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The first homestead in Pagosa Country

We closed last week’s column by quoting Welch Nossaman. It was probably the spring of 1877. Nossaman and two companions had camped through the winter near the Great Pagosa Hot Springs. So far in its pioneer history, Pagosa Springs had no town, no Fort Lewis.

While his friends were elsewhere, a Ute Indian identified by Welch as Colorow Ignatio (sic) had visited Welch demanding sugar, flour, coffee, tobacco and other items. When Ignacio (I’m assuming this was Ignacio, one of the leaders of the Weminuche band of Southern Utes, a band now living at the base of Sleeping Ute Mountain just south of Cortez.) threatened Welch, Welch evicted him at gunpoint.

When his returning friends asked Welch how he was doing, he allowed as how he was doing alright, but “ ... boys, there is an awful big bunch of Indians down below there.

“They said, ‘There is?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Any squaws and children?’ I said, ‘yes.’ I told them what had happened and I said, ‘He ran his finger across my throat as though he would cut my throat if I didn’t give him our grub. Then they all went down there and camped.’

“The boys said, ‘Well, that means we sit up tonight. But with the squaws and children along they are not on the warpath.’

“We did sit up all night, but the Indians never came back until about 8 o’clock the next morning and then they came back and stopped right there in front of the cabin again and shot off three volleys in the air. Didn’t try to shoot us or anything.

“Then this Colorow said, ‘Me camp Pagosa. You vamoose.’ That means leave. We told him, alright, we would go. Lafe and Joe ran over to grease the wagon and load while I got the cattle. About 11 o’clock we got started and we hadn’t gone more than half a mile when we looked back for the first time and they had the house set afire. We thought they might change their minds and think they hadn’t ought to let us go, and went on 22 miles to where Edith now is, drove those cattle until dark. They never followed us, and we never went back until fall, of course, when the Indians quit coming there.

“The next winter (1877-1878) we built the cabins on our ranches and they fired them three times — until Fort Lewis came there. They never harmed us, but they burned every cabin we built every spring.”

Nossaman’s homestead is said to be the first in what has become Archuleta County. It was just east of town about a mile and is now owned by the Formwalt family. I don’t know what happened to Joab Baker and Lafe Hamilton. There was a hotel known as the Hamilton House in pioneer Pagosa. Maybe it was this same Lafe Hamilton. There was also a Campbell House, possibly run by one of Ben Campbell’s ancestors.

In any case, by the middle of 1878 Pagosa Springs had a post office and could be considered a town.