Pioneer times on the East Fork: the Warr family

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The O’Neal family pictured here was represented by some of the first pioneers in the San Juan Basin. The O’Neals were among several families who started with a herd of longhorn cattle from Erath County located in the central part of Texas and a couple of years later in 1876 arrived in the Four Corners, where they first settled near what was to become Aztec and soon homesteaded near Pagosa Springs. O’Neal Park on the upper Piedra is named for this family. O’Neal family descendants still live in the Pagosa Springs area.[/caption]

The East Fork pioneer family we’ll look at this week is the Warr family.

This family is of special interest to me because a descendant of this family I knew as Bill Warr gave me a first-hand tour of the East Fork and was knowledgeable about other aspects of Pagosa Country history. Additionally, Bill was married to a Golda Laughlin, daughter of John Laughlin, another pioneer of the East Fork mining country who later settled in Pagosa Springs. According to Bill, the Warr family were descendants of Welsh miners.

Wade Armstrong Warr was born Sept. 25,1883, at Del Norte, Colo., to William Warr. He grew to early manhood there until 1898 when, as a young man, he moved to the boomtown of Creede, where he worked in the mines. He came to Archuleta County in 1900 and for the next few years lived on and operated the Warr Homestead. This homestead more recently has been known as the Wally Thomas Ranch and was known as the Turkey Creek Ranch. In 1908, Wade went to work for the newly organized U.S. Forest Service and helped build many of the trails of the East Fork of the San Juan and the Weminuche area.

In 1910, he married Ella Robarn at Del Norte. They lived in Pagosa Springs until about 1915, when they moved to Del Norte. From then until 1931, Wade worked in the mines of Creede, Summitville and other mining camps. He also did some prospecting. The Warr family returned to Pagosa Springs in 1931 and engaged in ranching and some mining ventures.

The writer of his obituary said, “He was very familiar with this country and had a deep knowledge of the early days of the San Juan.”

The obituary continued, “He is survived by his wife, Ella; two sons, Donald and August (Bill); three daughters, Frances Jones, Joyce Steele and Jennie Harris.” (The Pagosa Springs Sun, Dec. 11, 1958.)

In concluding the history of the East Fork, I should point out that at the time of the environmental impact study of 1985, there were several cabins located on each side of the road at the point of the road’s intersection with Quartz Creek. It is presumed that this was the incorporated town of Bowenton, which had a post office once upon a time. This town was presumably started by John Laughlin. Bowenton was named for Thomas Bowen. Bowen was an important public official who was well-known throughout Colorado and who invested heavily in the early mining properties in the southern San Juans.

Some carvings made by sheep herders, commonly known as aspen art, were found on aspen trees in the East Fork area, none dating earlier than 1930. The identifiable names were Emilio Chacon, Raphael Valdez, A.E. Trujillo, James Lujan, Fred Aguilar, Trujillo Agostos, Tony Trujillo, Claudio Cordova and Jose Tobias.

Based on the study of 1985, no historic artifacts or edifices were discovered which would justify opposing construction of the proposed ski area. The owner and originator of the proposal abandoned the project for other reasons.