Our information about the settlers of Pagosa Country during the 1880s is pretty meager. Most of it comes from peripheral sources, the newspapers of surrounding communities. On January 31, 1880, a letter from Pagosa to the La Plata Miner, a Silverton newspaper, reported:
“Our town is alive again. The boys in blue were bloused by the receipt of from four to six months pay on the 17th inst., and they proceeded forthwith to make merry with their friends. Detachments from some of the companies that were at Animas City were met by the Paymaster at Stollsteimer’s ranch where they received their little old thirteen dollars per month with joy and gladness.
“The moral status of the ‘sojers’ is like unto the laws of some of the Anouis, and as our town is blessed (?) with six saloons, the proprietors thereof are a fair average of their class, dealing only in first class goods, ‘they have vexed the drowsy ears of night.’’“
It was another one of those Pagosa winters.
The correspondent continued, “We would send you some of Pagosa’s balmy weather… The cold weather has been more intense and of longer duration than we have known here in many years … Dad ’Town’ says they told him to come to Pagosa and winter grass and domestic stock lived all winter long … and the green frog sang his mating song (all winter long) … Forty degrees below zero on Christmas … Some of our best business houses are moving to Rico as they think trade will not be too good here.”
In May of 1880, the Interior Department ruled that the Pagosa Hot Springs did not come under the provisions of the statutes entitling it to be classified mineral. Thus the way was cleared for Valentine scrip to claim the Hot Springs.
General Sherman informed the press during 1880: “General Sheridan and I have fully discussed the situation of affairs in Ute country … There are three bodies of men bearing on the country … First, Colonel McKenzie of Fort Garland with about 650 men … second Lieutenant Colonel Gilbert, Seventh Infantry, with about the same number of men at the White River Agency … Third, a force of about 300 men, mostly of the 15th Infantry under Colonel Buell at Pagosa Springs … We propose to give up Pagosa Springs as already occupied by settlers.”
A traveler wrote to the Del Norte Prospector June 12, 1880: “At Pagosa Springs are many old timers, among whom are Messrs. Chestnut, Blair, Thomas, Spradling, Pangborn, Devereux, Bennett, and others. Pagosa boasts of probably twenty-five business houses, several residences, and during the past winter had a population of 200 souls aside from five companies of soldiers which kept the place boiling at times.”