In 1885, W.S. Hickox of the Durango Land Office auctioned Pagosa Springs town lots at a public sale.
Selling Pagosa Springs town lots was somewhat complicated because people were already living on the townsite before lots were surveyed by B.H. Smith in April and May of 1883.
People had already built and were using houses and business buildings on the site since 1878, maybe earlier. Naturally, those people wondered if they would be able to keep their property or if it would be auctioned off to someone else.
Most of the earlier construction was on the east side of the river along what is now San Juan Street and Light Plant Road.
The actual one-square mile townsite had been surveyed and set aside as U.S. government property in 1881. Complicating the issue, the townsite was located within the six square-mile Fort Lewis military reservation.
Despite the complications, bidding was reported as spirited in the public auction. From 400 to 500 lots were sold, the largest number purchased by Joseph Clarke representing a Leavenworth, Kan. firm, and E. M. Taylor.
Pagosa Springs’ population at the time was estimated at about 200 people. Most people with homes and businesses in place before the auction retained their property.
One of the lot purchasers was Lt. John J. Pershing, later head of U.S. forces in Europe during WW I and known as Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing. There is no record that Pershing ever visited Pagosa Springs. He likely purchased the lots while visiting Fort Lewis at Hesperus. Pershing’s lots were on Lewis Street.
Former Fort Lewis sutler W.S. Peabody was one of those earlier settlers who had built his large building on the east side of the river while supplying Fort Lewis in Pagosa Springs with needed goods. Unfortunately for Peabody, his buildings were smack dab in the middle of San Juan Street following the 1883 lot survey.
On July 20, 1886, Peabody was ordered to get his building off of the street and out of the way. A year later he leased the building to John Thompson and others and left town.
Remember, the first county officials were appointed by the Colorado governor in 1885 when the county was formed. Those appointments were contingent upon the county holding an election to choose their own officials.
That first election in the fall of 1886 set the tone for county politics which lasted for many years.
Basically, the elections produced confrontation between Anglos and Hispanics for control of the county. The first elected county commissioners were C.D. Scase, J.P. Archuleta, and J.B. Martinez. To complete the ethnic makeup of that group, we need to know that Scase was married to a Hispanic lady. The entire group were on the Hispanic side of any power issues.
In next week’s column we will report from a Del Norte newspaper on what happened next when these newly-elected officials met for the first time.