During the 1870s and well into the 1880s the Four Corners country was wild and lawless.
The Shootout at the OK Corral could have happened in Pagosa Country just as well as Tombstone.
During 1881, a community called Amargo was located a little east of today’s Lumberton, N.M. Amargo was home to an assortment of workers hired to build the last few miles of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad connecting Chama with Durango.
One man who lived in Amargo for several months said there was never a time, day or night, without the sounds of gunshots.
Amargo was mostly a tent city which supplied the needs of a collection of railroad workers not overly burdened with morality and with enough money in their pockets to pay for their depraved pastimes. Catering to the workers was a motley collection of prostitutes, gamblers and card sharks.
Living in tents on the outskirts of Amargo was a band of desperadoes headed by Charley Allison, not to be confused with the better-known gunman called Clay Allison. The Allison gang terrorized the countryside. The same pioneer who said Amargo was never without the sound of gunshots said the Allison Gang loafed all day until a train came in, then roused themselves, strapped on their six guns, held up the newly-arrived train passengers, then returned to their tents for more shuteye.
Apparently, there was no law enforcement in the area. In a few short months, Allison allegedly committed five armed stagecoach robberies in the vicinity of Alamosa before following the railroad west to Amargo.
A Silverton newspaper writer warned that travel on the southern route was not safe and that lawlessness in the vicinity of Amargo had reached such proportions that it threatened to shut off travel to the San Juan country.
In May, under a headline reading, “Another Stage Robbery,” the Silverton paper reported that the Allison gang held up the east-bound stage four miles west of Pagosa Springs in a rocky canyon. There were ten passengers on the coach from whom the outlaws took about $500, plus a number of gold watches, other jewelry, and a bank draft for $3,300. Following the holdup, the robbers rode into Pagosa Springs and held up a store owned by a Mr. Vorhees on San Juan Street east of the river.
“Among those present were Harry Sanderson and John Fosbay, the division Superintendent of Barlow and Sanderson stage line. Although they had money and valuables on their persons they were not molested. At the mouth of a pistol Mr. Vorhees opened his safe and handed over the contents to the robbers … about $450.”
About a week later, the same gang held up the same stage in the same rocky canyon.
On May 31 newspapers reported, “The stage robbers intended upon filling in full the measure of their crimes. Since their escapades at and near Pagosa, they have stolen three valuable horses, two of them belonging to A.C. Hunt Jr., and one to Gov. Hunt (the Colorado governor and good friend of the Archuleta family for whom Archuleta County was later named), the latter being his elegant trotter Moro, for which he paid over $1,000. The robbery occurred at Monero near Amargo, on the night of the 28th while in camp.”
More next week on the Amargo Gang.