Pagosa’s Past: Getting from here to there and back

Photo courtesy John Motter
Back in the late 1890s, Edith was a thriving community with more than 300 residents.

By John M. Motter
PREVIEW Columnist

I’ve been told by people who should know that the English language is one of the hardest of all languages to master. I’ve spent a good part of my life earning a living by using my ability to explain how to get from here to there and back by way of the English language.

First, I’ve learned it’s very helpful to own several good dictionaries, a thesaurus and a number of other writing guides. Among this multiplicity of references is “The Chicago Manual of Style” which claims on its cover to be “The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers.”

In recent columns, I have been focusing on using plain English to explain how to get from here to there, or, if you are lost in the “Great Outdoors,” from there to here.

I began with the word trail and a number of synonyms such as way, path, course of action, process, procedure technique, system, plan, strategy, scheme, means, mechanism, routine and manner. Since I am a backpacker, I also used terms such as thoroughfare, route, path, journey, road, highway, by-way and last week “back road.” During this linguistic travelogue, I ran across the word “wayfare” such as used in the song “Wayfaring Stranger.”

Curious about the word thoroughfare, I logged into Google for a definition. Now I am confused, if not totally flabbergasted. According to Google, thorough means “carried through to completion” and fare means “what you are eating.” When I put those two together, I think it should mean “I ate it all.” But Google claims the word “thoroughfare” means “a road or path between two places. It’s time for that silly idiom, “Go figger!”

Getting back to describing “back road,” I can think of several. There is a back road connecting Lumberton, N.M., with Pagosa Springs. Years ago, the Denver and Rio Grande railroad followed that route as part of getting trains from Chama to Durango. When the train company shut down and the tracks were removed, it became one of my favorite “back roads.” Not only is it the shortest way between Dulce and Pagosa Springs, there is a good chance to see wildlife, i.e. deer, elk, bear, raccoons and such.

It also tickles some of my history brain cells as it crosses the Navajo River down at Edith. Once upon a time, Edith had a population of over 300 and was being pushed as the county seat by the Archuleta family and their friends. The Archuleta family is the source of the county name. The battle over choosing Pagosa Springs over Edith as the Archuleta County seat resulted in a shoot-out between Anglo Pagosa cowboys and Edith Hispanics led by the Archuleta and Martinez families. During the 1890s, the largest lumber mill in Colorado and the first flour mill and electricity generating plant in Archuleta County were in Edith.

More back country trails next week. The county is covered with them.

This story was posted on July 1, 2020.