Angry mobs and early Archuleta County politics

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Judd Hallett was the first elected sheriff in Archuleta County. William Dyke wore the badge first, having been appointed by Gov. Eaton in 1885 when the county was created. Hallett was elected in the first election of county officials in 1886.

After Archuleta County was created in 1885, after Gov. Eaton appointed temporary officials to run the county until and election could be held, and after the election was held, in January of 1887 the newly elected officials were sworn into office.

Duly elected and sworn in following that first election were C.D. Scase, J.P Archuleta and J.B. Martinez as county commissioners. The reader needs to notice something about the newly elected county commissioners. Two of them, Archuleta and Martinez, were from well-to-do Hispanic families. The third, C.D. Scase, was married to a Hispanic lady and was complicit with the goals of Archuleta and Martinez.

The initial balloting was over and the bullets were about to fly. At the time, Pagosa Springs did not have a newspaper. We turn to the Del Norte Prospector for the following information: “The people will learn with great regret that the greatest Hot Spring resort in the United States has a large element of people who usurp the power of the law and deter public officials from the faithful performance of their duties. Such seems to be the fact, as much as it may be regretted by our people. On the third of the month Commissioners Martinez, Archuleta and Skase (Motter: Scase) met to transact the business of a regular meeting. An armed mob entered the place of meeting and compelled the commission to disband and leave the work of their regular quarterly meeting. They demanded the resignation of the commissioners and it is stated under threat to burn the house of Skase (sic), he tendered his resignation. The other commissioners refused to resign. It is feared by the good people that this will result in serious trouble. The mob deserves a little credit for coming out boldly instead of writing more anonymous letters, which some of them have certainly done before this time. If the people of Archuleta county can find no way to stop this bulldozing, they need not to expect to increase their 140 votes of last election. We understand the people opposing the commissioners have called a special meeting for the election of three commissioners, which is certainly illegal.”

Later in January the same newspaper reported: “These are red-hot times for the people and commissioners in Archuleta County. The citizens of Archuleta County desire to change their name to Logan.”

And in February the Prospector wrote: “The Pagosa troubles have caused much comment over the state. One of the Archuleta County Commissioners has been making himself Scase of late. When they get tired of county administration, they simply drive commissioners into the woods.”

Scase they were. There are no entries in the commissioners’ meetings minute book between Jan. 20, 1887, and Sept. 24, a nine-month gap.

Next week, the story continues with other view points of what was going on with more bullets, ballots and bloodshed.