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The brutish perforation of a new building

The following items appeared in the Pagosa Springs News during the summer of 1891:

“There is considerable building being done in and around Pagosa Springs this summer …”

“The Strawn House on the north side now receiving guests …”

“W.H. Kern will put on a stage line between Pagosa Springs and Durango starting next Monday …”

“A.D. Garvin opened the ‘Little Parlour’ saloon to the public on Tuesday evening …

“J.V. Johnson came up from Chama last Thursday, accompanied by L. Hersch. The latter gentleman is from Santa Fe and will take charge of Mr. Johnson’s store at this place ...”

“The San Juan Hotel has not had a vacant bed or room this past week.”

And this record of a little Wild West excitement: The house described in this paragraph still stands on San Juan Street on the south side, about one block east of the San Juan River. It is a two-story frame house, referred to as the “Sturdivant House” by oldtimers when I attended historical society meetings during the 1970s.

Here’s what happened when its owner and builder, Billy Kern, held an open house to celebrate his new home.

“The pleasure of the dance in the new Kern building last Saturday evening was marred by the very ungentlemanly behavior of four cowboys named Bob Kelly, Emmert Wort (Wirt), Bill Davenport, and Jack Gerart, belonging to Carlisle’s outfit. The boys were treated with due respect by those present, yet they were determined to have a row and expose their brutish natures. About the close of festivities during a dispute with Mr. Kern, one of them demolished the lamp with his gun. This seemed to be the signal for each one to begin the perforation of the new building with bullets, and the four guns were emptied twice (if those were traditional six-shooters, there must have been 48 bullet holes in the vicinity — Motter). The manner in which they flourished their guns in the face of the proprietor of the building was not very pleasant for him. Warrants were sworn out for their arrest Sunday morning, but the sheriff and his deputies, after a futile chase in the direction of New Mexico, returned without their men.”

We know the Carlisle Cattle Company was one of the big, English-owned cattle companies that flourished during the early days in the Four Corners country.

We know the Carlisle Cattle Company had a headquarters on a ranch north of Monticello, in Utah. We also know that Wirt worked for the same company near Dulce and later became the trader for the Jicarilla Apache Nation on their reservation, which was founded in 1878.

Frankly, I read into this story that the sheriff and his deputies were not very eager to catch up with these four cowboys. Under the circumstances, why not wait for warrants and until Sunday morning to begin the chase?

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