Pagosa Country politics — always controversial

From the beginning, Pagosa Country elections were filled with vituperation and charges of fraud.

The 1899 election turned into another hot affair with newspaper editor Egger, a Democrat and Populist, lining up against Biggs, the Edith sawmill magnate, and Archuleta, from the family for which the county was named.

Egger was enraged because Biggs opposed a new county courthouse and the building of the railroad from Pagosa Junction to Pagosa Springs. The Republicans swept every county position and Egger admitted, “We have met the enemy and we are theirs.”

He went on to say: “Such wholesale fraud as was perpetrated on the people of the county as was practiced at Edith and on the San Juan river should not be permitted to go unpunished. It is necessary that a stop be put to that kind of work or honest people will almost be compelled to leave the county in disgust … Money flowed among the purchasable ones like water and the combination (Biggs, Sullenburger, and Archuleta) had everything its own way.”

Egger perceived a combination of the Biggs and Sullenburger lumber mill and railroad companies and the Edith Archuletas. Their alleged motive was to control the county government in order to give the lumber companies and railroads tax breaks. It was a continuation of the political battles between Anglos at Pagosa Springs and Hispanics in the southern part of the county that colored local politics from the time Archuleta County formed.

Even through most of the 1900-1910 decade the political situation was unsettled. Several county officers were charged with a number of crimes centering on misappropriation of county funds. We learned of no convictions. E. T. Walker, formerly an enemy of Eggers, emerged as a Populist and a major Egger ally. He joined in the fight against the “Sawmill Octopus’ as he perceived the combination.

Schultz and Buckles, prominent citizens of the local business community, bought lots on Lewis Street and proposed to build an adobe store building (50’ X 50’) and two stories high. Thus was begun a building still standing today called The Adobe, which stands past the intersection of Lewis and 5th streets.. The building was first known as Buckles and Schultz Hall, then the Arlington Hotel, and later as Los Baños.

A Christmas dance was held at the Phillips Hall, with music furnished by the Columbine Band. Phillips Hall was the original name of what we now refer to as the Hersch Building, in the 400 block of Pagosa Street.

“The people were very quiet and orderly,” Eggers said, “for such a large gathering and everybody seemed to be well pleased with the affair.”