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Nossaman builds the first cabin in Pagosa

We’ve just finished a series of columns describing several Pagosa pioneer families including Nossamans, Phillips, Johnsons, Halletts, and more.

Back in the late 1970s, when I began to contemplate writing a Pagosa Springs history, a trusted friend told me, “You can’t do it. All of the pioneers have moved away.”

The friend couldn’t have been more wrong, as the series I’ve just concluded attests. Information for this particular series was provided by descendants of those first pioneers. A lot of those descendants remain.

For the coming year, I’m going to continue with the Nossaman theme.

Welch Nossaman was as central a pioneer figure as Pagosa has. The source for my series is Welch’s biography, with an assist from a master’s thesis written by Larry Masco while attending Brigham Young University. Larry is the son of Sara Masco, herself a granddaughter of Welch.

Also planned for the coming year is a series revolving around the Carlisle Cattle Company, one of the English-financed, before barbed wire, cattle companies that dominated much of the Four Corners area before real settlers pushed their way in.

Central to the story is one of the guntoting Carlisle cowboys, R.P Hott, grandfather of R.D. Hott, who lives in Pagosa Springs.

Back to Welch Nossaman, a product of his time in history.

Welch lived with his family in Pella, Iowa, before coming to Pagosa Springs. Nearby neighbors were the Earp family, Wyatt and that bunch — you’ve heard of them.

Nossaman came west, lured by that most tantalizing of all targets, gold and instant wealth forever. In this case, the gold was located at Summitville, now a ghost town in the southern San Juan Mountains, a little north and east of Pagosa.

Before we dig into our story in earnest, let’s take a look at some of the adventure that found Welch in Pagosa Springs.

Welch and a couple of companions had built a log cabin in Pagosa Springs, said to be the first cabin. One day, when Welch’s friends were somewhere else, a band of Ute Indians visited Welch. Colorow Ignacio, leader of the band, entered the cabin and demanded that Welch give him coffee, tobacco and food.

When Welch said he didn’t have any, as Welch described it, “He grabbed me by the arm and ran his finger across my throat and tried to scare me. When he done that I kind of got scared. He had a big knife sticking in his belt that held his breechclout on. I thought he could pull it out in a shake, so I just jerked the six shooter out and put it up against his belly. When the muzzle of that gun got up against him he just made two jumps and out he went … The Indians never came back, until about eight o’clock the next morning and then they came back and stopped right in front of the cabin again and shot off three volleys in the air. Then this Colorow said, ‘Me camp Pagosa. You vamoose. That means leave.’ We told him all right, we would go ... and we never went back until fall.”