Pagosa’s Past – The Pagosa Springs SUN http://www.pagosasun.com The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Fri, 13 Sep 2019 15:08:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.3 Hot water, hot springs and high hopes http://www.pagosasun.com/2019/09/15/hot-water-hot-springs-and-high-hopes-2/ Sun, 15 Sep 2019 11:00:24 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=177715

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Pagosa Springs was proud of their hometown band, as were many frontier villages. This 1900 Fourth of July celebration featured the local Columbine Band. “Jack of All Trades” pioneer Fil Byrnes, the community’s first school teacher, is holding the reins and singing out the hees and haws with the team of horses.

The Pagosa Springs Company made do with J.L. Campbell’s improvements to the Pagosa Hot Springs bath house until 1888, when they erected a second bath house west of the original building. At that same time, they modified the original bath house, adding the spires which create the Gothic look which remains to this day.
Another bath house for men only was added in 1890 under the management of Marion Patrick. The new frame building was 42 feet by 22 feet with a plunge of 24 by 15 feet, vapor room, sweat room and sitting room. Costing $900, the new building was ready for bathers Aug. 7, just in time to serve the needs of invalid soldiers sent by the Army from Fort Leavenworth to recuperate in the healing waters. The lithium content in the hot water impressed the Army surgeon with its healing qualities along with the pure mountain air perfumed by the pine trees.
The bath houses as they stood in 1890 were not significantly changed for decades. The remains of a concrete foundation poured to support a two-story brick building were visible until just a few years ago. Begun in 1906, the two-story modernization dream was abandoned in 1907 and allowed to waste away, unused.
How many health and wonder seekers visited the Great Hot Springs prior to 1890? Since no visitation records remain it’s impossible to make an accurate guess.
Newspapers from neighboring communities wrote occasionally of citizens from their towns going to bathe in the hot springs. As early as 1878, Silverton newspapers referred often to miners who wintered in Pagosa Springs, then returned to Silverton for the summer mining season.
The first edition of the Pagosa Springs News, the first Pagosa Springs newspaper, rolled off of the press April 1, 1890. Daniel L. Egger, the editor, quickly jumped on the band wagon as booster of “The World’s Greatest Hot Springs.”
He bragged in that first edition, “The visitors to the Springs will exceed in number that of any previous season if present indications count for anything.”

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Hot water, hot springs and high hopes http://www.pagosasun.com/2019/09/10/hot-water-hot-springs-and-high-hopes/ Tue, 10 Sep 2019 11:00:44 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=176979

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The Archuleta Mercantile Co. letterhead shown in this display belonged to the Archuleta family for whom this county is named. Notice the diversity of the businesses they operated in both Colorado and New Mexico.

An item in the Summitville Nugget in August of 1883 reported: “… The bath house has recently changed hands, Mr. J. L. Campbell assuming control. It is his intention to enlarge this building and erect another for the exclusive use of the ladies, under the management of Mrs. Campbell. At the time of the transfer the present owner, Mrs. C., threw open the baths gratis for one day. The morning was given to the men and the afternoon was reserved for the ladies. Those acquainted with the facts state that the morning natatorial festivities were conducted with a decorum unwonted, but that in the afternoon the daughters of Eve had it all their own way at the shrine of Neptune. The timorous pines trembled upon the mountain steeps, and the little blue eritrichium wandered among the lofty crags that re-echoed the peals of laughter from below, while the splashing and screaming of the fair Nereids was heard down Amargo way with such disastrous effect that the affrighted citizens fled in disorder, as before the path of some tidal wave of fearful cataclysm.”
Abandoning his enraptured personal poetic eruptions, the Summitville editor continued in plain English: “Excellent accommodations can be secured at the Pagosa House or the Campbell House, including baths (which, by the way, have been reduced in price) at reasonable figures. Amargo and communication with the outside world are gained by daily stage, a distance of twenty-nine miles across the Continental Divide.”
I could write another column explaining the information in this column. First of all, Summitville is an abandoned gold mining town located at the eastern end of Elwood Pass. It is also possible that the Campbell mentioned in this column was a direct ancestor of our retired Sen. Ben “Nighthorse” Campbell.

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Hot springs, hot water and high hopes http://www.pagosasun.com/2019/09/01/hot-springs-hot-water-and-high-hopes-4/ Sun, 01 Sep 2019 11:00:45 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=176567

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This topo map shows the entrance to Pagosa and the Hot Springs via Mill Creek. The bridge across the San Juan was about a mile downstream from the Hot Springs. Joseph Clarke’s buildings mentioned in this article are located next to the bridge. Those buildings were the beginnings of Pagosa Springs.

