Following the O’Neal party and Henry Gordon on Pecos Trail

Photo courtesy John Motter
Henry Gordon lived throughout the cowboy west. With other Texas cowboys ramrodded by a man named O’Neal, Gordon drove a herd of Texas longhorns up the Pecos River, finally resting at Cimarron, N.M.

We continue the story of Henry Gordon, whose life spanned the cowboy history of the Old West. As we reported last week, Gordon joined a number of other cowboys in Erath County, Texas, and drove a herd of longhorns up the Pecos Trail pioneered by Charles Goodnight. The longhorn caravan stopped to rest in Cimarron, N.M., where they lost a few cows to the Jicarilla Apache Indians. That’s where our tale ended last week.
The Pecos Trail kind of splintered at Taos. The O’Neal party, including Gordon, finally got all of the rest they could stand and headed for the Four Corners country.
Now seems the appropriate time for a geography lesson. I don’t know the route the O’Neal party chose, but I do know Cimarron is on the east end of a pass over a section of the Rocky Mountains. Taos is on the west end of the pass, and there were no roads in that area at that time. The group probably drove to Taos. After leaving Taos, the party had to cross the Rio Grande River where it was shadowed by an earth-splitting canyon. Once across the river, they had to cross another part of the Rocky Mountains and then northwest over one of a variety of trails before finally settling along the Animas River at Cedar Hill a few miles north of today’s Aztec, N.M.
From there, most of the O’Neal party moved to Los Piños (it became Bayfield in about 1900), and finally to the Upper Piedra north of Pagosa Springs.
The place where they homesteaded is still known as O’Neal Park and Gordon ranched on a creek that drains into O’Neal Park. Appropriately, the creek is known as Gordon Creek.
In addition to their ranches in O’Neal Park, the O’Neals had homes on Lewis Street in Pagosa Springs. Gordon lived on his homestead summer and winter, but made an occasional trip to town for grub or some other necessity.
In later years, Gordon rode a mule to town. The mule was tied up near the corner of Lewis and San Juan street while I assume Gordon quenched his thirst and took care of other necessities.
Gordon lived until May of 1934 when he passed away at the age of 101.
I recently talked with someone who remembered family stories of Gordon coming to town and how friendly and pleasant he was.
Next week, we are going to look at another pioneer of the Old West who settled in Pagosa Springs. Among his many reported distinctions was having served as a cook for Gen. Custer and having been arrested by Bat Masterson. Of course, you know I’m talking about another Henry, this time Dutch Henry Born. Look that name up on your computer, you’ll find plenty to read about. Incidentally, Dutch Henry has two granddaughters still living in Pagosa Springs.
Motter’s note: The O’Neal party could have driven the herd down the east side of the mountains to Santa Fe, then north to the Four Corners.

This story was posted on October 5, 2017.