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McCauley describes early Pagosa Country

We continue to quote from a report written by Army Engineer Lt. McCauley when he visited Fort Lewis in Pagosa Springs in 1878.

McCauley’s report contains information gleaned from various Army surveys and reconnaissance venture into the San Juan Mountains and Four Corners area starting about 1876.

“With increasing signs of permanency and material wealth, the necessities for a wagon road become daily more evident until it is finally furnished by some enterprising capitalist or a stock company, and the settlement is opened to the basis of supply.

“From this dates permanent prosperity. Slow-moving pack animals are succeeded by more rapid freight trains, with greater carrying facilities, high prices for commodities of life and business are diminished, and the stage-coach appears on the scene. Easy access, well-rewarded labor, and profitable investments invite the laborer and immigrant, as well as the speculator. The country increases in agricultural and mining industry until, with the lapse of time, the railroad approaches and the frontier settlement assumes a metropolitan air; and on the march of civilization continues.

“The roads of the San Juan are, therefore, of prime importance, and whatever can be done to shorten the lines of communications and open as yet undeveloped sections will be of the first and most material value.

“The recent advance of the Denver and Rio Grande (a narrow-gauge railroad) over the Sangre de Cristo Range has enabled it to control all the freight and passenger traffic destined for the San Juan, as well as all of New Mexico, save the northeastern part. Its present terminus in Garland City, six and one-half miles from Fort Garland, situated in the eastern San Luis Valley, at the foot of the western slope of the mountains, whence travel for the upper country passes northwest to Del Norte and via the toll-road up the canyon of the Rio Grande to the settlements beyond, while that for the lower takes its course due southwest, passing Conejos, a Mexican plaza known as Guadalupe.

“Of the lower country the seat of the largest population is that part of the valley of the Animas known as Animas Park, lying in a general direction north and south and containing over 10,000 acres of tillable land, susceptible of easy irrigation, above which, and beyond the grand canon of the river, lies the largest populated region and the seat of the greatest mineral wealth.

“Silverton, upon the Animas, and other towns and contiguous mining camps, may be reached from the railroad and Del Norte directly by following up the valley of the Rio Grande and crossing the mountain range that forms a divide between the waters of the Animas; more indirectly, by reaching the lower country and the Animas, and then by passing up the canon of the river.”

More next week on Lt. McCauley’s description of early Pagosa Country settlement.