I’ve been writing about the struggle for ownership of the Pagosa Hot Springs during the early years of Pagosa Country settlement. We’ve learned that title to the Springs was granted by the U.S. government to owners who paid with Valentine Script. Those owners sold their interest in the springs to the Pagosa Springs Company, a Leavenworth, Kan., firm which operated the springs for many years.
Last week, the name Joseph Clarke entered the picture and I promised to explain who this Joseph Clarke character was. Here goes.
One could say the community of Pagosa Springs started June 5, 1878, when the first post office opened for business. In truth, the Town of Pagosa Springs incorporated in 1891. But lots of folks lived around the springs before legal incorporation.
The first postmaster was Clarke. It would be reasonable to proclaim him as the “Father of Our City.”
In 1877, Clarke opened a general store and rooming house about a mile south of the Hot Springs near where Mill Creek, then known as Rio Frio, spills into the San Juan River. A bridge spanned the river just north of the juncture of the creek and the river. Crossing that bridge was a toll road incorporated in New Mexico that ran from Abiquiu to what we know today as Silverton.
Clarke operated the post office from his newly opened general store. His application for the post office privilege claimed there were 100 residents. Among others, Clarke also managed the Hot Springs bath houses.
The townsite of Pagosa Springs was surveyed into streets, blocks, and lots and those lots were auctioned off in 1885, the same year Archuleta County was created and was therefore no longer part of Conejos County. Clarke purchased 50 of those lots, including all of the lots on the east side of Block 21, the principle business district. He later moved to Durango, where he was elected as a La Plata County commissioner and soon disappeared from public view.

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Hot springs, hot water and high hopes http://www.pagosasun.com/2019/08/25/hot-springs-hot-water-and-high-hopes-3/ Sun, 25 Aug 2019 11:00:03 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=176019

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This photo shows a former bridge connecting the east and west portions of San Juan Street downtown, probably following the 1911 flood. There have been several bridges across the river at this location, the first built by Fort Lewis troops in 1878. Finally, instead of replacing the San Juan Street Bridge, it was moved by Worthe Crouse to its current location shortly after World War II.

We’ve been writing about how the title to the Great Pagosa Hot Springs got into private hands. Picking up from where we left off last week, we learn that the president of the United States, acting on a recommendation from the Department of the Interior had, in May of 1877, ordered the 1-square-mile townsite with the spring as its center be set aside “because of the grandeur of the Great Hot Springs, and the medicinal qualities of its waters.”
Consequently, 6 square miles by presidential order issued Jan. 28, 1879, was set aside as the “Pagosa Springs Military Reservation.” The previously designated townsite was excluded from the military reservation. In order to give full effect to the earlier script locations, the president, on April 7, modified his previous order and excluded the 80-acre script claims from the military reservation.
The owners of the script applications asked for patents in December of 1882. A committee appointed to determine the validity of the Valentine script locations reported in favor of the script. Based on the committee’s findings, patents were issued July 5, 1883, to Maj. Henry Foote, James L. Byers, John Conover and Dr. A. C. Van Duyn.
The Pagosa Springs Company was incorporated under Colorado law Nov. 12, 1883. The incorporation, among other things, declared its intent to acquire land, and to own and operate hotels and resorts. Byers, Conover and Van Duyn purchased Foote’s 40 acres immediately surrounding the springs for $100 in August of 1883. The two script patents were for 40 acres surrounding the main hot spring and 40 acres immediately below the hot spring.
One writer, many years later, placed the dollar value of the script used to claim the entire 80 acres including the hot springs at $5.09.
Through good times and bad, mostly bad, for they were often delinquent in paying their taxes, the Pagosa Springs Company controlled the Great Pagosa Hot Springs until Mr. Owen F. Boyle, of Durango, purchased them at a public trustee sale (bankruptcy) in December 1910. Absentee ownership was practiced by the company, with headquarters in Leavenworth, Kan.
Several local managers either operated the business for the Pagosa Springs Company or leased it. Joseph Clarke was one of these managers. Clarke greatly influenced Pagosa Springs history, as we’ll learn next week.

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Hot springs, hot water and high hopes http://www.pagosasun.com/2019/08/18/hot-springs-hot-water-and-high-hopes-2/ Sun, 18 Aug 2019 11:00:10 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=175551

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
If you think the San Juan River looked wicked and roily when it reached flood stage a few weeks ago, you should have seen it in 1911, the year of “The Great Flood.” This photo showing houses being swept downstream should give you an idea of the damage done. Every bridge in the county washed out and two lives were claimed.

