Why not Pagosa Springs?

Fired with unabashed enthusiasm, pioneers began permanent settlement in Pagosa Country in 1876 and in Pagosa Springs in 1877. They entered with a variety of skills and hopes. The greatest of the hopes was that Pagosa Springs would become an important economic center of the San Juans.

Such speculation was logical at the time. Dreams of economic success were buoyed by the expectation that the following five events would transpire.

1. Fort Lewis would be built and remain at Pagosa Springs. In addition to providing protection from the Southern Ute Indians, Fort Lewis would be an important market for goods and services the civilian population might produce. Lumber would be needed for building the fort. Farmers and ranchers could sell horses and beef, hay and grain, vegetables and other goods produced on their lands. Off-duty soldiers would eat in the town restaurants, drink in the town saloons and buy clothing and other goods in established shops. Civilian employees would find jobs as freighters, blacksmiths and wheelrights.

2. A reservation was to be established for the Southern Utes near Pagosa Springs with headquarters near Pagosa Springs on the Navajo River some 40 miles south of town. The reservation would be a market for beef, hay, lumber, carpenters and other goods and employment local residents could produce.

3. Travel through Pagosa Country increased with each gold and silver strike in the nearby San Juan Mountains. Those strikes produced communities dependent on goods and services from lower elevations, such as Pagosa Springs. In addition, travel and supplies from back east and destined to reach the mining markets in the higher mountains would pass though Pagosa Springs, creating a need for stables, blacksmith shops, hotels, restaurants and other suppliers of needs for travelers.

4. Many people believed the Great Pagosa Hot Springs, ballyhooed as the world’s largest and hottest, would attract thousands of pleasure seekers and people with a variety of physical problems best cured by the hot springs mineral content. It was a time when hot springs’ waters were highly regarded for their healing properties. A great spa was expected to develop with bathhouses, overnight lodging, restaurants and a medical community which would attract the rich and famous from around the world.

5. Finally, it was known that railroad companies were already surveying the San Juan Mountains looking for the best routes through which to send their passenger and freight trains to the mountain lodes with loads of merchandise and return east with mounds of valuable mineral ores.

Already, the wheels of destiny were turning and fortune seemed bigger and more real than a dream. Why not Pagosa Springs?

This story was posted on September 1, 2016.