Pagosa’s Past – The Pagosa Springs SUN http://www.pagosasun.com The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Thu, 09 Jan 2020 20:11:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.5 How did I get here from there? http://www.pagosasun.com/how-did-i-get-here-from-there/ Mon, 13 Jan 2020 12:00:24 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=194640

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Lumber was a big part of Pagosa Country’s past, as represented in this photo of one of Alexander Sullenburger’s mills.

Quien sabe? That’s Spanish for who knows, you know? It is time to make New Year’s resolutions, you know, for the year 2020. I wish that number was a description of my eyesight.
As I stare cogitatingly into my computer screen, the question stirring up the cogitation demands to know, how did I get here from there? How did this brown-eyed, 10-pound baby boy born in 1934 midst the dust bowl devastation then called Kansas end up here in Pagosa Springs, Colo.? More than half of my four score and five years have ticked off here in the Colorado Rockies. Even though you and I were launched from different pads, I’ll bet you agree we have the same question drifting around in our upper thinking domicile: How did we get here?
An old quotation related to the topic at hand seems to be stowed in the minuscule remnant of my original thinking allotment. The quotation is from “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” a Persian philosopher whose writings captured the attention of literary buffs throughout the western world many years ago. His best remembered poem, “The Moving Finger,” points to the passing of time. One of its many translations reads, “The moving finger (of time) having writ moves on, and neither piety nor wit can change a line of it.”
I see that moving finger pointing at my past. It’s aimed at a freckled, shirtless and barefoot boy traipsing under the summer sun shining cheerfully down on a myriad of brightly colored wildflowers decorating the forested hills of southern Oregon. It shows him dipping a blonde pig-tail belonging to a fellow student into an ink well decorating an old fashioned desk ensconced in a long forgotten, two-room country school resting under a sprawling oak tree in the rural community of New Hope, Ore., a school featuring 32 students spread across eight grades, all sitting in one room and under the one teacher living in the adjoining room.
The finger points at the source of the boy’s freckles, a befreckled mother cooking the world’s best fried chicken in a black, cast-iron skillet on her wood-burning kitchen range, the same range that heated the tub of bath water pumped from the well every Saturday and in which every one of the five kids remaining at home had to lather up with lye soap and scrub and scrub, even behind the ears, until clean. She was the classical mother hen knitting stocking hats, socks, mittens and sweaters for her entire brood.
As I sit here in front of the computer glancing down at my $150 cowboy boots, the finger points again at mom, with the five kids who remain under the home roof lined up, each taking their turn, each with a calloused bare foot on the piece of cardboard upon which the foot was traced to determine its size. The tracings were sent to “Monkey Wards” in time for mail order shoes, costing maybe $2 or $3 a pair, to arrive by the time school started in the fall.
The searching finger moves on, finding a new picture of mom with her black hair tied in a bun at the back of her head, dipping a scrub board into a tub of water recently heated on the kitchen range, rubbing and rubbing the dirt from the multi-patched denim jeans, home-sewn plaid shirts, calico dresses, etc., that clothed her brood.
Again the finger swings around, pointing this time at my stepfather, clad in long johns and scratching his head as he rolls out of bed, strikes a match, lights the kitchen range, puts the coffee pot on the back burner, shares a cup of coffee with mom, milks the cow and goats, and then with lunch box and thermos in hand, cranks up the family jalopy and bumps off down the dusty country road to the lumber mill where he stacks Oregon pine the rest of the day. Every day.
Wiping a hand across tear-reddened eyes and shaking a balding head sadly, I realize, where there is, long gone, but never far from here.

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Traversing Wolf Creek Pass in 1916 http://www.pagosasun.com/traversing-wolf-creek-pass-in-1916-3/ Sun, 05 Jan 2020 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=194215

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Lionel and Ruby Archuleta were the parents of Margaret Daugaard, the lady who operated the La Cantina on Pagosa Street in Pagosa Springs for many years. Daugaard was in the direct line of the Archuleta family who traced their family back to Spain, including Antonio D. Archuleta, for whom the county is named.

