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Amargo: ‘Assassins’ and ‘incendiarists’
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

During the early part of 1893, the Archuleta County commissioners ordered “the old barracks in this town destroyed. It would be more convenient for those occupying these buildings if it were summer rather than winter. Nevertheless these breeders of disease cannot be destroyed to soon.”

The county health officer, a Dr. Parrish, helped with this order by declaring the old fort buildings a source of disease and filth. Until the buildings were finally destroyed, newcomers to the community temporarily lived in them while looking for a permanent place to stay. We’re talking about the 10 log enlisted men’s barracks and four log officers quarters taking up much space on the downtown block. The Army had abandoned Old Fort Lewis in Pagosa Springs in 1882 and ordered the buildings destroyed. I don’t know when they were finally torn down, but, since the buildings were located in the incorporated town of Pagosa Springs, I don’t know where the county got the authority to order their destruction.

“Dr. Newton Hover, formerly of Pagosa Springs where he operated a ranch and a drug store but now of Lima, Ohio, in January of 1893 donated a lot to the Methodist Episcopal Church. A drive to raise funds for constructing a building was already underway. It would be several years, however, before the church was actually erected.

Work on a county courthouse was rapidly being completed, according to contractor Mr. Sanders. At that time, the courthouse remained on the south side of San Juan Street east of the river, where remains of the building stand to this day.

In July of 1893, Ed A. Vorhang’s hotel in Amargo burned. We don’t hear about Amargo these days, but in 1893 Amargo was the principal city in New Mexico at the other end of the stage line which connected Pagosa Springs with the railroad which ran westerly to Durango and easterly to Chama, Alamosa, and on to Pueblo and Denver. At that time there was no Lumberton, Monero didn’t amount to much, and Dulce was a place to drop off supplies for the Jicarilla Apaches, who moved permanently onto their reservation in 1887 but mostly didn’t live in Dulce.

Vorhang had recently been awarded title to the land on which most of Amargo’s business houses and residences rested. Business man that he was, Vorhang immediately began attempts to collect rent from those’“living on his newly acquired property.”

A September News article headlined “Dastardly Deeds” read: “Amargo has assassins as well as incendiarists within her confines. On Tuesday night before retiring Ed Vorhang went out of the house, and while standing near the door someone shot at him, the ball passing through the fleshy part of his arm and lodging in the wall of the house. The shot came from the fence of the corral just west of the Archuleta store. Mr. Vorhang’s wound is painful but not dangerous. Life in Amargo must be a burden. The trouble there seems to have just begun.

‘The stage driver reported yesterday evening that the night before some giant powder was exploded under Mr. Vorhang’s house, in the corner which was previously occupied by a bed. The location of the bed had been thoughtfully changed, or the dastardly attempt might have succeeded, as a large hole was torn in the building. Mr. Vorhang has wisely left town.”

More next week on the end of Amargo and the beginning of Lumberton.