A snapshot of Pagosa, 1901

In 1901, the distribution pattern of business and rental buildings in Pagosa Springs was not a lot different than today.

Block 21 of Pagosa Street was growing quickly and becoming the business center of town. There were probably more businesses along San Juan Street than today, along both sides of the river. Lewis Street was also busier than it is today.

I’m not sure if the county courthouse was still on the south side of San Juan Street on the east side of the river or had moved across to Block 21 on Pagosa Street.

The schoolhouse in town, School District No. 1, was still perched next to the Catholic Church on the corner of Third and Lewis Streets.

Telephone lines reached the outside world through Edith and Pagosa Junction. No telephone distribution system existed in town.

No central water or sewage collection and disposal system existed. Every home had a privy or a septic vault, or both.

Water could be purchased from a vendor with a horse-drawn, cart-mounted barrel; a barrel filled directly from the San Juan River. In those days, McCabe Creek was known as Slaughterhouse Creek and for good reason. A slaughterhouse, or butchering establishment upstream above town dumped all of their offal, untreated, into the creek. Let’s hope those water barrels were filled above where the creek dumped into the San Juan.

Cows and some horses were kept by some people in town, often with a small barn or stable near the house. During summer months a herder gathered up the “summer herd of cows,” drove them into the country for grazing, then returned them to their owners at night in time for milking.

Horses and horse-drawn vehicles were the only means of local travel unless one wanted to walk. That was probably just as well, since there were no paved roads. I suspect horses were better able to do with mud holes in the road than are cars. During the winter, when snow hid the ground for months at a time and the ground froze to a depth of three or four feet, runners were substituted for wheels. The Christmas carol with the line, “The horse knows the way to pulls the sleigh” was much more appropriated then than now. The snow was not plowed from roads; it was easier to pack it and drive across the top. Travel to the outside world was accomplished almost exclusively by train.

Almost everyone was familiar with horses in those days, since they were the principal means of travel. Most men could look at a horse’s teeth and guess its age. Most men knew how to harness, feed, and how hard they could work a horse before it needed a rest. The same was probably true of most women.

Visitors in town could rent a horse and buggy from the local livery stable. After the arrival of the railroad in town, a horse-drawn buggy served as a taxi taking travelers from the railroad depot to the hotel or home of their choice. Pagosa had a number of hotels in those days.

Those truly were the horse and buggy days. Among the horse-drawn vehicles available to the public were the “Durango Steel wagon” manufactured by Jackson Hardware and manufacturing Company of Durango. More close to home, the Carthers manufactured wagons. Any number of companies built and distributed a variety of wagons on a nationwide basis.


Graphic courtesy John M. Motter
Before cars became common, wagon and carriage makers conducted nationwide businesses, much as the auto makers were to do later. Harnesses were a natural accompaniment for carriages. The advertisement by the Elkhart Carriage and Harness Mfg. Co., a national distributor, appeared in the Dec. 7, 1894, Pagosa Springs News.