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Slim pickings for hotels in early-day Pagosa

Photo courtesy John M. Motter The sights and sounds of narrow-gauge logging railroads were common in southwestern Colorado and Pagosa Country at the beginning of the 20th century. Lumber from the vast Ponderosa forests in this area built many of the metropolitan areas on the east slope of Colorado.

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The sights and sounds of narrow-gauge logging railroads were common in southwestern Colorado and Pagosa Country at the beginning of the 20th century. Lumber from the vast Ponderosa forests in this area built many of the metropolitan areas on the east slope of Colorado.

In last week’s column, we started quoting from a news article written in November of 1880 describing a wagon trip from Animas City to the end of the under-construction Denver & Rio Grande Railroad line in the mountains above Chama.

We continue this week from where we ended last week, when the eastbound caravan had just reached the Florida River.

“From the Florida we cross a low divide over an easy grade and splendid road to Pine River (Motter — now Bayfield). We found the very best accommodations for the traveler that is found on the road between Animas City and the end of the track. Mr. Johnson (Charlie ‘Racehorse’ Johnson) is the proprietor of the hotel or stopping place. The house is large and comfortable, the beds first-class, and the table better than can be obtained at any hotel in Southwestern Colorado. At Mr. Johnson’s we stopped overnight and on the morning of the 12th (November), the second day out from Animas City, made a point thirty-two miles from Animas, where we camped for dinner, with good water and plenty of wood: (for that matter there is no point on the road from the Animas to the end of the track that there is not an abundant supply of wood for camping purposes and the greater part of the way the road passes through the finest saw timber to be found in the west, and from this section the whole state of Colorado will receive her lumber supply upon completion of the D. & R.G. road). But we camped for dinner, and dinner being over, we had better make a start, for we have a drive of sixteen miles to reach a camping place for the night, which is at Stollsteimer’s ranch on Stollsteimer’s creek thirteen miles from Pagosa and forty-eight or fifty miles from Animas city.

“Mr. Stollsteimer is one of the most successful stock men in Southwestern Colorado, and has immense herds of cattle and sheep which roam over the mesas and foothills to the west of the San Juan river. Mr. S. does not keep travelers, it is not his business, he is a stock man, but he kindly furnished the necessary blankets for the writer, for a bed and a comfortable place to sleep, and permitted the balance of the party to occupy a comfortable camping house. Getting an early start, Pagosa Springs thirteen miles distant, is reached by 11 o’clock and here we stopped for dinner and are sixty-three miles from Animas City. At Pagosa Springs there is a very slim hotel accommodation; it certainly is the best point for someone to locate and erect a hotel of 30 or 40 rooms, that we know of in Southwestern Colorado, and whoever is the first to occupy the field will certainly be well rewarded.”

Continued next week.

This story was posted on August 29, 2013.