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The trail from Texas to Pagosa Country

Photo courtesy John M. Motter Pagosa pioneers Fil Byrne and Henry Gordon show the tools of their trade in this early photograph. Byrne was Pagosa Springs’ first school teacher and Gordon ranched in the area more than 50 years.

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Pagosa pioneers Fil Byrne and Henry Gordon show the tools of their trade in this early photograph. Byrne was Pagosa Springs’ first school teacher and Gordon ranched in the area more than 50 years.

We’ve been writing about the 1875/1876 journey of several families from Erath County, Texas, to Pagosa Country.

The epic journey was made while driving a herd of longhorn cattle along the Pecos River Trail.

Entire families made the horseback trip — men, women, and children. In today’s column, we talk about some of those family members.

James L. “Uncle Jim” O’Neal was born in Dublin, Texas, Jan. 26, 1847, and died in Pagosa Springs in 1929. He joined the Texas Rangers at age 14. He married Missouri E. Keith. The couple had no children, but other Keith family members came to Colorado including Claude D. Keith, Steven Miller Keith and Wash Keith.

Wash Keith was an early settler on the Pine River, 1879, his ranch being the present town site of Bayfield. He returned to Texas in 1885 and was the father of Alva, Leland and two daughters.

Steven Miller Keith was born May 3, 1854, at Titus County, Texas. He married Fannie Wittenburg and they had two children, Claude and Mrs. Ethel Sparks. Fannie died at Pine River in 1888.

Claude Keith was born at Cimarron, N.M. March 11, 1879. He was a blacksmith apprenticing at the old Jackson Hardware in Durango and later worked at the Graden Lumber Company in that same city. In Pagosa, he blacksmithed for 33 years before dying in 1962.

John S. O’Neal was born in Texas in 1847, a son of George Washington O’Neal and Mary (Magers) O’Neal. In addition to homesteading north of Pagosa Springs, John maintained a home on Lewis Street in town. He served on the town board and as a county commissioner. He married Virginia Keith in Texas and the couple parented the twins Ebon and Lucy.

Bachelor Henry Gordon, who died in Pagosa Springs in 1934 at the age of 101, was also on that 1875/1876 cattle drive from Texas.

Gordon’s colorful career began in St. Louis, Mo., in 1832. As a teenager, he worked on the railroad between St. Louis and Kansas City. Later, he lived in Indian territory (Oklahoma). Still later, he drifted to Texas where he became a cowboy associated with the O’Neal’s and Keiths. He accompanied the group on their cattle drive through New Mexico and ending at Cedar Hill, New Mexico.

When the O’Neals moved to the Pagosa area in 1886, Gordon followed them and homesteaded along the creek that is named for him on the west side of Pagosa Peak, where he lived for 48 years. Gordon passed away in 1934.

This story was posted on April 25, 2013.