The battle continues for control of county government


We’ve been writing about early politics in Archuleta County, when Hispanics and Anglos battled each other for control of county government.

As late as the early 1890s, Daniel Egger, editor of the Pagosa Springs News, intimated in his newspaper that Hispanics living along the Colorado border with New Mexico were stuffing the ballot box with votes from friends and family — and maybe sheep — living south of the border in New Mexico.

John Taylor, an Archuleta County school teacher at that time, wrote of those days many years later in his memoirs.

He wrote: “In the southern part of the county was a voting precinct known as the Archuleta Precinct, (Motter — now known as Edith) here over a hundred Mexicans from New Mexico were voted to hold their gang in power.  All this enraged the settlers who were engaged in the cattle business. Chas. Loucks; E.T. Walker; Judd Hallett; Wm. Dyke; John Dowell; Jake Dowell; Robert Chambers; Charles Chambers; Maurice, Willet, and Siegel Brown; Frank Cooley, James and Dock Gilland (Motter — Gilliland); John and James O’Neal, Mr. Whitaker, Judge Price and his two sons and some 50 others including the writer organized the People’s Party of which I was elected chairman and we began the bitter four year’s fight to gain possession of the government of the county. The State Administration and the Courts were against us.

“Three precincts in the county. We carried Pagosa and Edith precincts by large majorities to gain which I and the above named men worked night and day, but 300 illegal voters polled under the supervision of the Archuleta brothers and Martinez defeated us. They worked to have me removed from the school. Every one of their wives and children were with me. This gang even paid a Mexican to kill me, he met me on the bridge one night, knife in hand. I carried a walking stick with me and struck him on the head. He fell and rolled into the river, he swam and came out at the old bath house. I walked into the old court house, those commissioners were in session and I invited the man who planned the deed to come out and settle the matter in any manner he wished but he did not function although he afterward killed two men and a woman. (Motter — The woman was likely the grandmother of Ben “Nighthorse” Campbell. She was shot in Pagosa Springs. The man was Jose Benedito Martinez. Charley Johnson, Durango’s criminal lawyer, cleared him, though each was a cold-blooded murder.)

“The next May we had a school election and won out over the Mexican gang 15 to 1, and I taught the following year and had much pleasure in the work and was offered good pay to teach at Durango, Lake Silverton, and Telluride, but preferred to stay where I was and fight the greasers.”

More next week from the memoirs of John Taylor concerning the political fighting in early Pagosa Country.