Last week’s column about the first public crossing of newly built Wolf Creek Pass when it opened during the summer of 1916 ended with the sentence, “Six men held the cables while David drove to level ground.” To launch this week’s column, our writer begins:
“While they were working, I carried drinking water in a pint cup from the creek below up that bank for the men, for now it was mid-day in a July sun. It was forty feet to the nearest to stop the car’s rolling, had it gone down.
“When the task was nearly completed, I took photographs, then the three of us went on down the two miles, where Marguerite sat waiting all these hours alone — not knowing what had happened to any of us.
“As my family was reunited, and no one was hurt, I began to weaken, and became so shaky I couldn’t stop trembling. Kept growing weaker and more frightened as the miles passed until we were within two miles of Pagosa Springs and home. I did as some other women in the past have done — fainted. At the Todd Ranch, they stretched me out on the grass beside the highway, and with water and spirits of ammonia, I was soon revived. I have heard of people being scared to death. This was the next thing to it.
“Even with such experiences. I love our Wolf Creek Pass, with its forty-seven years of memories and happy associations.”
And there you have the completion of a memory recorded for posterity by Myrtle Hersch. Since that 1916 crossing of Wolf Creek Pass, an untold number of travelers have crossed what may be Colorado’s most notorious and well-known pass. The adventure is certainly something to write home about.
As a sports writer for The Pagosa Springs SUN, I regularly crossed the pass to cover Pagosa Springs Pirate high school sports events with high schools to the east of the Continental Divide. Many a time I wished I was somewhere — anywhere — else. Not only is the iciness a threat, during blizzard conditions it’s hard to see where the edge of the highway and a sudden, unforeseen downhill plunge is lurking.
One late afternoon as the sun was setting and I was enjoying the view and the appearance of stars sparkling through the high mountain atmosphere, I rounded a sharp curve in my westward journey upward and, lo and behold, a blizzard completely obliterated my view. All I could see where tiny, twisting snowflakes covering my hood and testing the ability of my windshield wipers to help me see through the window pane, now a pain. Fortunately, the tunnel appeared and, ignoring the no parking sign, I pulled over the right side of the tunnel where I could look through the western opening and waited for the snow to stop. Finally, daybreak spread across the mountain highway and I could see where high way stopped and wilderness began.
Slowly and carefully, I crept around and down until full daylight resumed dominance over all things I needed to see and the highway returned to a reasonable amount of levelness. I sure enjoyed that cup of coffee at the café that used to welcome folks on U.S. 160 east of town.

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Traversing Wolf Creek Pass in 1916 http://www.pagosasun.com/traversing-wolf-creek-pass-in-1916-2/ Tue, 31 Dec 2019 12:00:23 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=193643

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This is one of the most popular photos of the Pagosa Hot Springs during pioneer times.

Our writer concluded last week’s column with the statement: “Now night was coming and we were still two and one half miles from Mr. Logan’s work camp.” Picking up where we left off last week, we continue:
“The lighter weight cars passed through the mud holes all right, and drove on towards camp, but the heavier cars just sank. Marguerite and I walked the distance through the mud and rain to the road camp for help. Mr. Logan sent four big horses to assist, but they couldn’t move the cars. When this didn’t work, Eugene Hatcher backed their Vellie from camp carrying heavy log chains. With the horses and chains, the cars were pulled out.
“The high altitude and the excitement of the day, besides the wet and cold, were more than I could take. The cook and his buddy moved their beds into the dining tent, and fixed a place for me to lie down and rest. My family didn’t get to camp until 8:00 P.M. I was too tired to eat, and didn’t get warm all night.
“When morning came, I still couldn’t eat, but the sun came out and we were ready to make a fresh start. Mr. Logan sent his crew ahead early to fill in a one hundred foot bog with spruce boughs. Still, every car had to be pulled through. We still had rough going to the top of the pass, which is over ten thousand feet high. We were told that our troubles were all over, as it was down grade, and work done the previous fall was well packed by highway equipment. We were all in good spirits, for we knew that no one would meet us today. Each car took its own pace coming down, not too close because of the sharp curves—Joseph and I still following at ten miles an hour, and in low gear. We came to a section of the road which was supported by a built up rock wall, and noticed that the tracks of the cars ahead were only four or five inches from the rocks, but it looked safe enough, when CRASH! that entire wall gave way and let the left side of our car down and hanging in mid-air. Only a very small rock below our left front wheel kept us from going down. As we carefully slipped out on the upper side, the car teetered as if it were on its way down. Only a miracle caused it to hold, for it seemed that a puff of wind could set it off. We stood and looked — all the cars had gone ahead, and we alone with miles to any work camp. We knew that my husband would stop soon, if Marguerite didn’t see us coming behind them. After about fifteen or twenty minutes a wagon with two men carrying heavy cables and a bicycle came along. The men tied the car to the trees on the upper side with ropes. One man rode the wheel down two miles where he met David walking back with some of the work crew. The men cut down several small trees and built cribbing which they filled in with rocks. Then they jacked up the car little by little, built again, until it was in a near level position. Six men held the cables while David drove to solid ground.”
Are they ever going to get off that terrible mountain? Read next week’s column to find out.

