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Armed mob confronts the commissioners

The first elected county commissioners for newly formed Archuleta County met for the first time in January of 1887.

Conduct of the rather unusual affairs accomplished at that meeting were reported in the Del Norte Prospector. Pagosa Springs had no newspaper at that time.

We quote the Del Norte newspaper:

“The people will learn with regret that the greatest Hot Spring resort in the United States has a large element of people who usurp the power of the law and deter public officials from the faithful performance of their duties. Such seems to be the fact, as much as it may be regretted by our people. On the third of the month Commissioners Martinez, Archuleta, and Skase (Motter — Scase) met to transact the business of a regular meeting. An armed mob entered the place of meeting and compelled the commissioners to disband and leave the work of their regular quarterly meeting. They demanded the resignation of the commissioners and it is stated under threat to burn the house of Skase, he tendered his resignation. The other commissioners refused to resign. It is feared by the good people that this will result in serious trouble. The mob deserves a little credit for coming out boldly instead of writing more anonymous letters, which some of them have certainly done before this time. If the people of Archuleta County can find no way to stop this bulldozing, they need not to expect to increase their 140 votes of last election. We understand the people opposing the commissioners have called a special meeting for the election of three commissioners, which is certainly illegal.”

Later in January the same newspaper reported, “These are red-hot times for the people and commissioners in Archuleta County. The citizens of Archuleta county desire to change their name to Logan,” and in February in the same newspaper we read, “The Pagosa troubles have called out much comment over the state. One of the Archuleta County commissioners has been making himself Scase as of late. When they get tired of county administration, they simply drive commissioners into the woods.”

Scase they were. There are no entries in the commissioners’ minute book between January 20, 1887, and September 24 of the same year.

A grand jury convened in Durango October 5, 1887.

Under indictment for riot were the following leading citizens of the community: E.M. Taylor, John Dowell, Frank Cooley, H.D. Bowling, John Kemp, Jacob Dowell, Charles Chambers, E.T. Walker, Tully Kemp, J.H. Hallett, and R.J. Chambers.

Judge George T. Summers heard the case brought by the People of the State of Colorado versus the above defendants. Summers entered a nulle prosequi, filed certain communications with the court, dismissed the defendants, and excused the witnesses. Barzillai Price, A.C. Poor, and Tully Kemp were appointed to examine the county books.

Witnesses to the riot, in an unrelated court hearing held in 1890, said the riot resulted from a contest between Anglos and Hispanics for political control of the newly formed county.

More on that next week.

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