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The Phillips: a Pagosa pioneer family

Continuing with a 2001 letter from Sara Masco describing the Phillips family, the San Juan pioneers who erected the Hersch building still standing in Pagosa Springs.

“James Phillips along with a Mr. Dixon, I think, contracted to build a toll road between Wagon Wheel Gap and Lake City, Colorado, one summer. He took his three oldest daughters along to help with the cooking or the crew. Addie, being the youngest, stayed home in Del Norte with her mother. This was quite an adventure for the oldest sisters and one of them wrote a letter home describing their experiences.

“In the late 1870s James began having sick spells with an undiagnosed illness and each spell was getting worse. He wanted to show his oldest daughter where his mine was so they started out but, about 8 or 10 miles on their way, he became so ill they were forced to return to Del Norte. One story says that Welch Nossaman was coming along the trail probably with a freight wagon and picked up James and Terressa and brought them back to town. He drew a map with directions how to find the claim. The girls being unfamiliar with the high country had no idea how to find it. Jud Hallett, who was interested in mining, also offered to search but failed to find where it was and returned the map to the sisters. Sarah Phillips, the girl’s mother, was a spiritualist and claimed spirits had told her to alter the map, which she did, making it impossible to follow. James Phillips died in Del Norte November 7, 1880, and is buried there. Following his death many people tried finding the rich claim and one group came upon a rich lode but no one was ever sure this was the ‘Lost Phillips Mine.’

“The Phillips sisters were by this time young ladies. Terressa married the above mentioned James H. ‘Jud’ Hallett on December 18, 1884, and they moved to the Pagosa area immediately, probably bringing Terresa’s mother, Sarah Fairchild Phillips, with them.

“I will fill in a little of the Hallett’s story then go back to the other sisters. Jud Hallett was born in Sylvania, Lucas County, Ohio, in October of 1855, receiving his education in the grammar and high school of his native town and near that place engaged in farming until 1880. He then came to Colorado and spent some time in Del Norte and Summitville, but in 1884 after his marriage he came to Archuleta County (Motter’s note—In 1884 this was still part of Conejos County. Archuleta County was not created until 1885.) and began ranching a few miles northeast of Pagosa Springs (Motter’s note—I believe Jud’s ranch was on Mill Creek). Here a little boy was born to the Halletts Oct 17, 1885. They named him Earl. This child was the apple of his father’s eye. Jud took him everywhere with him as soon as he was able to go. He held him on his lap as the horses pulled the ranch equipment and carried him with him on all kinds of ranch chores. The little boy in return adored his dad. A second child was born to Jud and Terressa on June 8, 1887, this time a daughter named Pearl. When Pearl was a little less than one year old and was scooting around on the floor, Judd brought Earl in to get a drink of water and since Earl seemed interested in watching Pearl, Jud left him in the living room with his little sister and went back to the fields. Terressa was busy with laundry, cooking, and canning and assumed Earl had gone back to the fields with his father. It wasn’t until evening when Jud came in for the day that they realized that Earl had not been with either of them all afternoon. Panic took over and they began frantically searching. Earl had tried to follow his father back to the fields and in crossing a narrow plank over the irrigation ditch and had fallen in and drowned. Jud Hallett was inconsolable, probably blaming himself for leaving Earl without telling Terressa what he was doing. He never fully recovered from this child’s death. He became dissatisfied with ranching and began drinking heavily. He served in many public offices trying to ease the pain. He was referred to as “The Father of Pagosa Springs” because he was instrumental in seeing that the town was incorporated (Motter—Pagosa Springs incorporated in 1891) and he served as its mayor and a trustee for several terms. Politically he was a Republican and was elected as county sheriff in 1890 where he served for two years. He was a member of the first board of county commissioners and also served as deputy treasurer. In 1897, he was elected to the office of county assessor.”

Motter — Stay with us. We will describe the building of the Phillips Building, now known as the Hersch Building.