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Candelerita Maestas — 105 years in Colorado

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This cabin built of aspen logs and located along the road across Elwood Pass was the last home of Old Joe Mann. The cabin location is shown on the Forest Service map of the area. Another, more obvious cabin built by Joe Mann well before 1900 on his homestead located downstream remains. In later years, it has been known as the Whit Newton and Joe McCarthy cabin.

Candelerita (Grandma Lala) Maestas was born to Rafael and Benina Maestas Valdez Feb. 2, 1859, at San Pedro, Colo.

She died June 27, 1964, having lived 105 years in Colorado, starting before Colorado became a territory.

She married three times. Only one child survived to adulthood — the late Anastacita Chavez Archuleta. During  Candelerita’s  long life, she worked as a cook for a railroad section crew, herded sheep in the Weminuche area north of Pagosa Springs and carried the U.S. mail on horseback in 1892-1893.

She remembered her father going off on buffalo hunts and fighting off Indians. Among her grandchildren are Delfin M. and John B. Chavez of Pagosa Springs.

Mrs. Margarita Maez was born May 9, 1876, at Loma (now Del Norte) Colo., and died March 31, 1966, in Pagosa Springs. She is survived by a daughter, Mrs. Tonicita Garcia.

Joe Mann died at the age of 86 while living near the old Elwood Pass mining camp along Elwood Pass at the headwaters of the East Fork of the San Juan River. He was among the early settlers of Pagosa Country, probably arriving in the late 1860s or early 1870s. He never married, and was the subject of many stories told by oldtimers. He homesteaded on the East Fork of the San Juan River, in a much-altered log cabin remaining to this day.

When Fort Lewis was built at Pagosa Springs, Mann was awarded a contract to supply hay for the “government animals” at the fort. Presumably, the hay was to be cut from naturally occurring meadows along the upper reaches of the east and west forks of the San Juan River. Mann never delivered the hay and, during the winter of 1878, their first winter in Pagosa Springs, the Army was forced to send their horses and mules to Animas City (now Durango) in order to feed them.

Mann was an active, shooting participant in the 1892 Sheepmen’s Cattlemen’s War on the San Juan West Fork. He was also active in the gold mining activity associated with the Crater, Elwood and Summitville mining districts.

Mann spent his later years in a log cabin built of aspen logs located along the Elwood Pass road to Summitville. At the very end, he was cared for by the Warr family, then living at the Black Diamond Mine at Elwood. According to the Warrs, Mann said that, as a young man, he had killed a man back east, and to escape punishment, had slipped away to the West.

This story was posted on November 28, 2012.