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A dangerous night for the couriers

We’ve been writing for some weeks about the stage roads in Pagosa Country.

Now, let’s talk about some of the activity along those roads. Remember, because troops were stationed at Fort Lewis in Pagosa Springs from 1878 through 1882, a considerable number of the travelers along the roads were soldiers.

The Army used couriers, usually men on horseback, to carry Army mail from post to post. This job was extremely dangerous when the Indians were upset.

When the fear of Indian wars was intense, couriers nearly burned up the roads between Army posts as commanders tried to learn the whereabouts and activities of the Indians.

Lieutenant Davis issued the following orders to Privates Radonskie and Rowe, Company “G” Nineteenth Infantry, from Headquarters, Fort Lewis on Oct. 27, 1879.

“You will proceed today to Clifford’s Cabin on the new road to Alamosa, Colo., about 40 miles from this Post and there make camp, for which purpose the camp may be used. You will be rationed to include November 9th from Army forage to be obtained at the Agency two and one-half miles beyond the cabin. Your duty will be to carry dispatches to and from the East to couriers from this post for transmittal west, and those from the West to Lieut. Valois ‘9th’ Cavalry at Alamosa.”

A courier by the name of Morris found danger he didn’t anticipate in January of 1880. He was stationed at Peterson’s, a road house at the east end of the Piedra River Bridge in the Chimney Rock area. Here is his commander’s report.

“Courier Morris 19th Infantry from Piedra Station reports with dispatches this morning and states that the Mexican mail carrier who occupied the same room with the couriers got up in the night and attempted to kill the party, attacking and striking Courier Cunningham ‘K’ Co. 9th Cavalry with an axe inflicting a severe wound supposed to have broken his lower jaw and left arm — he had first struck Courier Anderson 19th Infantry slightly bruising his head — he also shot Courier Davis “K” Co. 9th Cavalry inflicting a severe wound in the groin — It seems that in the fight Morris in some way got possession of the Mexican’s pistol and drove him off.

“The Justice of the Peace at Pagosa Springs (Tully Kemp?) has left to arrest the Mexican and I have sent the Post Surgeon (Dr. Martin?) with a party for the station, He will report to you the condition of the men.

“Radonskie and Rowe are ordered to take the stations of the wounded men, their services not being needed east at the moment.”

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