We’ve been writing about the sundry and various claims used by Pagosa Country pioneers in an effort to obtain title to the Great Pagosa Hot Springs. Complicating the whole picture was the series of events leading to settlement of the Upper San Juan Country.
In the first place, the whole country was controlled by the Southern Utes. Hoping to placate the Utes and create stability in the area, a series of meetings was held. One of these, called the Brunot Treaty in 1873-1874, reduced Ute land to a 40-mile north-to-south strip running west to east from the Four Corners corner and the border of Utah Territory to the San Juan River. Somehow, as a result of this treaty, the springs ended up belonging to the federal government.
The federal government set aside 6 square miles for Fort Lewis with the springs as epicenter. Onto this 6-square-mile swatch of government land arrived a cadre of settlers, businessmen and folks seeking title to the springs.
The feds sorted things out thusly. Rutherford B. Hayes, the president of the United States, took charge. In May of 1877 by presidential proclamation, he reserved 1 square mile as a townsite with the main hot spring as the center point.
According to Army Lt. C.A.H. McCauley, at a grand council held by the Ute Commission, a group of leading Colorado citizens chosen to negotiate with the Southern Utes, the Utes expressed their wish to Commission Chairman Gen. Edward Hatch that the “Great Father in Washington retain possession of the place so that all persons, whether whites or Indians, might visit it, and when sick come there and be healed, firmly believing its waters to be a panacea for all diseases or afflictions.”
If there was fraud as McCauley alleges, it has never been exposed to the light of day. Maj. Henry Foote, a capitalist with considerable property in Del Norte, had on March 22,1875, placed a 40-acre claim on the spring using Valentine Scrip and designating the hot springs as center of his claim.
James L. Byers, John Conover, and Dr. A.C. Van Duyn, on Oct. 4, 1875, claimed 40 more acres with Valentine Scrip directly south of Foote’s 40 acres.
More on this subject next week.

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Hot springs, hot water and high hopes http://www.pagosasun.com/2019/08/11/hot-springs-hot-water-and-high-hopes/ Sun, 11 Aug 2019 11:00:42 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=174957

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Pagosa Springs was a very different place as shown in this 1891 photo looking east across town. The narrow gauge railroad station in the foreground remains as a rental house sitting at a 45-degree angle on the corner of 7th and Piedra streets. The 1891 first geothermal well shown spouting in the center is where the mound of dried geothermal minerals still sits in the parking lot along the river. Obviously, the train and water tower are long gone.

A major problem of concern to the pioneer citizens of Pagosa Springs was solving the riddle of who owned the Pagosa Hot Springs, plus who owned the property where the town was springing up. Ownership of the hot springs, the townsite and the 6 square miles surrounding the hot springs remained in the hands of the U.S. government.
All of the people who had already settled on the land, erected homes and conducted businesses within the 6 square miles — including the little cluster of homes and businesses nestled between Reservoir Hill and San Juan Street, were squatters, meaning they did not own the land on which they were living. It’s good to remember there was no town water system, hence no reservoir, and double-hence the hill was named Roubidoux in honor of a fur trapper who passed through the area frequently.
As early as 1875, Army Engineer Lt. C.A.H. McCauley apparently felt the ownership of the springs rightfully belonged to the Ute Indians.
His 1879 tongue-in-cheek report stated: “Wrested from its hereditary possessors by perjury, misrepresentation,or fraud, in the Brunot convention or treaty with the Utes in 1873 for the cession or purchase of what is known as the San Juan region, the location of the springs was subsequently claimed by various squatters as agricultural land, omitting the springs on their plat prepared for file and record. To doubly hold the place, it was entered by a confederate as a mill site, and lest this too should be invalidated, the ground was taken up as a placer claim. To legally establish the latter, at a convenient point to the springs, the ground was duly “salted” in the most approved manner, by firing gold-dust from a shotgun into the earth after which, in the presence of a witness, a pan of earth was washed and ‘color’ found by the merest accident. The last and strongest claim, and still in litigation, was the placing of Valentine scrip on some 40 acres of land including the most valuable springs.”
Resorting to “tongue in cheek” from my very own (nobody else has ever tried to claim it) face, I can’t help noticing that the owner of the area’s first homestead was Welch Nossaman, who, with friends, one of them a doctor, was mining gold at Summitville and making frequent trips to the hot springs. Could the desire to own the hot springs have been on Nossaman’s agenda?