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Traversing a newly opened Wolf Creek Pass http://www.pagosasun.com/traversing-a-newly-opened-wolf-creek-pass/ Mon, 23 Dec 2019 12:00:35 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=193341 At the close of last week’s action, our motorists crossing newly opened Wolf Creek Pass (1916) from east to west were looking down the barrel of a Colt .45 shoved in their face by an inebriated, limber-legged wagon train boss who insisted that, since the narrow pass would only allow one lane of traffic in most places, his eastbound hoss wagons were gonna have priority “by Gar,” and the motorists better back up and get out of the way, according to our storyteller.
“He was so angry and unsteady we could not even guess what he might do. Finally, the men of our group told him to shut up and get back up into his wagon, until they could find a workable plan, or they would pitch him down into the cañon. He sat.
“Then began the most terrifying experience of backing inch by inch on that narrow, slick, steep grade. David always believed in going forward, so was not expert at backing — and especially under such conditions. Joseph’s experience in the Cadillac garage paid off. He showed real efficiency in this case.
“When we got down into the flat lowland, there was no road at all, just mud and water soaked trails, each driver making his own guess which set of workmen’s wagon tracks to follow through the willows until he could connect with next section of ascending road up the mountainside.
“At Box Canyon we had to wait until fifteen heavy dynamite blasts tore away a section of rock, then all the debris had to be cleared away before we could attempt to cross over. At one place a steam drill stood against the rock wall and we had to drive around it on the point of broken rocks. The Cadillac was too long to make the turn around this drill, so again Joseph had to see-saw inch-by-inch to make the turn. Just as we got around the whole point slid off into the stream below.
“None of the other cars carried food, so when we found a slightly dry spot under a spruce tree, the Hatchers and we invited the group to eat with us, as we had an ample supply from our camp. Every man had shoveled, pushed, and lifted, and worked his best for everyone who needed help. We had showers all day long. There seemed to be no bottom to the road with this rain on the new construction. When we began to climb, the road was so slick, or again so sticky, it took the five cars three hours, to cover only a quarter of a mile. Added to all these delays, the Chalmers and Cadillac each had flat tire. Now night was coming and we were still two and one half miles from Mr. Logan’s work camp.”
Continued next week. Merry Christmas.

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Traversing the newly opened Wolf Creek Pass http://www.pagosasun.com/traversing-the-newly-opened-wolf-creek-pass/ Wed, 18 Dec 2019 12:00:13 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=192894

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The workers hired to build Wolf Creek Pass camped on the west side with their families. Several cases of dynamite show up in this picture of the camp. Somebody must have worried about what would happen if the dynamite got tangled up with the campfires, don’t you think?

When we ended last week’s column, the Hersch and Hatcher motor trip over newly opened Wolf Creek Pass was stalled on top because the work crew was chipping away at an especially difficult rock barrier. The story continues:
“What were a few more days, with the semi-permanent camp, good fishing, best of cold mountain water, and big spruce trees about? Besides, it gave us a chance really to try our equipment.
“On July 26th, a messenger came to tell us the engineer would come at ten o’clock the next morning to line us up for the trip over. By this time two more cars had joined us. We were to break camp and put our car tops down, because of protruding rocks over the road. There were no hard topped cars then. During the night we had a regular down-pour of rain. A very difficult task packing up in the mud. Clouds hung heavy over the mountains, but we were all ready to roll on time. The engineer started Mr. and Mrs. Vrendenburg in front in a Ford roadster, then Mr. and Mrs. Goodnight of Monte Vista in a Buick, the Hatchers in a Velie, third in line, then the Chalmers and Cadillac last, as the heavier cars might mess up the road for the other cars — to use his words.
“While in camp, David and I walked down the narrow steep grade to the open flats below, and even when dry it looked rather hazardous as it was only a few inches wider than the camp wagon tracks. A wall of rock on one side, and straight down on the other; but the engineer assured us it was all right, for it was well packed, but for us not to drive too close together to make room for possibilities.
“We were happy to be on our way again, although it looked as if we might have another downpour any minute. We felt too, we were making history, being the first group of cars over the hill. As we were nearly a mile from our camp, on the steepest pitch, with mud slick as soap, the Ford stopped. The driver ran back to flag down the line of cars. We all walked down to see if there might be a rock slide, a possibility. Here they had come face to face with a wagon train, three big, loaded, covered wagons, with several extra horses leading behind each wagon, and quite a number of people in their group. These people had been camping for three weeks, on Wolf Creek, at the west foot of the pass, also waiting to cross. The engineer had told them to wait until he gave clearance, as five cars were on their way over, and it would be impossible for either group to pass the other, excepting at certain places. As the wagon train waited in its camp, the head man’s patience wore thin, and ‘if the pass was to be open on July 27th — By Gar — he’d take his right and go, let come what may.’ Before leaving camp, he laid in a supply of Pagosa’s fire-water, and when he met our group he was all set for battle. He got out of his wagon, buckled on his revolver, and with unsteady steps, and loud abusive language, ordered all cars to back up to some place where he could pass.”
Find out next week if they got across or got shot.

