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Man, beast received short rations in winter of 1878

Photo courtesy John M. Motter This photo shows the Joe Mann homestead located on the East Fork of the San Juan River. In the last years of his life, Mann had a cabin made of Aspen logs located on Cumbres Pass, its location marked on current Forest Service maps.

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This photo shows the Joe Mann homestead located on the East Fork of the San Juan River. In the last years of his life, Mann had a cabin made of Aspen logs located on Cumbres Pass, its location marked on current Forest Service maps.

Construction of Fort Lewis in Pagosa Springs began with the arrival of the first troops in October 1878. A special Pagosa winter arrived soon after the troops. The deep snow isolated the new post, leaving it with short rations for man and beast.

By Dec. 30, the public animals were reduced to half rations of hay and one-fourth rations on their corn allowance. In a long letter to the post adjutant at Fort Garland, the Pagosa commander justified the pitiful condition of his command.

“Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report.

“Oct. 29, 1878 W.S. Peabody was authorized to furnish at this post one hundred tons of hay & one hundred thousand lbs. of corn, authority confirmed by the Dist. commander of date Nov. 13, 1878.

“Nov. 5, 1878 T.D. Burns was authorized to furnish seventy-five tons of hay, authority confirmed by the Dist. commander of date Nov. 13, 1878. Both of these parties entered fully into the agreement to furnish and no further efforts were deemed necessary to have the Post supplied with forage, as the amount contracted for — purchased on the open market — from these parties was considered sufficient to meet the requirements for the winter.

“Up to present date W.S. Peabody has delivered 13 1445/2000 tons of hay and 12,387 lbs. of corn and T.D. Burns has delivered 4 and 1543/2000 tons of hay.

“Pending the delivery of the before mentioned parties of a sufficient amount of forage to meet the immediate demands of the post, I received from Joseph Mann, the regular appointed forage agent at Pagosa Springs, 10 449/1000 tons of hay and 7456 lbs. of corn, but this source of supply is now cut off, as Mr. Mann has left the country and virtually abandoned his agency and no one left here to represent his interests.

“Finding there was no probability of any of the before mentioned parties meeting their obligations to keep us supplied with forage, I directed the A.A.Q.M. of this post to advertise for fifty tons of hay to be furnished by purchase in open market, copies of which advertisement were sent to Animas City, Tierra Amarilla, and the Post Office at this place, to be posted for the information of the people, and to which no bids have been received.

“Dec. 7, 1878, I sent Lt. Geo. A. Cornish 15th Infantry to Animas City to make arrangements for the delivery of hay to be furnished by T.D. Burns, a copy of the order detailing Lt. Cornish for the duty and my letter on instructions to him are hereto prefixed and marked respectively ‘A’ & ‘B.’ A copy of his report of duty is hereto prefixed and marked ‘C.’”

Did the public animals in Pagosa Springs get fed? Read this column next week to find the answer.

This story was posted on August 21, 2014.