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The Phillips family: Pagosa pioneers

I promised last week to talk about the Phillips family, the family which erected the old building downtown on Pagosa Street we today call the Hersch Building.

In truth, since its inception, that building has been known as the Phillips Building, the Hatcher Building, and lastly, and for more than 90 years, as the Hersch Building.

The source of our information is Sara Masco, whose grandmother’s name was Addie Phillips Nossaman. The material in this week’s column supports the theme of the columns written the last two weeks — that many of Pagosa’s Country’s first settlers were inter-related.

Quoting Sara: “There were four Phillips sisters, daughters of James Phillips and Sarah Fairchild Phillips who grew to adulthood. (There were four other children who died at birth or in early infancy). They were: Terressa Phillips who was born Feb. 25, 1860 in Bradford Twp., Lee County, Illinois; Artina Phillips born Nov. 30, 1861 in Tyringham, Berkshire, Massachusetts; Alice Phillips born Nov. 13,1862in Bradford Twp., Ill., and Addie Phillips born Jan. 24,1865, also in Bradford Twp.

“Their father was an adventurer and wanderer. He was born in Great Barrington, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, on January 1, 1825, to Samuel Phillips Jr. and Mary McCullum Phillips, the second of eight children born to this couple. Samuel Phillips had been born previously to Betsy Pixley and had seven children by this wife.

“In 1848, James had gone to California, earning his passage across country by driving a government team. He remained in California for three years mining and had earned $6,000 before returning to Massachusetts. He had the““gold bug” obviously and was smitten with the west. He had sisters who had moved to Illinois with their families and he soon followed acquiring one of the finest farms in Lee County. However, he was not satisfied for long. Upon hearing of the Pike’s Peak gold rush, he went there in 1854 but this venture did not prove successful so he returned to Illinois. There he met Sarah E. Fairchild (I think he had known her since they both were born in Tyringham, Berkshire County, MA) so he probably renewed his acquaintance with her. His half sister, Laura, had married Sarah’s uncle, George Fairchild who also had farm land in Lee County, Ill. James and Sarah were married Sept. 6, 1855, in Lee County where three of the above mentioned sisters were born.

“In 1871 he moved his family to the San Luis Valley Colorado area and was one of the founders of Del Norte (Motter’s note: Del Norte was formerly known as La Loma). He built the first frame house in this town and the girls went to the first school which was held in a small log cabin in Del Norte.

“With gold fever still in his blood James staked a gold claim somewhere near the headwaters of the South Fork of the Rio Grande River in the high country between it and Summitville and brought in some very rich ore from time to time, but he would not reveal, even to his family, where his mine was located. People tried to follow him many times when he left Del Norte but to no avail.”

More next week connecting the Phillips family to the Hersch Building in Pagosa Springs.