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‘Black Jack’ may have owned property in Pagosa Springs

I have been writing a series of biographical articles based on obituaries taken from early day Pagosa Springs newspapers.

My choices have been selective and often augmented by information from other sources.

Today, my method for selecting a subject is not based on an obituary.

Some years ago, I ran across a “person of interest” while scanning some of the old, hand-written grantee/grantor books on file in the county clerk’s office.

In truth, much of what I know about Archuleta County history was absorbed while reading through the many and varied record books kept by the county. These included books on land ownership, homestead records, incorporation records, election records, books on various forms of borrowing and repayment, law enforcement and court records, estate settlement records, marriage records, county commissioner meetings, tax records, school records from the days when there was a county school superintendent and the county handled the school budgets, survey and road dedication records, county budget information and much more.

I hope these books were not destroyed when county records were computerized.

During 1885, the U.S. government auctioned off the lots making up the town of Pagosa Springs. The auction and recording of the transactions was handled by the U.S. Land Office domiciled in Durango. And now our story begins.

In one of those books in the Archuleta County Courthouse, my eyes widened with surprise when I learned that 11st Lt. John J. Pershing had purchased two lots on Lewis Street in Pagosa Springs. Some of you younger folks may not have recognized the name, but the importance of the career of the man bearing that moniker cannot be over emphasized.

I have no evidence that Pershing ever visited Pagosa Springs. Somewhere, I no longer remember the source, I learned that the young Lt. Pershing, while stationed in one of the pioneer forts in New Mexico or Arizona, had taken it upon himself to visit a fellow soldier stationed at Fort Lewis, at that time located in Hesperus. I think that he purchased the Pagosa Springs lots in Durango while visiting his comrade, possibly a West Point classmate.

For those who don’t know, I’ll provide a very brief biography of Pershing.

Much has been written about the man because he is one of the leading military figures in U.S. history.

He entered West Point as a school teacher and graduated in 1885.

After graduation, he was involved in some of the Indian warfare in the Southwest. I suppose during this time he visited Durango and purchased the Pagosa Springs lots.

At some time during his career, he became known as Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing. He commanded the 10th Cavalry, the famous black “Buffalo Soldiers,” while fighting under Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba during the Spanish American War.

When the U.S. entered WW I against the Kaiser, Pershing was named commander of all of the U.S. Expeditionary Forces that fought in France.

By the time he retired in 1923, Pershing carried the rank of General of the Army. He exerted much influence over many of the well-known generals of WW II.

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