Politics, commerce, riots in the early days

The following are early Pagosa news items taken from the Del Norte Prospector before Pagosa Springs had a newspaper.

“H.R. Bowling and M.V.B. Jackson have been elected delegates to the Democratic State Convention from Archuleta County, with power to cast three votes from that county, if entitled to that number of delegates, which point is not clear in the minds of the Archuleta people.

“J.M. Archuleta Jr., Isaac Cade, and Col. J.F. Topping have been elected delegates from Archuleta County to the Republican State Convention, and to the District Convention at Conejos.

“It is stated that a combination of Republicans and Democrat has been made in Archuleta county for the purpose of defeating J.B. Martinez for Commissioner.

“Col. S.E. Bond, of New York, has erected saw and planing mills on the Navajo, near Pagosa, and is working fifteen men at present. Mr. Bond is making preparations to prospect for oil in the same locality. Mr. Bond has recently offered Catron of the Tierra Amarilla grant, one dollar per acre for all land in said grant lying within the lines of Colorado.” — San Juan Prospector, 9-25-86.

“The Grand Jury of La Plata county last week returned a true bill of indictment against E.M. Taylor, John Dowell, Frank Cooley, H.K. Bowling, Jacob Dowell , Chas. Chambers, Joseph Melrose, E.T. Walker, Tully Kemp, J.H. Hallet, and R.J. Chambers in connection with the Archuleta County riot. We understand from a reliable source that this indictment will not be enforced against a large number of the above named, but that the ring-leader of the affair will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” — San Juan Prospector, May 21, 1887.

Motter’s note: Put the above two items together and you have a clue as to the extent of the turbulent political climate during the first few years after Archuleta County was created.

I found evidence of the results of the La Plata County grand jury meeting in records in the basement of their county courthouse. The specific results were sealed, but neither was the chief perpetrator of the riot prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

The results of the 1886 election of Archuleta and friends were upheld by the grand jury and the rioters listed in the indictment above were placed under restraint. I suspect the chief perpetrator was E.T. Walker, who led these men into the first meeting of the newly-elected county commissioners. Walker opened a hat box he was carrying, exposing a neatly coiled lasso.

The commissioners abandoned their meeting and did not meet again until the grand jury decision was reached, restraining the group of men indicted.

Other events taking place during the riot were a hand-to-hand battle on a footbridge spanning the river near San Juan Street and the burning of Archuleta crony, Commissioner C.D. Scase’s house, located on San Juan Street on the east side of the river.