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Hot springs and high hopes http://www.pagosasun.com/2019/08/06/hot-springs-and-high-hopes-2/ Tue, 06 Aug 2019 11:00:53 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=174296

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Stage coaches continued to arrive in Pagosa until about 1901, when the train reached town and stage coaches were no longer needed. This stage coach ran between the railroad station at Amargo, N.M., and Pagosa Springs following a route approximating today’s U.S. 84 for the northern half of its route. This stage coach is resting at the southern end of Halfway Canyon, where Valle Seco Creek Road intersects U.S. 84 from the west. The stop was called Halfway House.

By May of 1881, Pagosa Springs could boast of its first bathhouse, a frame building erected by Thomas Blair. It had a large plunge bath, fully 4.5 feet deep, and several single bathtubs sufficient to accommodate all visitors.
Pagosa Springs seemed to be on the rise, but almost as soon as the people started licking their lips as they counted their money on the way to the bank, things changed. Folks had scarcely started splashing gleefully around in Blair’s bathhouse when they were forced to pack their bags, hitch up their teams and gee-haw across the rugged Rocky Mountains to the latest gold strike, this one at a place called Telluride.
Telluride was named for a gold-bearing ore called Tellurium. Needless to say, although a small community remains at Telluride to this day, the gold pretty much petered out and most of the folks living there moved on.
Even so, it was too late to preserve the Pagosa Springs boom. Fort Lewis and the Southern Ute Indian Agency were moving further west. Fort Lewis was going to Hesperus, where it would remain active as an Army fort until 1891. Today, its successor remains perched on a little hill in Durango and is known as Fort Lewis College.
The Indian Agency moved to Ignacio, where it was headquarters for a reservation stretching across much of southwestern Colorado. The agency headquarters remains in Ignacio.
Returning to the tale of dashed dreams in Pagosa Springs, the hoped-for railroad bypassed Pagosa Springs on its way to Durango. No longer did stage coaches carry people and their baggage through town on their way to Durango.
A few pioneers tightened their belts and remained in Pagosa on their homesteads, raising hay and beef. And, of course, there remained the world’s largest and hottest mineral springs. Surely health seekers would continue to treat their various ailments in those life preserving mineral waters. Those health seekers would be wealthy enough to pay for hotel accommodations and food. And so Pagosa’s hopes for a fitting financial future seemed to depend on the hot springs.
One significant impediment remained on the road to the future of the Pagosa Hot Springs. Who owned the hot springs and their adjacent lands? A battle for ownership reared its ugly head. The title to those lands was a total mess. Tune in next week for that unbelievable story.

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Hot springs and high hopes http://www.pagosasun.com/2019/07/28/hot-springs-and-high-hopes/ Sun, 28 Jul 2019 11:00:12 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=173871

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Residents gather around the Great Pagosa Hot Spring while a flourishing Pagosa Springs downtown springs up along Pagosa Street across the San Juan River.

Daisy Opdyke Fitzhugh, who as a small girl moved with her family to Pagosa Springs in 1879, years later recalled the bathing routine.
“We would go in the morning and fill the large built-in wooden tub and by afternoon the water would be cool enough to take a bath. Then when we were through bathing, we would empty the tub, lock the door and it would be ready for next time.”
Another visitor during those years, a writer who thought there might be more bath houses than people in Pagosa Springs, gave this report of his experience near the hot springs.
“In our search for knowledge and while rambling around the great springs, we accosted one who we supposed to be a citizen, but who proved to be a stranger. We approached and politely requested to know what was the principle occupation of the people of Pagosa. Quick as thought while casting an eye at the scores of bath houses, came the reply. ‘Bathing, by ———– Sir!’”
John R. Curry, editor of Silverton’s newspaper, The La Plata Miner, published a letter written from Pagosa Springs in March of 1881.
“Pagosa Springs, the largest, hottest and most singularly curious springs of their class in the world, are no longer isolated as they have been in times past, shut off from the great traveling thoroughfares of the country by a formidable range of mountains, a trip across which at any season of the year, by such conveyances as were available, was unpleasant and tedious to the extreme.
“Now those difficulties are overcome by the approach of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, which was extended over the range in question and has a station at Chama only 45 miles distant from the Springs. J. L. Sanderson and Company and Wall and Witter have established lines of coaches between Chama and Durango, the flourishing city of the Animas River Valley … This has given initiative to hotels and building houses … persons coming here now to see these wonderful springs and to bathe in their benefit giving waters, can feel assured that comfortable lodging will be provided and something nice to eat at reasonable prices.”

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Hot water and high hopes http://www.pagosasun.com/2019/07/24/hot-water-and-high-hopes/ Wed, 24 Jul 2019 11:00:28 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=173409

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This photo looking north across the Pagosa Hot Springs made circa 1900 shows three bathhouses with Pagosa Springs’ main street in the background, complete with the peek-through spire of the first First Methodist Church building.

