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Along the wagon trail

In November of 1880, the editor of a Silverton newspaper, The La Plata Miner, wrote of a wagon trip from Animas City through Pagosa Springs to the Denver & Rio Grande railhead at Chama. Last week we began publishing his story describing his trip from Animas City to just west of Pagosa Springs. Now, we pick up where we left off last week.

“Getting an early start, Pagosa Springs, thirteen miles distant, is reached by 11 o’clock and here we stopped for dinner (lunch) and are 63 mikes from Animas City. At Pagosa Springs there is at present a very slim hotel accommodation; it certainly is the best point for someone to locate and erect a hotel of 30 or 40 rooms, that we know of in Southwestern Colorado, and who ever is the first to occupy the field will certainly be well rewarded. The Springs are the finest in the United States and they have been fully described heretofore in The Miner; the railroad will pass twenty miles south of them, and another summer and they will be easy access for invalids from all sections of the east. Here we were treated to an excellent dinner at the Hotel de Blair, of which Tom Blair of Silverton is proprietor and Hon. A.K. Fleming, formerly mayor of Ophir, is the chief caterer. Thos. and Alex Blair keep the Rosebud Saloon and billiard hall. Mr. Fleming and Alex Blair are in the hay and grain feed business, keeping in connection a feed stable. Leaving Pagosa Springs at 2 p.m. we make camp on the Chumanche (Blanco?) ten miles south from Pagosa, here there is no accommodation for the traveler unless he is prepared for camping out, if so he can get wood and water and hay for stock. There is a camphouse and in it our party put up for the night which was a cold one, and as our supply of blankets were limited not a very good night’s rest was afforded. We were up and started by 15 minutes after six in the morning, as we have a good day’s drive to make the Chama thirty miles distant. A drive of fourteen miles which is made by half past 11 a.m. brings us to the toll gate on the Navajo, twenty-four miles from Pagosa and here we take dinner, and in the afternoon we make a start to climb the Continental Divide, which is between the Navajo and the Chama. This is accomplished without difficulty over a good road and a remarkably easy grade.

The Continental Divide is seven miles from the Navajo toll gate and nine miles from the present railroad camp on the Chama.

We reached the Chama at 6 p.m. and here the great crowd of railroad people monopolizes the accommodation which there is for man and stock and it is difficult to get an accommodation. The writer accidentally fell in with Mr. Mason, an old timer in the San Juan country and through the kindness characteristic of those who were early at the door of the now celebrated San Juan, he furnished us a good bed, and at his brother-in-laws, Mr. William Cowleys, we obtained breakfast and supper.” (More next week)

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