The people behind the names: the Archuletas

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
A leading citizen in Pagosa Country’s formative years was Eudolphus M. “Doc” Taylor, who served the county, town and courts as a clerk, loaned money, raised sheep and put a bullet hole in a gent he figured was inappropriately messing with his daughter, Hattie, a winsome lass.[/caption]

We continue writing about the source of Archuleta County’s name and the family for whom it is named.

To summarize, in 1883, Antonio Donaciano (Don) Archuleta, after having served two terms in the Colorado House of Representatives representing Conejos and Costilla counties, was elected to serve in the state Senate representing Conejos County. In 1884, Don introduced a bill to form Archuleta County from Conejos County. The bill passed and the new county was created in 1885.

After a short debate, the county was named for Don’s brother, Jose Marcelino (J.M.), who had established residence in what was to become Archuleta County in 1877 at a location on the Navajo River that has become known today as Edith. J.M. was likely the first settler at Edith.

Following the creation of the new county and after the first election, a war of “ballots and bullets” for political control of Archuleta County erupted, a conflict that lasted for many years.

Pending election of county officers, Colorado Gov. Benjamin Harrison Eaton appointed county officers to serve temporarily. The election was scheduled for the fall of 1886. They would begin performing the duties for which they were elected after being sworn in in January of 1887. At least that was the way, according to state law, such things were supposed to happen.

In 1885, following creation of the county, Eaton appointed J.M. Archuleta Jr., Algernon S. Dutton and Jud Hallet as commissioners; F.A. Byrne as superintendent of schools; E.M. Taylor as county clerk and recorder; J.P. Archuleta as county assessor; Isaac Cade as county treasurer; William Dyke as county sheriff; and J.H. Voorhees as county judge.

I don’t know who made the recommendations for these appointees, but they seem to be a fair representation of various community interests such as ranchers, business folks, Byrne was an educator, and Taylor was well-educated and well-off. The two Archuletas represented the Hispanic population concentrated along the New Mexico border at the south edge of the county. They were well-to-do with businesses, cattle, sheep and horses.

And, so, the business of organizing a county began. Sarah Bowling purchased a liquor license costing $160 and lasting for three months. A system of roads was adopted and arrangements made for their maintenance. It takes money to make things happen and it takes time to create, levy and collect taxes. In those days, heavy levees were placed on saloons, a good place to start gathering money, my guess.

I don’t know where the first county officers did business. In July of 1886, they rented a meeting place from a man named Devereux and, on July 20, 1886, they paid C.D. Scase $310 for a building moved to Lot 31, Block 6, on San Juan Street below Reservoir Hill.

The story of creating a county gets more exciting next week when we start referring to “ballots and bullets.” Remember the name C.D. Scase and the building on San Juan Street. Even Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo slipped into town incognito before things settled down.