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Crossing Wolf Creek Pass in 1916 http://www.pagosasun.com/crossing-wolf-creek-pass-in-1916/ Tue, 10 Dec 2019 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=192513

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The Hersch and Hatcher families crossed Wolf Creek Pass when it was newly opened but construction still in progress. These photos shows one of their cars narrowly avoiding caroming down the mountainside.

Motter’s note: a few years ago, Marguerite graciously provided me with a typed copy of this story.
Among the first to cross newly opened Wolf Creek Pass in the family autos were the Hersch and Hatcher families. Here is the story of that adventure as told by Myrtle Hersch:
“In February of 1916, our Chalmers car was shipped from Pagosa Springs by Denver and Rio Grande narrow gauge railroad to Santa Fe, New Mexico, as the town was snowed in at that time of the year. There, our family, consisting of my husband David, our thirteen-year-old son Joseph, and small daughter Marguerite and I began a leisurely tour of 6,000 miles, through warmer, and lower altitude states. We planned our homecoming over the new pass, later in the summer, from the east side.
“At that time there were none of the luxury motels as of today, so we carried a complete camping equipment with us for comfortable living either inside or out in the wide-open spaces. We did little real camping — like the hotels better. Tent setting we found difficult on soft hands, so we took the easier way, and kept our overnight bags easily within reach.
“On our return we spent some time in Denver, where we bought a new seven passenger Cadillac V-8 car while the Chalmers was being painted and reconditioned. Joseph went into the Cadillac garage and worked and became quite an expert at placing cars, tire changing, greasing, and what-have-you. At that time there were not the rules and regulations for drivers that we have now.
The highway engineer informed us it would be a few more days, as heavy rock work had delayed their progress.”
Continued next week.

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An epic journey over Wolf Creek Pass http://www.pagosasun.com/an-epic-journey-over-wolf-creek-pass/ Wed, 27 Nov 2019 12:00:52 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=191723

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Last week we showed you a picture of the Chapson family who lived at the foot of this side of Wolf Creek Pass shortly after 1900. This week we’re showing you how the Chapson boys spent their time — hidin’ out.

The first folks to drive over Wolf Creek Pass in 1916 made what was at that time an epic journey. I am fortunate to have an eye-witness account of that adventure graciously given to me by Marguerite Wylie.
Prior to the building of Wolf Creek Pass, folks coming from Del Norte and the northern parts of the San Luis Valley to Pagosa Springs crossed the Continental Divide at Elwood Pass and followed the East Fork of the San Juan River downstream to its juncture with the San Juan West Fork, and from that juncture down the San Juan Valley to Pagosa Springs.
A little review of the history of the San Luis Valley and Pagosa Country up to the time we’re talking about might enlighten the picture we’re trying to paint. Before we fire up our enlightener, it’s good to keep in mind that almost all of the roads and highways we’re using today started out as Native American trails.
We’re starting in 1858 because that is when the U.S. took over the San Luis Valley and Pagosa Country at the end of the Mexican-American War. Hispanics had already scratched out a few settlements in the San Luis Valley, which at the time was part of New Mexico Territory. The most notable of those settlements were at Conejos on the west side of the valley and San Luis on the east side of the valley. I recommend that our history-lovin’ readers spend a day out visiting both of those places.
As happened frequently in the frontier history of this area, the Southern Utes were threatening both of those communities. In 1858, Kit Carson was Indian agent for the Utes, Apaches and Navajos who frequented our area of interest. Carson, despite his diminutive 5-foot-6-inch frame, lived to dictate his life story on the frontier by shooting first and asking questions later.
Fort Garland over on the east side of the San Luis Valley was built in 1858 to house federal troops brought in to control the Utes.
Now it’s time we to bring Pagosa Springs and Elwood Pass into our picture. Let’s jump to 1876. By 1876, gold had been discovered in the San Juans and prospectors were treckin’ through Pagosa Springs to reach the gold. The Utes were metamorphising from snarley-toothed to downright dangerous. And so the Army decided to build a fort in Pagosa Springs and call it Fort Lewis. The Army also built a wagon road to transport troops and supplies from Fort Garland to Fort Lewis. The shortest route across the rugged South San Juan Mountains was across Elwood Pass while skirting the gold mines at Summitville.
Colorado soon took over the Elwood route from the Army, maintained it and promoted it. Soon, travelers from back east on their way to California’s gold bonanza crossed the San Juan Mountains using Elwood Pass. That route served its purpose until an act of nature, known as the flood of 1911, convinced the state highway higher-ups to look for a new route across the Silvery San Juans. Come back next week to learn about the origin of Wolf Creek Pass.

