The people behind the names: the Archuletas

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Lionel and Ruby Archuleta were the parents of Margaret Daugaard. Many locals will remember Margaret, who ran La Cantina on Pagosa Street for many years. As daughter of Lionel, Margaret was a direct descendant of the Archuleta for whom the county is named. Her children are also direct descendants. Ruby was a Gomez, another of the many Hispanic families who played a prominent role in the settlement of Pagosa Country.

Have you ever wondered why Archuleta County is called Archuleta County? You don’t have to be terribly observant to recognize that most of the place names surrounding us are Spanish in origin.
Anyone interested in learning the history of Pagosa Country will soon discover that people of Spanish ancestrage were wandering around the western parts of what became the United States before Lewis and Clark, even before the U.S. became the U.S. circa 1776.
Por ejemplo, the San Juan Mountains are named for Juan Maria Antonio Rivera, who explored southwestern Colorado (Spanish for red) in 1865.
Archuleta County is named for a prominent family of Hispanic origin with the surname Archuleta who were deeply involved in the settlement of this county and much of southwestern Colorado. Members of this family still live in the county.
Before we get more specifically into the naming of the county, it is of some historic interest to look into the origin of the surname Archuleta. My source is houseofnames.com on the Internet. You might be interested in looking up your own surname on that or a similar source.
According to my source, “The distinguished Spanish surname Archuleta is of a local origin, deriving from a geographical, or man-made from the place name Arechavaleta. Derived from the unique Basque language, Arechavaleta uses the Basque words ‘(h)aritz’ (oak tree), ‘zabal’ (wide) and ‘eta’ (indicating plurality) which together means ‘wide place where oak trees grow.’”
From the same source, we learn that the surname Archuleta was first found in Arechavaleta (Spanish form of Arechableta) located in the province of Alava and Guipuzcoa in the Basque Country (north of Spain and bordering with France). Bearers of the surname Archuleta may claim descent from one of the most ancient and noblest lineages of the Basque country, northern Spain, with the earliest references dating from the 10th century.
Some of the first settlers of this family to come to the New World were Ortuna de Arcechavaleta, who emigrated to Peru in 1569 with his wife, Isabel del Rio, and daughter Isabel. Santiago Arechavola came to New Orleans in 1829 at the age of 35. The family is listed among the founding families in New Mexico. There are books on this subject.
Listed among contemporary notables of the name Archuleta is Antonio D. Archuleta (b. 1845), who was a member of the Colorado Senate in 1885. You’ll see his name later as we get more specific about the naming of this county.
Next week we’ll review the creation of the territory of Colorado with its original 16 counties, and progress to the separation of Archuleta County from Conejos County, one of the original 16 counties.

This story was posted on March 22, 2018.