Agriculture, mills and churches in early-day Pagosa

Because of the high altitude, short growing season, and relatively cool climate, Pagosa Country is not known for its agricultural productivity.

Agriculture in Pagosa Country has almost always consisted of raising cattle and cattle feed.

During the years before cars and trucks when heavy work was performed by horses and oxen, a great deal of grain was grown locally.

In those early years, the muscle for farming, logging and transporting supplies was provided by the four-legged servants of mankind. Just as with people, animals engaged in heavy work burned more calories and had to eat more, a lot more. Consequently, acres of oats, barley, and perhaps other grain crops, were raised. Fortunately, grain crops performed well locally, so grain did not have to be imported.

Flour was another matter.

I think the first flour mill in the county was erected by the Archuletas at Edith. A flour mill in Pagosa Springs was erected within a few years of the Edith mill. The remnants of an old flour mill are still visible down on the lower Stollsteimer, if you know where to look.

We read in an August1891 edition of The Pagosa Springs News: “There are two more self binders on the Navajo this year. With a grist mill at Pagosa it would soon require hundreds of such machines to harvest the grain crops of this county.”

And in October of the same year we read: “The following persons threshed their grain the past ten days: Sherman Morehouse, 700 bushels; W.W. Nossaman, 500 bushels; E.T. Walker, 1,800 bushels; F.W. Dains, 500 bushels; and Chas. Hallett, 500 bushels.”

The following business advertisements appeared in a December edition of the newspaper: “J.V. Johnson, dealer in general merchandise; Strawn’s Hotel, west side (Motter—west side of the river) near the school house; Latham House, this popular hotel is located on Pagosa Street and is first class in every respect (Motter—the Latham’s converted some of the Fort Lewis enlisted men’s barracks into a hotel); Hallett & Palmer, feed, livery, & sale stable, west side: Pagosa Springs Bath House, M.A. Patrick, manager, baths 30 and 35 cents; San Juan Hotel, Mrs. M. M. Cade, proprietor, the oldest house in town, east side near the post office; Montroy and Nossaman, lumber mill, 3 miles southeast of Pagosa Springs (Motter—in the vicinity of Echo Lake, which was not built until after WWII); Brick and Lime, A.A. Putnam (Motter—lime was an important household item in the days of backyard privies); E.M. Taylor, real estate and loans (Motter—Doc was in a good position to perform these endeavors, since he was county clerk and town clerk); The Pagosa Springs Mail & Stage Lines, Pagosa Springs and Amargo; Bath House Barber Shop, A.J. Lewis, proprietor (Motter—the Mullen’s family wouldn’t move to Pagosa for another 10 years); H.F. Wentz, builder and contractor; Dr. W.M. Parrish, Physician and Surgeon.”

In May of 1892, the News reported: “Pagosa Springs will hereafter constitute a charge of the Methodist Episcopal Church and Rev. H. Harpst will be the resident minister. Services will be held twice every Sabbath at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. The first service will be held on the first Sunday in May.”

Churchgoers in Pagosa had been meeting since the fort was located here (1878). Early services were held in a log cabin near the Great Pagosa Hot Spring. Traveling preachers ministered to the needs of locals, often meeting in the school houses. The above announcement flags the beginnings of the ME Church in Pagosa and its first local pastor.