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Archuleta County created in 1885

A brand-blotting case, or “rustling,” or “grand larceny” was the big news of 1884 in Pagosa Country.

Hoover Bros. accused the Brown Bros. of the cattle stealing crime, and produced nine cattle at the trial to prove their claim. Barbers were called into the San Juan Street courtroom to trim hair from the cattle, the better to expose the brands.

The case was tried before Justice of the Peace A.J. Gilliland. Tully Kemp appeared as attorney for the Hoover Bros. and an outsider from St. Louis, Robert Hobson, Esq., defended the Brown Bros. A jury consisting of Joseph Clarke, Isaac Cade, George Webb, Ed Laithe, Barney, and Harrison found the Brown Bros. not guilty.

The year 1885 was important historically for Pagosa Country. In 1885, Archuleta County was formed from Conejos County. During the same year, Pagosa Springs town lots were auctioned by the U.S. Land Office in Durango to the highest bidder.

The land which became Archuleta County had been part of Conejos County since Colorado Territory had been formed in 1861. Pagosa Country residents had to travel to the town of Conejos, the Conejos county seat, to conduct legal business. When the Durango Land Office opened in 1884, homestead plats could be filed there. Otherwise, citizens with business involving the county courthouse had to make the long and arduous journey across the Continental Divide to Conejos.

After a hotly contested political fight, the new county was named in honor of Jose Manuel Archuleta, at that time a representative for Conejos County in the Colorado General Assembly. Archuleta sponsored the legislation creating Archuleta County.

The first county officers were appointed by the Colorado governor. They were: commissioners J.M. Archuleta Jr., Algernon S. Dutton, and Jud Hallett; Superintendent of Schools F.A. Byrne; County Clerk and Recorder E.M. Taylor; County Assessor J.P. Archuleta; County Treasurer Isaac Cade; County Sheriff William Dyke; and County Judge J. H. Voorhees.

A saloon license costing $160 was issued to S.E. (Sarah) Bowling good for three months. Among the first actions taken by the newly-appointed commissioners was the establishment of a system for the creation and maintenance of county roads., Creation of roads was not as simple as it might seem. Homesteaders wanted roads to their property lines but they didn’t want roads crossing their property. For many years Archuleta County roads were juggled here and there before stabilizing in their present locations.

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