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Town incorporated, first election held

In 1891, several prominent citizens petitioned to incorporate the Town of Pagosa Springs.

They were: C.H. Freeman, Leo Hersch, M.A. Patrick, J.S. Garvin. L.D. Clark, August Linn, June M. Palmer, W.J. Arey, Elliott Halstead, James Melrose, S.C. Bell, W.J. Gilliam, Charles N. Harpst, A.J. Lewis, V.M. Harpst, J.H. Hallett, E.M. Taylor, J.S. O’Neal, E.E. Hatcher, Jos. M. Brownfield, H.C. Cooper, A.H. Sanders, John L. Dowell, C.D. Scase, James C. Strawn, A.D. Garvin, D.L. Egger, Col. C.W. Opdyke, Henry Gordon, P.A. Deller, H. Berard, P.W. Claypool, Henry Moore, M. Clark and John Cox.

County Judge Barzillai Price conducted the necessary steps in the county court to hold an election conducted by the Archuleta County Commissioners.

On Feb. 28, 1891, 38 votes were cast in the election, 26 in favor of incorporation, and 12 opposed.

The notice of incorporation was filed March 2, 1891.

The first election of town officers was conducted Tuesday, April 7, 1891, and attracted 51 voters. Of the two slates of candidates presented to the voters, John L. Dowell was elected mayor. Trustees elected were C.H. Harpst, C.H. Freeman, M.A. Patrick, J.C. Strawn, A.J. Lewis, and C.D. Scase. All except Dowell were prominent, in-town merchants. Dowell was a rancher, having homesteaded the Mill Creek Ranch at the head of Mill Creek. Dowell undoubtedly had a home in town, as did most ranchers in those days.

H.R. Bowling was appointed the first treasurer, A.D. Garvin the town marshal, John A. Walters the street commissioner, N.G. Peterson the town judge, and E. M. Taylor the clerk and recorder. Taylor was double-dipping, because he served as Archuleta County Clerk and Recorder at the same time.

And so, 13 years after the first pioneers settled in Pagosa Springs, the community incorporated. During those years, the earliest settlers fired by high hopes for a bright economic future, saw their hopes dwindle to almost nothing. An expected Indian reservation was gone, an existing military fort soon moved on, an anticipated rail line by-passed Pagosa Springs some 40 miles to the south. Many of their friends and relatives moved on searching for greener pastures — I should say more golden, as in gold mine pastures.

Still, there were stayers among those first settlers. They struggled through the hard times, established a county, then a city. Soon prosperity came. During the 25 years following the incorporation of Pagosa Springs, the area experienced its greatest growth until after the 1970s. Financing the growth was a wave of timber cutting, harvesting the great stands of Ponderosa Pine that spread across Archuleta County.

According to the U. S. Census, the county population was 826 persons in 1890. By 1900 it was 2,117 persons and by 1910 it reached 3,302 persons.

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