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Simple act of searching: stories of pioneers

The stories of the lives of the pioneers who settled Pagosa Country reflect the history we learned while we were still scholars.

Wagon trains, railroads, homesteads, and the simple act of searching for a new life all show up as we tell their life stories. And so we continue to tell about some of those pioneers.

Alma Phillips Chapson, the wife of Elmer Chapson, died at the age of 103 in Sebastopol, California. She had been born in Kansas on Jan. 25, 1874 and drove a covered wagon into Oklahoma’s Cherokee Strip while still a teen-age girl. In Oklahoma, she married Elmer Chapson and they moved to Pagosa Country in 1900, driving two covered wagons over Elwood Pass. They ranched on the West Fork of the San Juan River.

John A. Chapson was born in Fayette County, Penn., on July 1, 1830, and died Oct. 23, 1916. In August of 1854, he married Mary L. McGittgan. They moved to Kansas in 1855 and to Colorado in 1852. His sons, William A., Charles S., and Elmer survived him.

Lewis M. Clark was born in Duchess County, New York, on Nov. 25, 1805, and died in Pagosa Springs March 5, 1891. He married Rosamond Sweet at Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1831. During his life, Mr. Clark had been a devout Christian, and as a Methodist he commenced preaching the gospel at the age of 21, which he continued doing until he settled in Archuleta County in 1877. Mr. Clark spent his whole life on the frontier and a few years ago lectured in England on frontier life in America.

Lloyd Clark Sr. was born in Pagosa Springs during February of 1886 and spent his entire life ranching until he passed away May 22, 1960. He married Beulah Andrews in 1914. The Clark family was related to the Cade family.

Mary Catherine Cade was born in Sandborn, Indiana, Nov. 16, 1864. She moved with her family from Indiana to Pagosa Springs in 1879. She married Mortimer Clark in Pagosa Springs in 1880 and the couple had four children: Lester Leon Clark, Mrs. Cleora Rossell, Lloyd Clark, Isaac Clark, and Walter Clark. Her sister was Mrs. Maude Hart. She passed away in November of 1921.

Joseph Clarke lived in Pagosa Springs at such an early date that the old timers I knew had not heard of him. Even so, he had a profound influence on the community. He was the communities’ first post master. That post office was located about one mile south of the big hot spring and on the west side of the river along a road that connected Santa Fe, New Mexico, with the Animas River gold mines. In connection with that post office was a general store, probably the first store in this community.

When Pagosa Springs was surveyed and town lots sold, Clark purchased all of Block 21, now the main downtown business block. He was associated with the Leavenworth Company, itself a major financial influence on the new community. Bachelor Clarke later moved to La Plata County where he once ran for county commissioner. Clarke died in Hays City, Kansas, in July of 1911.

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