One of the most interesting things about pioneers? Their names

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The E.T. Walker ranch was located at the corner of highways 84 and 160 for many years. Walker raised beef and grew grain crops. In later years, the land supported a dairy and, until quite recently, was home to the San Juan Lumber Company mill.

One of the most interesting characteristics of Pagosa Country’s pioneers was the names they were forced to use all of their lives. I’m not talking about “A boy named Sue.” Try Ethereal Thomas Walker or Eudolphus M. Taylor.

Now those are handles, as westerners used to describe names. You know what a handle is; it’s something you grasp to operate a tool or pick up a pot or pan. I chose these particular names because two of my favorite Pagosa pioneers carried these particular names from sunrise to sunset.

First, you need to know what time frame I am referring to when I say pioneer. My point of reference is the qualification established at the first meeting of San Juan pioneers. By 1880, the first settlers in the Four Corners area began to talk about who was first. They decided to hold a meeting and ruled that to attend the meeting, the pioneer had to enter San Juan Country before 1880. That has always been my guideline when writing about Pagosa Country history. Anyone who came after 1880 was an early settler, but not a pioneer. Having dispensed with that tidbit, lets return to Walker, who was a pioneer, and Taylor, who was an early settler, having arrived in the 1880s.

The two men couldn’t have been more different. Walker was what was referred to in those days as an “unreconstructed rebel.” He had fought for the South during the Civil War and would do it again if he had the chance. He ultimately bloomed as a populist in local politics. Taylor, on the other hand, was a New York Yankee with money and an education who was conservative to the core.

We’re going to do Walker’s story first because he arrived here first. We’ll eventually get to Taylor, who probably served more years in local public office than anyone else.

Walker was one of the more colorful characters from among Pagosa Country pioneers. He was born in Bedford Country, Va., on June 3, 1844. After serving in the Confederate Army four years, he moved to Kansas in 1867, where he lived until 1879, when he freighted over Cumbres Pass into Pagosa Springs. Among the freight was a sawmill powered by a steam boiler.

Walker had married Rosa V. Shelton in Missouri in 1867. They had two sons, George, who died in his second year, and Gladwyn, He passed on June 4, 1916, leaving behind his wife, two brothers and a sister, Mrs. Jennie Putnam.

Upon arriving in Pagosa Springs, Walker homesteaded at what was to become the intersection of highways 160 and 84. Walker set up his mill, cleared land, and raised grain and cattle. He had a two-story house built on the property which was still standing a few years ago when I moved to this country. The house has since been moved to Holiday Acres, where it is being refurbished.

Walker’s first impact on local history took place during the 1880s, shortly after the incorporation of Archuleta county in 1885. Policy calls for the governor to appoint the first county officials to make sure a semblance of government is in place until an election can be held. Colorado Gov. Benjamin Harrison Eaton appointed J.M. Archuleta Jr., Algernon S. Dutton and Judd Hallett as commissioners; F.A. Byrne as commissioner of schools; Taylor as county clerk and recorder; Isaac Cade as county treasurer; William Dyke as county sheriff; and J.H. Voorhees as county judge.

Following the first election of county officials the following year, the newly elected officials were sworn in in January of the following year. That was when the fun began and it didn’t end until the early 1900s. More next week on the battle for control of Archuleta County.