Settlers move in at record pace

Photo courtesy John M. Motter The San Juan Motel run by Ma Cade stood on the north side of San Juan Street during Pagosa’s earliest days as a town. Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The San Juan Motel run by Ma Cade stood on the north side of San Juan Street during Pagosa’s earliest days as a town.[/caption]

Pagosa Country settlers in 1879 were nervous and watchful as Anglo/Ute relationships threatened to explode into open warfare.

Despite the threat, newcomers settled in Pagosa Springs at a record pace, as attested by this June 22 letter in the La Plata Miner written by a Pagosa newcomer.

“Since I came here about a month ago there have been over forty buildings put up and ten more now going up.”

A new county would soon be formed, the letter proclaimed, with Pagosa Springs as the county seat.

By July 19, 1879, the Chama and Navajo Wagon Road was opened, with Frank Broad one of the proprietors of the road and president of the Park View and Ft. Garland Freight Road Company. The road was a continuation of the Archuleta Toll Road and, with that toll road, formed the shortest route between Alamosa and Pagosa Springs. The route crossed Cumbres Pass and reached the Navajo River from Chama by way of the West Fork of the Chama River, a route now closed.

C.W. “Will” Price came with his father, Barzillai Price, and family to Pagosa Country in 1879. The elder Price drove a load of freight from Alamosa to the Ignacio Indian Agency before returning to Pagosa Springs. Apparently, he left Will in Pagosa Springs. Will leaves us this written record of how he spent his time while his father was gone. The record is a much later 1940 recollection of those earlier years.

“In 1879, we were camped in Post Lewis, on the San Juan River above the Cade Hotel, at the east end of the street going to the bridge. There were buildings on both sides, C.D. Scase’s sign was on the north side near then west end, where Major Peabody’s (Motter: Whose brother later became governor of Colorado) store was and H.R. Bowling’s sign was shown.

“Another sign on the south side faced east, where I witnessed a tough fist fight between a drunken private and a sergeant. Other saloons were on the south side of this street (Motter: Today’s San Juan Street on the east side of the river. The town of Pagosa Springs had not been surveyed and platted in 1879.)

“My father was gone to Alamosa for a load of freight, and I passed the time at the parade ground watching the soldiers at target practice. Many were good shots, and there must be quite a lead deposit somewhere in back of Colton’s old log cabin (Motter: The Colton Cabin is preserved at the Fred Harman Art Museum.).

“I got acquainted with a doctor there, who was a great fisherman and who told me the names of the peaks north of town as follows: the one farthest west is Pagosa, the round topped one is Boulder, and the third was moody.

“Many freight teams did not come through town. They forded the river at Louck’s place. The bridge above his house had been burned.” (Motter: Loucks lived along the river just south of today’s Town Hall. A bridge built by Col Baker in 1862 as part of a toll road from Abiquiu to Baker’s Park had crossed the river where today’s bridge just south of Town Hall is.)”

More next week from Will Price’s 1879 remembrances of Pagosa Springs.