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Battles and scoundrels of all sorts

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Logging was paramount in early Pagosa Springs. Loggers showed off their prowess in “logging rodeos,” as shown in this photo.

We’ve been writing of the struggle between Hispanics and Anglos for control of the county government.

The struggle took place between formation of the county in 1885 and the early 1900s. During that time, Archuleta County must have had an unsavory reputation for lawlessness throughout the state.

There are hints of theft of county funds and other irregularities. When the county courthouse burned, it was thought the fire destroyed evidence that otherwise would have resulted in conviction of the county treasurer.

On another front, several local men were subpoenaed between 1900 and 1910 to appear in Denver before a Colorado grand jury and testify about irregularities in timber fraud.

In those days, in order to encourage the construction of railroads, the federal government gave “timber allotments” alongside newly constructed rail beds.

Narrow gauge railroad tracks crisscrossed Archuleta County, traveling up every river and most of the creek drainages.

By that time, two major railroads were competing with each other for the available standing timber in the county. The New Mexico Lumber Company operated by the Biggs family logged much of the areas known as Edith andChromo, and all of the drainages between there and Echo Canyon. The Pagosa Lumber Company owned by the Sullenburger family, logged from Pagosa Junction across Cat Creek, in the western part of the county, and north of Pagosa Springs.

I’ve been told by oldtimers that a common way of obtaining stands of timber was to locate poor, disenfranchised folks in local bars, provide a few drinks and offer them the minimal amount of money needed to obtain a timber homestead — then, for a few more dollars, buy the homestead.

During the early 1900s, Pagosa newspapers reported the names of prominent local citizens who were subpoenaed by the Denver grand juries. I don’t know if any of them were convicted.

It seems the founders of the first bank in Pagosa Springs also left town rather discreetly.

An article appeared in The Weekly Times in February of 1901 announcing that F.A. Collins of Pueblo had arrived in town and would soon open a bank. He was aided by a Mr. Freeman of Durango. The Freemans were instrumental in developing early Colorado Springs and Pagosa Springs.

More next week on the opening and closing of Pagosa Springs’ first bank.

This story was posted on December 27, 2012.