Shady elections in oldtime Pagosa Country

As had been true since the founding of Archuleta County, elections in 1892 were colored various shades from black to white, depending on the observer’s viewpoint.

The Pagosa News Editor Daniel Egger wrote: “The News hereby calls attention to the fact that there is at present a movement on foot to repeat the election fraud of 1889 in this county. It will be remembered that in that year about eighty Mexican votes were recorded in this county and it has always been a mystery where they have their habitation. The election was contested and right won, except in one instance.”

Four county tickets were presented to voters in November of 1892: Democratic Ticket, Free Silver Democratic Ticket, People’s Party Ticket, and the Republican Ticket. Egger was elated by the election results, since none of the winners were personal enemies of his. Democratic-People’s Party candidates swept all of the county positions except two. A Republican, J.D. Murray, was elected county judge and Republican J.S. Brown (Siegal) was elected county commissioner. Egger approved of these Republicans.

Finally, in December of 1892, came an announcement that promised economic prosperity for the county. A News item declared: “It is almost definitely settled that the Biggs mill will be located on the Navajo in this county next summer. The moving of the mills there will also necessitate the building of a branch line of the railroad to the river. Should these moves take place a good market will be created for all products raised in the Navajo valley, and everybody can find employment. Many of the settlers also have valuable timber to sell but the majority of the timber will be cut on the grant.”

Egger continued: “Many citizens of this county are thinking of securing a quarter-section (160-square-acres) of the fine timber land in this county. The cost is $2.50 per acre, and we believe there are acres of it on which the timber is worth $20 or more on the stump.”

When Egger said most of the timber would be cut on the “grant,” I am guessing he means the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant, controlled by New Mexico lawyer — some say crook — aThomas Catron. In Archuleta County, the TA Grant covered much of the upper Navajo River area above Chromo.

Biggs had been logging in the northern part of Tierra Amarilla County for some years. Biggs mills were located at different times at Los Brazos, on Willow Creek near Chama, Monero, Lumberton, and the biggest at El Vado, now the site of a reservoir. In Spanish, El Vado means the crossing, the location where the Old Spanish Trail which ran from Abiquiu to California crossed the Chama River.

In a December 1892 article, the News described the first Archueta County library. Egger wrote: “At the Sunday School session next Sunday (Motter — held at the public school I presume, since no churches had yet been erected in Pagosa Springs in 1892) the new library books will be given out as far as needed. These books are 48 in number and are the gift of a wealthy Methodist man who died in New York City. This is the first library in the county. If the officers of the Sunday schools on the Navajo and the Blanco would like, Rev. Harpst will aid them in securing a like gift, according to the number of scholars. This should be done in time for the early opening of the schools in the spring.”