallons may be gathered; and there are springs here and there all over the county from which oil can be obtained. In a canyon not far from here the fumes of oil are as noticeable as if one were in the vicinity of a refiner. July 2, 1887.’”


Photo coutesy John Motter
This is a photo of Dr. Mary Fisher and her pet black bear. The doctor served the population of Pagosa Country for many years, becoming somewhat of a legend in the process.