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Pagosa’s first geothermal well

1901 was a year of considerable progress in Pagosa Spring. Fueling that progress was a prosperity generated by a booming logging, lumber manufacturing industry.

Pagosa Springs gained its first bank in 1901, and the town board took steps during that year to provide utilities for the community.

In February of 1901, an item in one of Pagosa Springs’s early newspapers called “The Weekly Times,” reported: “F.A. Collins of Pueblo arrived Saturday evening. Mr. Collins will fit up and run the first bank of Pagosa Springs, with the aid of Mr. Freeman of Durango. No doubt he will build up a good banking business. Mr. Collins brought his family and will live under the same roof that the bank will be run.”

Collins set up his banking business in the building formerly occupied by the Leavenworth Drug Company on ground where the county clerk’s office is today. Pagosa’s first bank was called, appropriately enough, The First Bank of Pagosa Springs. It was a branch of the Colorado State Bank of Durango. F.A. Collins was cashier and manager and B.N. Freeman was president.

Prior to the opening of The First Bank of Pagosa Springs, persons desiring banking services either had to travel to banks outside of the community or borrow from private lenders. John E. Colton and E. M. Taylor were two of the more prominent of the local lenders. Colton worked from the little log cabin on Pagosa Street that later served the community as a library and currently is located at the Fred Harman museum property. Taylor, conveniently, worked from the county courthouse where he served as county clerk, or from town hall where he served as the municipal clerk.

A committee appointed by the Pagosa Springs Town Board reported in March of 1901 on the cost of a proposed municipal water system, “$18,000 will put in a water works with a capacity sufficient for 4,000 people.” In an election held by the town on April 2, twenty-six persons voted for, three persons voted against, bonds to finance a water system.

On July 1, 1901, a franchise was granted to F.A. Collins to drill a hot water well and construct bath houses and a hotel. Collin’s well was drilled near the west bank of the San Juan River behind town hall. The successful well was the first geothermal well in Pagosa Springs of which we have a record. To what extent Collins developed a spa we have been unable to learn. Collins was granted an exclusive right for 25 years to dig or bore for the development of artesian water, hot mineral water…must provide free drinking water for the public (he provided a drinking fountain of geothermal water from his well)…would pay the town $100 pr annum for three years…could build stone or brick buildings in the northern part. On December 6, 1901, Collins discovered hot mineral water … at a depth of 162 feet … pressure 55 pounds per square inch … sufficient to be transported by pipes throughout the Town of Pagosa Springs.”

As nearly as I can determine, Collins’s moved on long before his dreams became reality.