When mining activities increased in the upper Animas River mining camps during the early 1870s, supporting communities sprouted in the lower Animas River Valley. Because the growing season was longer at the lower elevations, they were able to grow vegetables and fruit for the Silverton Market.
They also got first crack at new miners coming into the San Juans and first crack at the successful miners who’d been working the mines long enough to have a jingle in their jeans. Winters in the high San Juans were bitterly cold and the snow unbearably deep. Summers were short, making gardening almost impossible.
Consequently, a goodly number of the miners spent winters in the lower-elevation communities where they abandoned their donkeys and drank until their empty-pocket “just one more?” plea to bartenders who’d heard everything fell on deaf ears. The braying beasts of burden hee-hawed and gee-hawed themselves into bands of troublemakers that forced the locals to spend a lot of time and money trying, at no avail, to get rid of them.
More people than ever were seeing the Great Pagosa Hot Springs. The Silverton Miner newspaper reported, “Quite a large number of San Juaners are enroute for Silverton via Pagosa Springs and the Animas Canyon Toll Road.”
The same paper noted that a mail route had been established from Garland City to Silverton via Pagosa Springs and Animas City. After July 1, Pagosa Springs was to have daily mail service from Alamosa.
Just so you know, in those days, Garland City was a town on the west side of the San Luis Valley near Fort Garland. Alamosa and Animas City were new cities established by the recently installed narrow gauge railroad. Animas City was replaced by Durango shortly after the railroad arrived. Toll roads sprang up through almost every viable pass in the San Juans. The toll roads didn’t last long.
Public accommodations in Pagosa Springs were nonexistent because the springs were still owned by the federal government. No action had yet been taken by the government on the many ownership claims filed on the hot springs. Visitors and health seekers desiring to use the waters were left to their own devices. Either they obtained permission to use one of the private bathhouses or they bathed in one of the many small seeps surrounding the main hot springs. The reader should note that the “private” small bathhouses were owned by squatters, people using land they had no title to or legal right to use.

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High hopes and hot water http://www.pagosasun.com/2019/07/15/high-hopes-and-hot-water-3/ Mon, 15 Jul 2019 11:00:14 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=172935

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This 1888 photo of the hot springs shows a second bathhouse on the right of the still-remaining, mundane in appearance, men’s bathhouse. The new ladies’ bathhouse opened solely for the ladies has a more attractive, probably Gothic, architecture. Now the ladies could bathe at the same time as the men without the risk of being gawked at.

What did the Pagosa Hot Springs look like in 1878 before people commenced messing around with the natural contours? For our description, we again rely on the professional eyes of Army Engineer Lt. C.A.H. McCauley, who inspected the fledgling Fort Lewis and nearby hot springs in 1878.
“The group of hot springs occupies an area of about 21 acres upon the eastern side of the river … the main hot spring is said to be the largest thermal spring and possess the highest temperature of any in the United States … The crater is an irregular depression approximating a pear shape, and is about 69 feet long by 45 feet wide … the depth of the waters being uknown …,” McCauley wrote.
Motter’s note: The depth remains unknown even today. Two or three years ago I watched a team of engineers from Farmington drop a weight attached to a cable of about 1,000 feet in length into the boiling water and fail to touch the bottom.
McCauley continued, “… columns of bubbles rise constantly everywhere over the surface … near the center a furious boiling appearance is presented … the temperature of the spring was found to be 141˚ F … for convenience we may say there are 19 springs with a temperature above blood heat.”
McCauley described the land surrounding the springs as “peculiar, honey-combed ground over which a passerby must exercise caution.” Elsewhere, he noted, “the general surface is solid and will bear the weight of a horse and rider, although a hollow sound will be heard while passing over it.”
Until construction of Fort Lewis was begun in 1878, we have no record of anyone living near the hot spring. Native American bands camped there temporarily from time to time, but, true to their nomadic lifestyles, soon moved on.
Welch Nossaman and a couple of companions built cabins near the hot springs as early as 1876. Other cabins may have been erected nearby, especially along the wagon road fathered by the Old Spanish Trail that passed in an east-west direction about 1 mile south of the springs. As early as 1861, this route was also known as Baker’s Toll Road. A lot of miner’s took advantage of this route to travel from New Mexico to the mining camps of the San Juan Mountains located up the Animas River from today’s Durango. Miners being a recalcitrant lot, I doubt if Baker ever received a nickel for his toll road but, you can bet many a miner took a look at the hot springs.

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