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‘Modern’ conveniences come to Pagosa Springs

On Nov. 9, 1901, the Town of Pagosa Spring passed a telephone ordinance allowing F.H. Patton to install telephone poles on city streets.

David E. Fitton was granted exclusive rights for 20 years to construct, operate, and maintain a telephone system.

By March of 1902, Pagosa Springs town folks were still getting drinking water from the San Juan River.

The Town Board warned citizens, “to get the same above Slaughter House Gulch.” In those days Slaughter House Gulch was the ravine north of town entered from First Street. Still later, McCabe Creek was known as Slaughter House Creek. In either case, dumping into creeks and rivers was a favored method of getting rid of refuse, including leftovers from the slaughter house, or butcher plants.

The method of choice for disposing of human wastes was outhouses. Nearly every house in Pagosa Springs had one of those. Naturally, everything drained into the river. Yuk.

Water for townspeople, if they could afford it, was supplied by a horse drawn water tank, delivered door to door. A few homes had wells.

In April of 1902, the town board granted Dr. Parrish, “perpetual water rights” and paid him $300 for a reservoir site. An ordinance was passed in May authorizing the issuance of coupon bonds to finance a water works.

In June, a franchise was granted to Gilbert Wilkes & Co. to furnish electrical power and operate a pumping plant. Furnishing the citizens of Pagosa Springs with water and electricity was to be a combined effort. The new water plant was located at the east end of San Juan Street, crammed between the river and Reservoir Hill. The reservoir was located directly above the plant about where the current water storage tank stands.

In case the idea hadn’t occurred to you, prior to construction of the reservoir in 1902, the hill was referred to as Roubidoux Hill, named for the fur trapper who built a trading post/fort south of Grand Junction before Grand Junction or Pagosa Springs existed.

The electric generating plant was constructed to provide power to pump water from a well dug on the south bank of the river to the reservoir. From the reservoir, water was distributed throughout the town. Construction of the distribution lines required several years. The electrical generating plant/pumping station were housed in a brick building. This water and electrical system served the town until the flood of 1911 washed away the building. Following the flood, the water works was moved to the building and location now housing the Upper San Juan Historical Society. The electricity generating plant was moved to the end of Light Plant Road where the building remains to this day. At the time, the water plant and electrical generating plant were owned by the town.