Recently, we’ve been presenting first person accounts of Pagosa Springs circa 1880. Since Pagosa Springs did not have a newspaper of it own until 1890, the items we are presenting circa 1880 come from newspapers in surrounding communities.
For example, the traveler wrote to the Del Norte Prospector June 12, 1880: “At Pagosa Springs are many old timers (Motter—old timers in the San Juans), among whom are Messrs. Chestnut, Blair, Thomas, Spradling, Pangborn, Devereux, Bennett and others. Pagosa boasts of probably 25 business houses, several residences, and during the past winter had a population of 200 souls aside from five companies of soldiers who kept the place boiling at all times.
“Crossing the range from Conejos to the Navajo, that is Cumbres Pass, the party was stopped at three toll gates, broke a singletree, and the second cook bit the neck off a milk bottle when the wagon hit a chuckhole.”
In June of 1880, the General Land Office ordered the survey of “the townsite of one mile square, of which Pagosa Hot Springs will be the center point. The chief object of your survey … adjustment of a claim so the location of lands with Valentine Scrip may be effective.”
Valentine Scrip was a piece of paper with a dollar value granted as a reward during the Civil War. What this news item is saying, in effect, is that the U.S. government is getting ready to sell the Pagosa Hot Springs to a private individual who is paying with Valentine Scrip. The sale of the Hot Springs into private hands came as a big surprise to the Ute Indians who thought they had received a promise that the hot springs would be public forever.
The Messr. Blair mentioned in an earlier paragraph in today’s column was from the fledgling mining town of Silverton. A street named Blair Street remains in Silverton to this day.
Blair wrote Capt. C.S. Walker in Silverton in July of 1880, reporting that Mr. Dunn, a man who had resided at Pagosa Springs for two years, had been stabbed three times in the back. A man by the name of Daniels did the stabbing. Squire Laithe of Pagosa Springs (Motter — the constable) bound Daniels over to the District Court with a bond of $1,000. Dr. Cochran of Fort Lewis attended Dunn, who survived.
In November of 1880, the La Plata Miner editor promised to give readers living in San Juan Country an account of the southern route between Silverton and the end of the railroad, then nearing the top of Cumbres Pass on its march west. The editor’s account will be presented in next week’s column.