During the past few weeks, we’ve described the difficulties of founding Fort Lewis in Pagosa Springs. We’ve attempted to put the founding of the Fort and Pagosa Springs, circa 1878-1882, into context with what was happening in the San Juans and the Four Corners area during those same years.
Last week, we made the point that, before the railroad entered Four Corners Country in 1881, the nearest place for Pagosa Springs and settlements on the southwest side of the San Juan Mountains to obtain supplies was from the Tierra Amarilla region in New Mexico, just south of Chama.
There was no Chama prior to the railroad. Thomas Catron, a Santa Fe lawyer, apparently flim-flammed Hispanics living in the TA area out of the property he sold to Gen. Palmer for the purpose of building the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad through Chama on its way to what would become Durango. A huge chunk of that land grant was in Archuleta County, on the upper reaches of the Navajo River upstream from Chromo.
That property was part of the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant made to the settlers of the TA area circa 1860.
In truth, Four Corners history is closely linked to northern New Mexico history, maybe closer than it is to Denver and other parts of Colorado.
The first discovery of gold in the San Juans at Baker’s Park above present-day Durango was made by explorers entering the San Juans from the Santa Fe/ Abiquiu direction.
Many of the first supplies for the first miners were freighted from Los Tierra Amarillos along a wagon route that left Los Ojos, wound into the mesa land, now part of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, passing Horse Lake and following Carracas Canyon down to the San Juan River to the present community of Carracas in Archuleta County. From there, the route passed the confluence of the Piedra/San Juan Rivers, hit the Animas River just below present-day Durango, then followed the Animas River Valley upstream to various mining settlements.
The route described crossing the Jicarilla Apache Reservation was part of the Old Spanish Trail which connected New Mexico Hispanic settlements with Los Angeles in California.
One early route moved from Fort Garland to Del Norte, up the Rio Grande River to today’s Rio Grande Reservoir, crossed the Continental Divide by way of Stoney Pass, dropped into Cunningham Gulch on the west side and followed that gulch to the Animas River. Other supply routes entered by way of Ouray and Lake City on the north side of the mountains.
Finally, from New Mexico on the south side, much freighting was done by way of Largo Canyon into the Aztec area and from there up the Animas River Valley.
Motter’s note: Last week we ran a picture of a man we identified as a Perea from Edith. Unsure of my identification, I asked our readers for help. Sure enough, I received a telephone call from Beverly Johnson of Pagosa Springs.
“That man with the fish is George Young,” she said. “He was married to Pablita Young, formerly Pablita Perea of Edith.”
If I have the story right now, George and Pablita were the parents of Margaret Havens, the wife of Fitzhugh Havens, the grandparents of Beverly Johnson. Thanks, Beverly.