Election frays in the old days

Early Pagosa Country elections made the recently completed McCain-Obama fray seem tame.

In January of 1900, a hearing was held to contest the 1899 election. The disputed boundary line between Colorado and New Mexico near Edith was at the heart of the matter.

Daniel Egger, a Pagosa Springs newsman for 10 years, contended that Edith was in New Mexico. Therefore, Egger said, the Edith vote should not count. Egger was a Democrat leaning in the direction of being a Populist.

The Republicans headed by E.M. Biggs, lumber magnate from the southern part of the county, carried every contested office. Naturally, the Republicans argued that Edith was in Colorado. Edith is where the Biggs lumber mill was located.

The judge at the hearing decided not to hear evidence concerning on side of the line Edith was located. The plaintiff withdrew his complaint. In fact, the location of the line in question was disputed for many years and not settled until the 1950s.

Concerning the election contest, E.T. Walker jumped into the fray with a letter published in Egger’s newspaper on Jan. 17. Walker’s letter follows, not an attempt to establish guilt or innocence, but rather to illustrate the depth of feeling in the county at the time and the permissiveness of the editor in allowing the letter.

“EDITOR NEWS: Now that the contest cases have been knocked out—not on their merits—but by a feeble effort to carry the political slop bucket on both shoulders at the same time, I would like to know if you Democrats are going to drop the matter.

“Being a Populist myself, I have not taken an active part in this matter, but being a citizen of Archuleta County and familiar with all of the facts I feel a deep interest in the result. The Omaha platform—the Pop Talmud—opposes the voting of sheep and so do I. This information is for the benefit of “forty dollar” (?) sheep herders of Chromo and elsewhere in the county.

“That there was fraud and lots of it, no one familiar with the facts will deny, and that it was planned, encouraged, aided and abetted by all the beneficiaries I candidly and honestly believe. This fraud is an old thing here, but never to the extent it has been carried out in the last election for the reason the encouragement and aid existing this time never existed before.

“But this can be shown up later on, what I want to know now is “what is going to be done?” Is the matter going to drop where it is? I hope not. If no one else cares to assume the leadership in the case I propose to delegate the right to myself and head the procession. In this event give me your loyal and earnest support and I will promise you.

“‘Rome will howl’ before the performance is over. I can stand a great deal ordinarily, but when you go to cramming ‘stone walls’ built of people of any old party in defense of the ‘cultured’ and pedigreed Don down my throat is more than I am going to gulp down. The facts in this case have been warped and twisted and juggled with this gang of shysters until they are simple enough to think everything with eyes has been hoodwinked. The case has been an endless stream of misrepresentations by them from the start to finish. It has been the policy to ridicule and belittle everything and everybody connected with the case on the part of the contestees.”

Continued next week.

Incidentally, “The Don” Walker refers to is José Marcelino Archuleta, son of José Manuel Archuleta Sr., for whom Archuleta County is named.