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Nepotism trumps cronyism in election battle

We’ve been writing about the political dogfight between Anglos and Hispanics following the election of county officers in 1886. Unfortunately, that was not the end of the confrontation.

In county court, all of the officials elected in the 1889 election were denied seats by County Judge Barzillai Price, himself involved in a contested election for county judge.

Price’s court found that returns from Precinct 2 had been increased from 53 to 63 votes.

The case for the position of County Judge between Price and J.M. Archuleta was settled in favor of Archuleta by the Colorado Supreme Court in 1891. That court decided that, “thirty witnesses appeared for Archuleta, all of them relatives,” and “thirty witnesses appeared for Price, all of them political cronies he had put into office.” It appears that nepotism won over cronyism. In any case, Price served as county judge for two years while the case was working its way through the court system.

Unconfirmed local beliefs remain that Martinez and Archuleta wanted to move the county seat from Pagosa Springs to Edith. At that time, the move might have been logical. Reports were circulating of a fabulous gold strike on the headwaters of the Navajo River. The Navajo River runs through Edith (not yet named Edith). Oil was known to seep from the ground a few miles east of Chromo. The Navajo River Valley produced good quantities of grains, cattle, and sheep. Edith was nearer the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad running through nearby Amargo at that time and shipping costs would be less. And of course, there were millions of board feet of Ponderosa Pine timber in the Chromo River Valley, just waiting for the woodsman’s axe.

In fact, the first lumber mill and the first flour mill in Archuleta County were located at Edith. During the mid-1890s, the first electricity in the county was generated by the huge Biggs lumber mill at Edith. Finally, it is reasonable to assume the Archuleta family and the Biggs families worked together to promote Edith.

“Col. S.E. Broad of New York is erecting a sawmill and planing mill on the Navajo,” according to the Del Norte Prospector in September of 1885. The paper reported that the mill would employ 15 men and more men were prospecting for oil as well as a gold ore similar to that found at booming Summitville.

Bond was apparently convinced he had a golden El Dorado, for he built a two-story hotel on the upper reaches of the Navajo River. Still standing, the building became known as the Bond House. Bond also brought in a stamp mill and in other ways developed the vicinity. The Upper Navajo even had a school house. The richness of the gold strike there is unclear, but by the early 1900s, E.T. Walker was floating the stamp mill down the Navajo River to a new camp still farther down the San Juan River.

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