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We’ve been talking about the earliest settlements in Pagosa Country.
I tend to include the Summitville, Dulce, Lumberton and Tierra Amarilla areas as part of Pagosa Country in my thoughts when considering early settlement, because the settlement of all of those areas is tied together.
Right now, however, I’m focusing on land that later became part of Archuleta County when the county incorporated in 1885.
For the last two weeks, we’ve written about settlement at the Piedra River crossing and westward along Yellow Jacket Creek. This week, we’ll take a brief look at settlement along the upper Navajo River in the Chromo area.
The earliest settlements all have one thing in common — they were along established roadways entering the county. The Piedra/Yellow Jacket area was along the stage road between Pagosa Springs and Animas City, later to become Durango.
The Chromo area settlements were along a major southern entrance to the county. An old road connected Pagosa Country with Tierra Amarilla, Abiquiu, Espanola, Santa Fe and the rest of the Territory of New Mexico. Another route entering Pagosa Country through the Chromo area came by way of Cumbres Pass and the San Louis Valley. Cumbres Pass opened circa 1877, long before the 1915 opening of Wolf Creek Pass.
Barzillai Price and a relative, George Weisel, were the first settlers in the Chromo area. In fact, that settlement was first known as “Price,” and that was the name of its first post office, said to have been located about one-half mile east of the present post office.
Price and Weisel came by wagon train from Nebraska to Pagosa Springs, probably by way of Cumbres Pass. After visiting Pagosa Springs and the fledgling Ignacio Indian Agency, Price and family homesteaded along the Navajo near Col. Broad’s toll gate. The location was a few miles east of present Chromo where a bridge called Price Bridge remains to this day. The year was 1879.
Broad, who lived in Chama, promised Price a mower, rake and twenty dollars a ton for hay if Price would settle on the Navajo and take care of traffic there.
Army Engineer Lieutenant Ruffner who was stationed at Fort Garland in the San Luis Valley and surveyed the military site of Pagosa Springs and most of the passes across the Southern San Juan Mountains, spent a night with the Prices and told 70-year-old Will Price “many good fishing and hunting stories.” Ruffner had been many years with the Army in New Mexico and, by way of young Will, is probably the source of the story that Kit Carson had built a cabin along the Navajo while beaver trapping in the area.