Traipsin’, tradin’ and explorin’

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
For many years, Pagosa Springs’ town hall went through changes as it stood on the west bank of the San Juan River near the corner of Pagosa and San Juan streets. The tower for the fire alarm bell was added later. Some say the building started as a bakery for Fort Lewis, the Army post which occupied the block from circa 1877 to 1882.

We’re writing about famous explorations of the Far West. We completed the story of Juan Maria Rivera in 1765, and described the main characters of the 1776 Dominguez/Escalante expedition, perhaps the best known of the early Hispaño expeditions memorialized by historians Leroy and Ann Hafen’s writings on the Old Spanish Trail.
We’re using Wikipedia as a source of information because historians have done a great deal of research subsequent to the Hafens and their latest findings should be on Wikipedia.
We ended last week with the Catholic Fathers and their entourage camped out with the Santa Clara Pueblo Indians near today’s Española, N.M. The travelers were guided by Native Americans from Utah who undoubtedly followed traditional Indian trails.
From Santa Clara Pueblo, the party traveled “nine leagues to the Pueblo of Santa Rosa de Abiquiu,” where they remained on July 31, 1776, and where they celebrated a Solemn Mass seeking the aid of “their most holy patrons.” On land, a league was most commonly translated as 3 miles in the English measuring system. “Most holy patrons” undoubtedly refers to patron saints, not identified in this rendition of the journey.
The party closely followed the Chama River Valley northward on the next portion of the journey before making its last New Mexico stop in today’s Dulce. Dulce was unnamed in those days, but nearby is Horse Lake, Lago de Cabeza in Hispanic. Horse Lake and Pagosa Hot Springs were identified on the earliest Hispanic maps of the area, maps not very accurate to scale or other landmarks.
From Dulce, the holy entourage entered Colorado by following the Navajo River to its juncture with the San Juan River at Juanita, following the San Juan River eastward to its junction with the Piedra River at Arboles, then eastward to Ignacio, Durango and Hesperus. After passing through Mancos, they camped near the base of Mesa Verde National Park on Aug. 10.
At this point in his journal, Escalante wrote, “Father Fray Francisco Antansio [Dominguez] awoke troubled by rheumatic fever which he felt in his face and head since the day before, and it was desirable to make camp here until he should be better, but the continuous rains, the inclemency of the weather and the great dampness of the place forced us to leave it. Going north and having traveled a little more than half a league, we turned to the northwest, went on a league and then swung west through valleys of very beautiful timber and abundant pasturage, roses and various other flowers.”
Motter: I’ve used today’s names for much of this description of the journey because today’s readers will recognize the locations and because equating old names with new names would require too much space. Next week, the journey continues.

This story was posted on March 12, 2019.