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The early days: Pioneers of every sort

We are quoting from an article written by C.W. Price, who came to Pagosa Springs from Nebraska in 1879. The family head was Barzillai Price. The Prices were among the first settlers on the Navajo River.

Quoting Price: “... day the place (Price is referring to Pagosa Springs when he says place — Motter) was very quiet and I went to one of the saloons to watch the games. A buck and squaw were talking to the saloon keeper. The squaw had a papoose on her back and was trying to get him to give her 50 cents for a large turkey, which he refused positively to do, as he said he was boarding at the hotel. There was no one else in the saloon and the keeper was going to lock up and go to dinner, when the Utes returned. The saloon keeper was holding 50 cents in his hand and saying Monti, Monti. The saloon keeper told me I might as well take it and sat down at the table, his back to the wall at the west side of the door, the buck across from him and the squaw flat on the floor facing the Indian, quite close and under the dealer’s left hand, where he held the deck of cards face down.

“If I remember right, two cards were on the table face up, the Ute to bet which one was paired from one drawn from the bottom. He kept winning and the dealer kept swearing. The squaw looked at the bottom of the deck, scratched her head, and brushed the short hair out of her eyes, looking at the buck at times. If she had a way to tell him a 2, 5, or 7 was on the bottom, I could not see it. After the Ute was $6 ahead the dealer got up saying, ‘Get going. I am going to eat. If I won all he had it would be only 50 cents.’ Neither of them spoke, but the squaw smiled later when they turned in for dinner at the Cade Hotel.

“Anyway I was very pleased to see the Ute get the best of the dealer as he would not have hesitated to get the best of them any way he could.”

And so there came to Pagosa Springs in 1879 pioneers of every sort: blacksmiths and shopkeepers, freighters and settlers, a watch shop and a milner, hotel keepers and saloon keepers. Freight wagons drawn by sturdy oxen and stubborn mules kicked up clouds of dust as they hauled heavy loads along narrow, dusty, forever winding roads.

Prospectors slaked their thirst at the Rose Bud Saloon and talked of the old days in the San Juans with bartender Big Alec Fleming.

Isaac and Martha Cade built the San Juan Hotel with the crystal waters of the San Juan River singing past their rear porch.

The Robert Chambers family took a little cabin nestled beneath what is now Reservoir Hill (I’ve seen it referred to as Robidoux Hill before the reservoir was built a couple of decades following the scenes we’re now describing).

Tully Kemp reigned as justice of the peace and the town marshal sallied here and there, always trying to look important.

On the east bank of the river, soldiers drilled. Couriers reported to tent command posts. Mule teams dragged in supplies from Fort Garland and Santa Fe and Animas City. Burros roamed about, unattached. Homesick soldiers were restricted to “three dogs per barracks.”

Doctor Hoover and his son took up land south of the Pagosa Road and Tierra Amarilla to Animas City wagon road intersection.

Charles Isaiah Loucks and E.T. Walker came to town. Walker had a steam boiler and built a lumber mill. Loucks built a cabin south of the hot springs and turned to farming and cattle raising.

Algernon Dutton, in Colorado since before 1861, decided to settle in Pagosa Country.