Pioneer times on the East Fork: Bob and Jack Young

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This ca. 1890 photo of Pagosa Springs shows the buildings of the old Fort Lewis on the left side. On the right side of the photo is the part of town along San Juan Street on the east side of the river.

As we continue describing the lives of Pagosa Country pioneers who lived on the East Fork of the San Juan River, we discover the name of Bob Young. Although the San Juan East Fork is a few miles north of Pagosa Springs and located in Mineral County, as we’ve written in earlier columns in this series, many of Pagosa Country’s first pioneers came by way of East Fork, which served as a link between the first settlement of Pagosa Springs in the 1870s and the mining country active in the mountains above and surrounding the East Fork.

We learn about Bob and Jack Young from their obituaries. In the Pagosa Springs News of April 1892, we read: “At the time of going to press we received the news of the death of Bob Young at the St. Joseph Sanitarium at Del Norte. Mr. Young was sent to that institution December 28, and was one of Mineral County’s charges. Mr. Young was a pioneer of the early days of Creede.

“Bob Young was well and favorably known in Archuleta County, having resided on his ranch this side of the range, in Mineral County for many years. He with his brother, Jack Young, were pioneers in the old Crater District (Elwood), at the head of the East Fork of the San Juan, also taking a prominent part in the early days of Creede.”

Elwood was a short-lived, incorporated town with a post office and other amenities. Up the river a short distance is Crater Lake, hence the name Crater District. Many years ago, I had an old Scout with the bottom shielded by an iron skid plate. To reach Elwood I drove up the East Fork Road to its crossing of the river. I turned the Scout’s nose upstream in the middle at the river crossing and reached Elwood, where I saw lots of diggings scattered around the mountain sides, a few logs maybe survivors of cabins, and a few old cans and a modicum other, former living accouterments. I don’t know how to reach Elwood today.

“A complication of various ailments, coupled with the fact that for the past few years he was almost totally blind, hastened the end. … His homestead preemption was filed in the Mineral County seat at Creede March 5, 1892, No. 1017. Witnesses to the filing were Andrew J. Flaugh, Douglas Garvin, John M. Laughlin, and William I. Howe.”

Brother Jack Young did not pass away until 1929, as recorded in the Pagosa Springs SUN of that date.

“Jack Young, one of the few real pioneers of this section, passed away Sunday morning at the Hatcher hospital in Pagosa Springs following a brief illness induced by a stroke of paralysis. He was taken seriously ill last week at the home of G.E. Kingsley, where he had been living for the past few months, and was brought to town to the Hatcher hospital.

“Deceased was born in Scotland on May 9, 1853, and had attained the age of 76 years last month. When only three years of age he moved to Canada with his parents, and at the age of 22 he came to the United States. When about 30 years of age, he came to the San Juan Country, engaging in mining at Summitville, Platoro, and Elwood until a few years ago when he came to Pagosa Springs to live. Until late last fall, he had made his home with Ed Rust near town but moved to the Kingsley home when Mr. Rust went to California for the winter months. … Mr. Young never married and leaves no survivors in this section. A brother, Robert, died several years ago at Del Norte, and he is survived by one brother, Thomas, in Ontario, and also one sister in Canada. “