Activists, prohibition and automobiles in Pagosa Country

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Pictured are Buck O’Neal, left, and H.J. Bostwick with a huge trout caught circa 1904 in the San Juan River near town. Buck seems to be using a fly rod. Old timers used to enjoy telling many stories about Buck’s addiction to fishing and creativeness in finding places to fish, especially off-limit places.[/caption]

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) formed in the late 1800s as a powerful nationwide organization dedicated to, among other things, women’s suffrage, religion and the prohibition of drinking alcoholic beverages.

When the 19th Amendment was approved in 1920, women gained the right to vote on a national scale. Prohibition was enacted in 1920 and discontinued in 1933.

A WCTU chapter was active in Pagosa Country, especially during the 1910s, as evidence by the following news items.

Remember, by the 1910s, most of the income supporting the town was garnered from so-called sin taxes, such as the sale of liquor licenses and permission to conduct prostitution. If you don’t believe me, read the town income ledgers for that period of time, where you’ll find a record of the money collected.

When Charlie Schaad’s liquor license was renewed in May of 1912, he was restricted to “five small lunch tables and 15 stools in his saloon in place of a bar.” Schaad’s earliest saloon was probably located in the building on Pagosa Street that later became Town Hall.

Bostwick Bros. and J.B. Martinez were allowed one pool table, one desk chair and seven other chairs each.

By February of 1916, the town adopted Ordinance 109, “An ordinance prohibiting the manufacture, selling, bartending, exchanging, or giving away of intoxicating liquors within the Town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.”

Liquor sales were banned throughout Archuleta County. When I first started attending local historical society meetings in the early 1970s, prohibition and the locations of stills was a favorite discussion topic among the members who had lived through that period of history. From their talk, the plentiful availability of alcoholic drinks was obvious.

During this period of time, automobiles had also arrived on the local scene and the purchase of such a contrivance would surely get your name in the newspaper. On Sept. 9, 1912, Ordinance 98 was adopted regulating the use of autos in Pagosa Springs. Often, vehicle owners drove town streets during summer months and parked during winter months. Seldom was an auto driven from Pagosa Springs to a neighboring town. That activity had to await the construction of roads suitable for automotive suspension systems installed using an old 4 post hoists system and the employment and training of road maintenance departments by states, counties and cities.

Before the adoption of automobiles, many communities, including Pagosa Springs, supported horse-drawn wagon manufacturing businesses. Maintenance on wagons was accomplished by livery stables. The emergence of automobiles required training for mechanics, invention of suitable tools for automobile maintenance and, naturally, a place to buy gasoline and oil.