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Archuleta County becomes a reality

Following the official closure of Fort Lewis in 1882, those early settlers who remained in Pagosa Springs did their best to survive.

At the beginning of 1882, the town of Pagosa Springs had not formally been surveyed, platted or officially recognized.

I don’t know exactly when businesses started crossing to the west side of the river. In truth, the Fort Lewis buildings located on what today are Blocks 19, 21 and 22 (the core business area of the old town) remained in place, just where the Army had built them. Most, if not all, of those buildings survived into the 1890s and some of the officer’s quarters may have remained in place until shortly after 1900.

The one-square mile town plat was surveyed in 1882 and the lots sold at public auction in 1885. I suspect the movement of businesses across the river began following the 1885 auction of town lots. Public approval via an election in 1891 provided the legal foundation for creation of the town of Pagosa Springs in 1991.

Again, in 1882, there was no such thing as Archuleta County. The area remained part of Conejos County, one of the 16 original counties when the Territory of Colorado was formed.

The Conejos County seat was located in the town of Conejos, a difficult place to reach from Pagosa Springs during that part of the year when the mountains were covered with snow.

Separation of Archuleta County from Conejos County was approved by the State in 1885. The county name was derived from the last name of Antonio Don Archuleta, at that time a state senator from the San Luis Valley. A.D. Archuleta was born in Taos, N.M., in 1855, the son of Jose Manuel Archuleta.

The family moved to Conejos County in 1855. A.D. moved to Archuleta County in 1887, although other close members of his family had moved to the Amargo area in New Mexico just south of Archuleta County by 1876.

A.D. was a staunch Republican and had been elected to the first House of the Colorado Legislature in 1876 from Conejos County. He was elected for two more terms representing Conejos and Costillo counties. In 1883, he was elected to the Colorado senate from Conejos County. He introduced the bill providing for the creation of Archuleta County in 1885 and the county was named for him. I

n 1887, he married Louriana Gallegos. He was one of the leading ranchers, businessmen, and civic leaders of the county after he moved here. He died in old Mexico in 1918.