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Country schools and city water

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The Born’s School, named for “Dutch” Henry Born, was located in the valley of the West Fork of the San Juan River. Born’s children and other youngsters living in the area attended the school, taught at one time by a Mrs. Darling.

Many of Pagosa Country’s early residents maintained a ranch in the country and a home in town.

This arrangement was especially favorable for families with children attending the public school. During the summer months, the kids helped with the ranch work. During winter, the whole family moved to town, where it was much easier to get to school. Other ranch families boarded their kids in town during the winter months.

In those days before motorized snow plows, school buses, and consolidated school districts, nearly every valley in the county had its own one- or two-room school house. School in those remote communities often was limited to two or three summer months.

At various times, country schools existed at Banded Peaks Ranch on the upper Navajo River, at Chromo, at Boone, at Edith, two sites in the Upper Blanco Basin, at least one site each on the Middle and Lower Blanco River, at Montezuma, Trujillo, Juanita, Pagosa Junction, Carracas, Arboles, Stollsteimer, Yellow Jacket, Hall, Bayles, the West Fork of the San Juan River, O’Neal Park, the Upper Piedra and at various logging camps that moved around the county.

During the early 1900s, Pagosa Springs acquired banks, a flour mill, a telephone system, electricity, municipal water and geothermal heating.

A committee appointed by the Pagosa Springs Town Board reported in March of 1901 on the cost of a proposed municipal water system: “$18,000 will put in a water works with a capacity sufficient for 4,000 people.”

In an election conducted April 2 of that year, 26 persons voted for and three persons voted against bonds to finance the water works.

The first water plant was located at the east end of San Juan Street below the existing water tank on the top of Reservoir Hill. The first town water system included a tank in the same spot. The land for the tank was purchased from Dr. Parish in exchange for “perpetual water rights” and $300. An ordinance was passed in May of that year authorizing the issuance of coupon bonds to finance a water works.

By March of 1902, town residents were still getting water directly from the San Juan River. The town board warned citizens, “to get the same (their water) above the mouth of Slaughter House Gulch.” In those days, Slaughter House Gulch was the ravine north of town that entered from First Street.

In June of 1902, a franchise was granted to Gilbert Wilkins & Co. to furnish electrical power and operated a pumping plant for the coming central water system. More on that subject next week.

This story was posted on January 17, 2013.