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Elections, allegations, mobs and mayhem

Charles D. Scase was one of the earliest settlers in Pagosa Springs.

He had been born Sept. 24, 1846, near Albany, N.Y., and moved to Denver at an early age. He passed away July 14, 1922.

Scase apparently operated a bar in Pagosa Springs at a time when Fort Lewis occupied today’s main business block. He married a Hispanic lady and was heavily involved in local politics at a time when Anglos and Hispanics competed with each other for control of the county government. Archuleta County was formed in 1885.

Along with a Martinez and an Archuleta, Scase was elected to the county’s first board of county commissioners in an 1885 election.

When that three-man board held its organizational meeting during the January following the election, the meeting was held in Scase’s bar on east San Juan Street. A small, rock building now serving as a residence remains on the north side of that street in the middle of the block. I think the rock portion of that building is all that remains of the building, formerly Scase’s bar, and the site of the first meeting of county commissioners.

Scase was considered a member of the “Mexican Gang,” accused by Anglos of winning the election through fraudulent voting.

The Anglos were mostly cattlemen with homes in Pagosa Springs. Most of the Hispanics lived in the southern parts of Archuleta County, especially the Edith area. The Anglos accused the Hispanics, led by Archuleta, of winning the election by encouraging New Mexico residents to vote in the Archuleta County, Colorado, election.

In any case, while the newly elected commissioners attempted to conduct county business at that first meeting, their deliberations were interrupted by an armed gang of Anglos. Leading the group of Anglos was Ethereal T. Walker, who carried a hat box into the meeting, removed the lid, and displayed a newly tied hangman’s noose.

The purpose of the noose was to convince the newly elected commissioners that it was time to adjourn their meeting and maybe even forget about meeting again. The commissioners got the idea, left the building forthwith, and did not meet again for several months.

That night, Scase’s building was burned, leaving only the rock portion, which remains to this day.

The interruption of the meeting was turned over to a grand jury in Durango charged with the task of deciding if a state law had somehow been ignored or misinterpreted. Finally, during the fall season of 1886, the jury issued a verdict upholding the election of Martinez, Archuleta and Scase.

Scase submitted a bill to the county asking for reimbursement for the building. I could find no evidence that the county paid the bill.

When I first moved to Pagosa Springs, circa 1970, oldtimers referred to the ranch located at the first bend on Snowball Road as the “Old Scase Place.” The weathered, frame house on that place burned a few years ago.

This story was posted on July 18, 2013.