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Early-day cattle drive conflict

We are publishing first-person accounts of activities in Pagosa Country during the early settlement years, that is, circa 1878-1882.

We started an article last week copied from the Silverton community’s newspaper called the La Plata Miner, of July 3, 1879. Today we continue with the same article.

“It appears that at the animal roundup of cattle for the purpose of branding the calves that was progressing on the La Plata, some of the cattlemen had indulged too freely in the use of whiskey and one or two of the more turbulent had become quite belligerent. Gathered around the corral were six of Red Jacket’s band, a sub-band of the Weminuches, one of the divisions of the Southern Utes of whom Ignacio is the chief. Angered by the presence of the Indians, who in their indolent fashion, were enjoying the exciting sport, a reckless young fellow by the name of Sharpe ordered them to go away and becoming mighty inflamed by the taunting refusal of the grinning savages to move, he drew his pistol and fired shots over their heads. The Indians at once retreated out of pistol range and opened fire from their rifles on the white men, who were compelled to keep to the shelter of their corrals ineffectually returning the fire with their pistols. After a brisk firing of half an hour, the Indians withdrew a little before night and sent runners on fleet horses to inform the agent and Ignacio, their chief, of the condition of affairs, and to ask advice, and if necessary, assistance.

“The whites had, by this time, become thoroughly alarmed. The men engaged in the hostile demonstration are the owners of immense herds of cattle that roam throughout the Indian Reservation, and are liable to destruction when the Indians feeling aggrieved set out to seek revenge in the destruction of property. Nor was the loss of property the only thing to be feared. The homes of the whites are scattered from Beaver Creek to the Dolores, a distance of 100 miles, hemmed in on the north by an impassable mountain barrier, and on the south by the Southern Ute Reservation, upon which are 250 hardy Indian warriors as ever rode on the war path, amply provided with firearms and ammunition, and owners of 1,000 as fleet horses as can be found anywhere in the world. No wonder that men whose wives and little ones were at the tender mercy of such a foe would feel that they had sowed to the wind and might reap the whirlwind. Soon after the Indians had withdrawn a message was sent from the captain of the roundup to the Deputy Sheriff in Animas begging him to come out at once and help them out of trouble, as they expected the Agent would be down on them, and if he did not interfere the Indians would attempt to settle the matter in their own way. Jim Hefferman, is an Irishman, and enjoys a bit of scrimmage as well as the most warlike of his race, but as Deputy Sheriff he had to look at this appeal in its serious aspect, and with a promptness that showed his appreciation of the danger. He sent word to both whites and Indians to come at once to Animas City, where he would endeavor to get Col. Page to meet them.”

Continued next week.