We have been writing first-person accounts of life in Pagosa Springs during the first years of settlement, that is, circa 1878-1882. We continue this theme today
During July of 1879 an incident between whites and Indians took place that illustrated the powder keg situation existing across the state of Colorado at that time; a situation which finally exploded into open warfare at Meeker, Colo.
The incident reported is typical of the kinds of confrontations taking place in the San Juans during the late 1870s and 1880s between Indian and white.
From the La Plata Miner of July 3, 1879, (a Silverton newspaper—Motter) we read: “A battle is going on between whites and Indians on the La Plata (La Plata River near Mancos — Motter) was the word that reached Pagosa Springs last week, and your correspondent started at once for the scene of the action, determined to get to its bottom facts and send the story to the ends of the earth by means of this great religious daily. To a ‘tenderfoot’ a ride of sixty miles in twelve hours over mountain roads, would have been sufficient excuse for not starting for the seat of an Indian war, any old stager don’t mind distance, fatigue, or danger when his friends are in peril.
“The road from Pagosa Springs to Animas City skirts along the spurs of the mountains, a little north of the Reservation of the Southern Utes, and though ordinarily one feels as safe in meeting the bands of Indians that are constantly on the road as in passing a load of white headed Kansas immigrants, the frequent appearance of dusky warriors mounted on fleet horses armed with the most approved pattern of long range rifles and painted in the most hideous style of Indian art, at a time when it is known that war is imminent is not very reassuring to a lonely traveler. Your correspondent knows many of the chiefs and head men of the tribes, and trusting to the friendship that they have always manifested for him, felt little apprehension of danger as he drove rapidly over the rough road, soon becoming entirely reassured as Indian after Indian, accosted him with the Ute salutation, ‘Wano deis,’ (buenos dias, good day — Motter) nodding pleasantly as they passed. Your correspondent soon became satisfied that no serious collision had taken place, and when he arrived at Pine River (present day Bayfield — Motter) post office, twenty miles from this place (the story was sent from Animas City — Motter), he learned that the white people there had been in a fight but that Col. Page, the agent of the reservation (headquartered at Ignacio — Motter) hurried to the scene of action, and that peace and order had been restored and all was quiet along the line. The belligerents met in council with the agent from Animas and settled the difficulty.”
The fracas involving white and Indian will be described next week.