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With this gang, ‘the customer is always right’

Photo courtesy John M. Motter Pagosa pioneer E. M. Taylor was proud of his trotting horses. Taylor served as town clerk, county clerk and in many other public positions while finishing out his life here.

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Pagosa pioneer E. M. Taylor was proud of his trotting horses. Taylor served as town clerk, county clerk and in many other public positions while finishing out his life here.

Last week, we described some of the activities of the Allison gang, one of the more creative gangs operating in Pagosa Country at a time, let’s say circa 1880, when law enforcement tended to be “the big iron on your hip.”

This week, we’ll describe additional business ventures of this notorious gang of desperados but, first, we need a little geography lesson.

Located in the Pagosa Springs of 1881 was a dirt road leaving to the west called the Pagosa Springs to Durango Stage Coach Road. As it left town, its route approximated that of today’s Piedra Street as it leaves Eighth Street and climbs the hill passing Tenth Street, then the Putnam house, and westerly through a narrow canyon before bursting into the openness that today is densely populated with subdivisions south of U. S. 160.

A westward traveler in 1881 would have noticed the town cemetery at the corner of Tenth Street, the narrowness of the little canyon, and then the dense stands of Ponderosa pines filling the space today occupied by subdivision houses.

The geography lesson ended, we now return to the Allison gang, which next appears in that little canyon we just described. Incidentally, that road was still in public use when I moved to Pagosa about 40 years ago. Modesto Montoya, the town water superintendent, used to store dynamite there.

In May of 1881, an article appeared in a Silverton newspaper with the headline, “Another Stage Robbery.”

The article described how the Allison gang, had stopped the east-bound stage four miles west of Pagosa Springs in a “rocky canyon.”

The 10 passengers squeezed into the coach left their “Oh! It’s the Allison Gang!” meeting considerably less well funded than they had been a few minutes earlier. Into their saddle bags, the gang stuffed $500 in cash, a number of gold watches, other jewelry, and a draft valued at $3,300.

In an action dripping with in-your-face audacity, a few minutes later the gang trotted past the stage depot on San Juan Street in town, and a couple of doors down the street introduced themselves to James Voorhees, who was minding his own business in his mercantile store.

“Among those present were Harry Sanderson and John Forbay, the Division Superintendent of the Barlow & Sanderson stage line. Although they had money and valuables on their persons they were not molested.”

Voorhees, on the other hand, found himself staring down the business end of a revolver. Proving that he adhered to the business maxim that, “the customer is always right,” he prudently opened his safe, revealing a wad of dinero amounting to about $450. We are not told if the gang tendered proper thanks to their host as they departed.

We can assume the gang was well pleased with their venture, because we read in the May 31 edition of the same newspaper that a week later they held up the same stage in the same rocky canyon.

In addition we read, “The stage robbers intended upon filling in full, the measure of their crimes. Since their escapades at or near Pagosa, they have stolen three valuable horses, two of them belonging to A.C. Hunt Jr. and one to Governor Hunt, the latter being his elegant trotter, Moro, for which he paid over $1,000. The robbery occurred at Monero near Amargo, on the night of the 28th while in camp.”

The leaders of the Allison gang were arrested in Albuquerque two months later and sentenced to serve jail confinement.

This story was posted on September 26, 2013.