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Pagosa Country in the early years http://www.pagosasun.com/pagosa-country-in-the-early-years/ Tue, 19 Nov 2019 12:00:11 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=191296

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The Chapson family, pictured here shortly after 1900, lived for awhile on the east side of U.S. 160 between the bottom of Wolf Creek Pass and Treasure Falls. Stretched across the photo behind the family patriarch is good proof that you don’t have to have big bucks to build a picket fence.

It’s probably safe to say the town of Pagosa Springs started on June 5 of 1878 because that’s when the first post office opened for business. Somehow, the name Joe Clarke wasn’t mentioned as a pioneer when I started attending San Juan Historical Society meetings and writing history columns in The Pagosa Springs SUN in 1976. Incidentally, you history buffs likely remember that Colorado celebrated her 100-year anniversary as a state in 1976.
Despite the History Society’s lack of affirmation, the license for that post office was issued to Clarke, who also had a general store and saloon in the general vicinity of the sewage lagoon south of town on the west side of the San Juan River. There was a bridge across the river at that point carrying the road (Baker’s Toll Road) from Española to high in the San Juan Mountains at Baker’s Park and its newly discovered gold ore deposits. Other businesses in town at that time were Clarke’s rooming house; a stables, livery and feed business run by William S. Peabody; Tom Blair’s Rose Bud Saloon and the area’s first sawmill started by E.R. Cooper.
These early-day pioneers were soon joined in 1879 by E.T. Walker and Charles Loucks, who freighted their sawmill, and Walker’s steam engine over Cumbres Pass. Margaret and James Voorhees opened a general store. Fil Byrne taught in the government school. Nossaman staked out a claim to his ranch north of town. Norbert Berard hauled freight, maybe with an ox team. Newman, Chestnut and Co. came down from Summitville to start a drug store.
With the newly acquired Army base, soon to be named Fort Lewis, things were a-hummin’ in Pagosa Country.
In October, the 15th Infantry came hup-two-three-fourin’ into town. As anybody who lives here knows, winter weather can lather Pagosa Country anytime. And, so, the Army got busy building shelters for troops and horses and mules. The Army pitched their tents on the northwest side of the San Juan River, where the main block of downtown Pagosa is today. The business buildings I mentioned earlier in this column, except for Clarke’s, were scattered along what today is San Juan Street on the east side of the river. Since the town wasn’t platted and surveyed until 1883, folks set up housekeeping and shops anywhere that was convenient and not already occupied.
Anything you ever saw in a western movie happened in Pagosa Country during those early years. Picture shoot-outs, knife fights and the threat of Native American warfare. Imagine pushing and shoving over who owned the water and whose cows grazed where. There were hardworking sodbusters just “lookin’ for a home,” and there were hard-ridin’, quick-shootin’ cowboys lookin’ for a fight. During the winters, miners and prospectors abandoned their high mountain digs and came to town where they turned their burros loose and drank hard whiskey as long as there was a jingle in their jeans.

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Hot springs, hot water and high hopes http://www.pagosasun.com/hot-springs-hot-water-and-high-hopes-5/ Tue, 12 Nov 2019 12:00:56 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=190745

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
In the pioneer days of Pagosa Country, it was thought that “real” cowboys were cowboys who worked with cattle. Old-timers have said that the real money was earned by sheep ranchers because they had two crops, wool and mutton. This photo of J.T. Martinez loading bags of wool to be sent to market at the Pagosa Junction railroad station seems to support the sheep-raising proposal. In those days, sheep were raised by the tens of thousands in Pagosa Country.

