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A tough winter at Fort Lewis

A new Army post soon to be called Fort Lewis was started in Pagosa Springs during October of 1878.

The season was late, the area remote, and supplies hard to obtain, especially forage for the 100 or so horses assigned to the post.

By Dec. 30, post commander Capt. Hartz, 15th Infantry, summarized his problems in a six-page letter to his commanding officer at Fort Garland.

After reviewing the failure of what he supposed to be binding and performable contracts for corn and hay with W.S. Peabody, the post trader; T.D. Burns, a Tierra Amarilla, N.M., merchant; Joseph (Josiah) Mann, the forage agent; and J. Baker and T. Rogers, J.M. Treu, presumably farmers near Animas City, Hartz concluded drastic measures were needed and sent the government animals (horses) to Animas City. His explanation is a gem.

Before summarizing his reason for moving the horses, Hartz reported the arrival of one load (about 2,000 pounds) of a purchase of 50,000 pounds of grain from Treu at a cost of five cents per pound delivered to Pagosa Springs. I

n Hartz’ words, “One of his trains (horse-drawn wagons) arrived yesterday having been thirteen days enroute, a distance of about 55 miles — owing to the bad condition of the road and the heavy fall of snow.”

Later in the letter, Hartz explained, “This is a new country and the great trouble to contend with in obtaining supplies of this character is the want of transportation and the bad character of the roads. There is plenty of grain and hay in the country, but the great difficulty is to get it hauled to the points where it is wanted for use, and like Mohammed, as the mountain would not go to him he had to go to the mountain, so with us, as the forage will not come to us, we will have to go to the forage, unless the restriction as to price is removed and I am allowed to offer larger prices to assure delivery. The snow here is about 14 inches on the level, and at points in the vicinity higher up in the mountains, it is much deeper, and from the present appearance of the clouds we anticipate an additional fall, in fact, light flakes are now falling.”

Hartz made the following recommendation:

“I am satisfied that sufficient hay to subsist all the animals assigned to this post until the grazing season opens, cannot be obtained delivered here at this late season, except at very exorbitant prices, and in view of this fact I would respectfully recommend that the horse of Co. “D” 9th Cav. be either retained at Animas City under the present arrangement or they be sent to Fort Wingate or Fort Garland for the winter, with a sufficient number of men to care for them.”

Motter’s note: Hartz was under pressure from his superiors to bring the cavalry horses back to Pagosa Springs from Animas City. This letter was his justification for not doing so. As far as I know, he succeeded and the horses remained at Animas City for most of the winter.

Josiah Mann is acknowledged by oldtimers as one of the earliest settlers in the area and was well-known in Pagosa Springs, Summitville, and Del Norte. An 1870 census of San Juan country listed a Joe Menn.

Of Joe Mann, Hartz reported, “I received from Joseph Mann, the regular appointed forage agent at Pagosa Springs, 11 and 449/2000 tons of hay and 456 tons of corn, but this source of supply is now cut off, as Mr. Mann has left the country and virtually abandoned his agency and no one left here to represent his interests.”

I don’t know where Joe Mann disappeared during that particular winter, but he remained a character and a fixture in Pagosa Country for more than 3o years after the founding of Fort Lewis.

More next week on the obstacles faced while starting Fort Lewis at Pagosa Springs.

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