Industry in old Pagosa, and the origin of Put Hill

We have been writing about events happening in Pagosa Springs during 1891, the year the town incorporated and began to look like a real town.

In March of 1891, E.T. Walker sold his sawmill to Charles and Victor Harpst. Walker wasn’t the first to own or operate a sawmill in Pagosa Springs, but he was the first sawmill operator who settled down and became a resident of the area.

Ethereal Thomas Walker was one of the more colorful characters among Pagosa Country pioneers. He was born in Bedford County, Virginia, June 3, 1844. After serving in the Confederate Army four years, in 1867 he moved to Kansas where he lived until 1879 when he freighted over Cumbres Pass into Pagosa Springs. Among his freight was a sawmill powered by a steam boiler.

Walker had married Rosa V. Shelton in Missouri in 1867. They had two sons, George, who died in his second year, and Gladwyn, of Pagosa Springs. (From Walker’s obituary written June 9, 1916.) He passed on June 4, 1916, leaving behind his wife, two brothers, and a sister, Mrs. Jennie Putnam.

Motter’s note: The Putnams, Jennie’s husband was A.A. Putnam, were the source for the well-known place name, Put Hill. That is why there are not two t’s in Put Hill, even though some people remain hard to convince.

In June of 1891, Pagosa Springs News Editor Daniel Egger reported: “Nearly all of the timber on the line of the D. & R.G. Railroad west of Chama has been removed. Archuleta county today has the finest belt of timber in the whole state, and some railroad company will want the opportunity to haul it out in the near future.”

Motter’s note: Egger’s prediction about the future logging and lumber industry of Archuleta County was right on.

In July of 1891, Egger visited the ranch of A.A. Putnam where, “Mr. Putnam is now busily engaged in the manufacture of brick. He has completed the burning of a kiln of lime … expects to make 200,000 bricks this season.”

Motter’s note: You remember Putnam, E.T. Walker’s brother-in-law. The Putnam house still stands on what used to be called “The Old Pagosa-Durango Stagecoach Road.” I think the street is known as Piedra Street today. It runs parallel to U.S. 160, on Put Hill, but south of the elementary school property. The current Put Hill highway was built during the 1930s. The former Putnam House is located on the south side of the former road just past the playgrounds and soccer fields behind the elementary school. When I attended San Juan Historical Society meetings during the late 1970s, some members told me you could still see pits on the property dug during the brick manufacturing days.

Incidentally, as vital as the Old Stage Road to Durango was to Pagosa History, an insensitive board of Archuleta County Commissioners allowed a developer to close the road.

We’ll talk more about this old road during coming columns.

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Members of the Gen. Ed Hatch Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (The Union) were important as Pagosa Country founding fathers. I am guessing this photo was shot in the town park sometime close to 1910 because John Sparks, second from the right, is in the picture. Advertisements for Sparks Hardware appeared in local newspapers circa 1910. From left to right the men pictured are Sanford Cotton, Abner Thompson, John Wingate, Elliot Halstead, E.K. Caldwell, John Dowell (so I have one picture of Pagosa Springs’s first mayor), Jim Weber, Henry Fowler, N.L. Hayden, Tom McMullen, E.M. Taylor, J.W. Bates, Mckenzie DeMotte, John Sparks, and W.L. Hyler. You’re looking at a lot of beards.