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With prosperity, Pagosa’s first bank, geothermal well

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Pagosa Springs’ first bank, The First Bank of Pagosa Springs, was located in this building, which was located on San Juan Street where the county courthouse now stands. The bank opened under the leadership of F.A. Collins in 1901. Collins lived with his family in the building, which formerly housed the Leavenworth Drug Company.

Fueled by a booming lumber industry, Pagosa Country’s economy grew by leaps and bounds during 1901.

A man by the name of F. A. Collins started Pagosa Springs’ first bank, appropriately named “The First Bank of Pagosa Springs,” in February of 1901.

An article in the “Weekly Times” announced: “F.A. Collins of Pueblo arrived Saturday evening. Mr. Collins will fit up and run the first bank of Pagosa Springs, with the aid of Mr. Freeman of Durango. No doubt he will build up a good banking business. Mr. Collins brought his family and will live under the same roof that the bank will be run.”

Collins set up the bank in a building formerly occupied by the Leavenworth Drug Company on San Juan Street, on ground about where the county clerk’s office in the county courthouse is located today.

Pagosa’s first bank was a branch of the Colorado State Bank of Durango. Collins was cashier and manager, B.N. Freeman President.

Collins was active in community affairs and established Pagosa Springs’ first geothermal well, an accomplishment that outlasted his bank.

On July 1, 1901, the town granted Collins a franchise to drill a hot water well and construct bath houses and a hotel. Collins’ well was drilled near the west bank of the San Juan River behind Town Hall. That location is apparently the same bubbly location still evident in the parking lot between Pagosa Street and the river.

The successful well was the first geothermal well we have a record of in Pagosa Springs.

To what extent Collins developed a spa we have been unable to learn. Collins was granted the exclusive right for 25 years to dig or bore for the development of artesian water, hot mineral water, had to supply free drinking for the public (he supplied a drinking fountain of geothermal water from his well), would pay the town $100 per annum after three years, could build stone or brick buildings in the northern part.

On Dec. 6, 1901, Collins discovered hot mineral water, “at a depth of 162 feet … pressure 55 psi … sufficient to be transported by pipes throughout the Town of Pagosa Springs.”

Before Collins’ bank opened, Pagosa Country residents with a need to borrow money had to go out of town or deal with one of several local residents who made personal loans. Among those residents were John E. Colton, E.M. Taylor and Sarah Bowling.

Taylor was county clerk and town clerk and operated his business from the county clerk’s office, a practice which apparently offended no one.

This story was posted on January 3, 2013.