Dutch Henry Born: Wild West legend

2018/11/oldtimer-111518Born2-177x300.jpg Photo courtesy John M. Motter
“Dutch” Henry Born posed for this photo with a six-shooter in his belt and a buffalo gun in hand. He later homesteaded in the mountains north of Pagosa Springs, where he raised trout fry for sale to support his family. His family said he got rid of his guns after declaring, “I won’t need these anymore.”[/caption]

Hidden deep in the mountains near the upstream birth of the West Fork of the San Juan River lives a Pagosa Country legend, Born’s Lake, and its first developer, “Dutch” Henry Born. Born’s legendary life contained an unbelievable number of twists and turns, so unbelievable it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.

Was there really a “Dutch” Henry Born? Yes, there really was. A large number of newspapers published across the Cowboy West contained stories of his exploits, including The Pagosa Springs SUN and other early Pagosa Springs newspapers.

He’s featured in “Great Gun Fighters of the Kansas Cowtowns,1867-1886,” along with Buffalo Bill Cody, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson and a host of Western gunslingers whose names you’ll recognize. At least one facet of Dutch Henry’s life differs from other Wild West gunfighters.

Throughout his bullet-dodging career catapulting from one fracas to the next, Born never forgot “the girl he left behind.” Finally, he hung up his guns, married his sweetheart, and the two of them raised a family at Born’s Lake in the San Juan Mountains above Pagosa Springs.

And so, let the journey begin. We’ll explore the West through the eyes of Born.

Dutch Henry was born to John and Margaret Born, German natives of Manitowoc, Wisc., on July 2, 1849. The family moved to Montague, Mich., in the 1860s, where he had three brothers and two sisters.

The young man worked in Michigan as a lumber jack before leaving home at a young age. He soon became known as “Dutch Henry” in recognition of the German accent he inherited from his parents.

Independent and fully trusting in his God-given abilities to survive, Dutch next steps onto the stage of frontier history in Kansas, then home to immense herds of buffalo and an arrogant young cavalry officer who’d earned his stars serving in the Civil War.

The brash young officer’s legacy was soon etched in the blood spilled in his last battle while parading in front of the Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana. Faced with an estimated 3,500 native American warriors, five of the Seventh Calvary’s 12 companies were annihilated along with Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, two of his brothers, a nephew and a brother-in-law.

While in Kansas before the Little Bighorn debacle, Dutch Henry served as a scout for Custer and the Seventh Cavalry. He was with Custer at the Washita Massacre when the Seventh Cavalry killed Chief Black Kettle, 11 warriors, 16 women, nine children and old men, most of them while they were fleeing. Dutch Henry decided he did not like the life and especially Custer, and so he moved on. Where?

Tune in next week for Dutch Henry, buffalo hunter.