Years of growth and progress

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
New Mexico Lumber Company worker Barnie Pettyjohn displays a little humor by perching this porcupine on a ponderosa log as the “oldest logger.”

The early 1900s were years of growth and progress for Pagosa Country. The Rio Grande and Pagosa Springs Railroad had laid track across Coyote Park to the vicinity of Boone by 1902 and later that year extended the track north to the Blanco River.

This was the railroad owned by the Biggs Company, which had a big, modern sawmill at Edith.

Only the oldest old-timer today remembers Boone. Boone was located on the east side of today’s U.S. 84 at the approximate point where southbound U.S. 84 leaves the open flatlands and climbs the hill where the road to Buckles/Harris Lakes turns east. U.S. 84 continues south down Confar Hill on to Chromo.

The community of Booneville played a significant role in early county history. It was settled by Albert Gallatin Boone, who took the ranch in Archuleta County in 1886. A.G. Boone was born in Westport, Mo., on Nov. 25, 1845, and died in Pagosa Springs on June 22, 1916. He was a direct descendant of Daniel Boone and had moved to Colorado in 1860 and settled a community called Boone before moving to Archuleta County.

For many years, the only telephone in that part of the county was at Boone’s place. It was also home to an early county school. Boone served as a county commissioner for several terms and left six children when he passed on.

His brother, Charles R. Boone, also moved to the ranch in this county, where he died in 1943.

Returning to the Biggs railroad, it was extended from the Blanco River to the community of Flaugh in 1904. Flaugh was located just east of today’s Echo Lake and once had a post office. It was named for the Flaugh family, which was prominent in the county back in those times. Fred Harman II’s Red Ryder character was said to have been modeled after one of the Flaugh boys.

If you look east while passing the entrance to Echo Lake Park, you’ll see the remnants of a concrete bridge crossing Echo Creek. That bridge was part of Biggs’ railroad. If you look carefully to the east as you drive along U.S. 84 through Coyote Park, Halfway Canyon, and on to Flaugh, you will detect the remnants of Biggs’ narrow gauge railroad bed. This was a logging railroad and only incidentally used to haul freight and passengers. Much of the old railroad became U.S. 84 when that route was reworked in the 1930s.

The Biggs’ mill at Edith burned in 1905 and the town burned with it. It was rebuilt and back in operation by 1906, but the flood of 1911 damaged the mill and washed away track along the Blanco and Navajo Rivers. Another fire at Edith in 1913 destroyed the machine shop, engine house and four locomotives. The blow was nearly fatal to the company, and after 1914 any logging by the New Mexico Lumber Company in Archuleta County was minimal. The mill at Edith was removed that year and by 1916 most of the tracks had been removed. McPhee & McGinnity formally dissolved the Rio Grande & Pagosa Springs Railroad Company in October of 1917.

This story was posted on January 26, 2017.