Ownership of the bubbling hot waters known as the Pagosa Hot Springs has always been a source of contention from the beginning of recorded history for this area. As we have written in previous columns, several races and cultures fought over the springs.
Finally, the Mexican/American War ended in 1848 with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. One provision of that Treaty gave the U.S. title to an area containing the Hot Springs as part of the more than 500,000 square miles of newly acquired land.
When settlers started homesteading on the recently acquired acreage, it was obviously incumbent upon the U.S. to explore the newly acquired acreage. Also, since most of that territory was inhabited by a variety of Native American nations who had not been invited to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and had not been asked if they objected when a large number of whites began unloading their wagons and digging gold mines and plowing up crop lands where those Native Americans were accustomed to pitching tipis and searching for grub.
Not surprisingly, the abused Native Americans began to acquire rifles and point them at the white invaders. And so, the U.S. sent in the Cavalry with more combatants and guns than the Native Americans had ever seen. Those Cavalry troops not only rode horses, they moved pretty fast when riding the rails.
Now that we have established the context of what was going on in Hot Springs and Pagosa Country, we resume describing local history after peace returned following the Civil War.
The Army built Fort Lewis in Pagosa Springs starting in 1878 and sent Company D, Ninth Cavalry into Southwestern Colorado and Utah to learn: (A) if the Old Spanish Trail would be a good place to build a rail line connecting Santa Fe with the West Coast, and (B) to calm down the itchy-fingered Southern Utes who were spending nights dancing to the beat of war drums as they contemplated using force to persuade miners and settlers to go somewhere else to dig holes and plow up the ground.
Company D was a unit manned by black soldiers and white officers who had recently been engaged in combat with Apaches in New Mexico and Texas.

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Hot water, hot springs and high hopes http://www.pagosasun.com/hot-water-hot-springs-and-high-hopes-7/ Tue, 05 Nov 2019 12:00:20 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=190300

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This photo shows the enlisted men’s and officer’s quarters of Old Fort Lewis, which in 1887 occupied the main block (Block 21) of what is now downtown Pagosa Springs. This was the original site of what is now Fort Lewis College in Durango.

This week we conclude the story we started based on a memoir Nellie Pollock Snyder received from her mother. The memoir described an 1861 visit to the Great Pagosa Hot Springs, one of the earliest visits to the Springs on record.
“Mother said they had a laugh at one of the men who thought that nice hot water hole an ideal place to launder his shirt, a woolen one. Of course, it simply fell to pieces when he took it out of the spring — no small loss at that time I assure you.”
Mother was Sarah Chivington Pollock, the daughter of Col. John M. Chivington. Later that year, Pollock’s party joined Charles Baker, who discovered gold near today’s Silverton, triggering a gold rush which led to the initial settlement of San Juan Country.
The Pollock family left the San Juans but returned some years later. Tom Pollock died at Howardsville in 1876. His widow married William Giardin, a well-known name in Pagosa Springs a few years ago.
Col. Chivington’s place in Colorado history is unfortunately marred because in 1863, he commanded a 675-man cavalry unit that massacred the residents of a Native American village located along Sand Creek on the Colorado/Kansas border. The number of Cheyenne/Arapahoe Indians killed or injured is estimated to be as high as 500. Most of the warriors from the village were reportedly absent, leaving the women and children almost helpless to resist the onslaught.
Meanwhile, Welch Nossaman dropped down from his Summitville gold digging activities to visit the Pagosa Hot Springs circa 1876. The San Juan Mountains had been the destination for an untold number of prospectors hoping to enrich themselves with the supposed golden jackpots hidden beneath the San Juans’ craggy crests. A goodly number of those miners, including the one who literally “lost his shirt” according to the opening paragraphs of this column, got a look at the Hot Springs on their way to Silverton.
Prospectors also entered the San Juans by way of Del Norte and Stoney Pass, where they dropped down into Cunningham Gulch. Some of these miners coming from the east across the Continental Divide also took a side trip to the Hot Springs. Nossaman was one of these. In fact, more gold was dug out of the mountains surrounding the Summitville camp near the headwaters of the San Juan River than was mined at Silverton. The Silverton mines produced mostly, as you probably guessed, silver.
Where we’re going with this story next week is, even with all of the busyness surrounding the bubbly hot water, it had not occurred to anyone to seek ownership. That omission was about to change, a change which resulted in confrontation amongst several would-be owners.

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