‘The Duchess’ was a Pagosa pioneer

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The whistle of trains was a common sound in Pagosa Country during the early years. In those days, the homes of lumber mill workers and loggers were moved by train to the latest logging site, as this photo reveals.

Gertrude Larson was better known worldwide as “The Duchess” in the Fred Harman II comic strip “Red Ryder.”

She was born Jan. 1, 1875, and passed away Dec. 15, 1952, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Bradford Hallett. Her husband died before she moved from Nebraska to Pagosa Country in 1912.

Gertrude remained single the rest of her life and ranched in the Piedra area a few miles north of Pagosa Springs. She was kindhearted and generous in every way, and helped raise Clyde Bachman, George Teeters, Herman Sisson, Millie Nossaman and Sidney Foster. Harman used her as the model for the Duchess character in his comic strip.

Carlos Large was born Nov. 11, 1874, at Conejos, Colo., and moved to Edith in Archuleta County in 1900. He married Elena Martinez there in 1902, when she was 16 years old. Elena was born in 1886 near Tierra Amarilla and passed away in April of 1940. Carlos passed away in October of 1967. The Larges made their home at Edith until 1916, when they moved to the Montezuma area. In 1936, they moved to Salt Lake City. They had six children.

Luis Larribas was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1818, while Mexico was still part of Spain. He passed away in Pagosa Country April 11, 1919, at the age of 101. He came to the United States in 1865, first living in Santa Fe. He was survived by his wife, Roscieta, seven sons and six daughters.

Olaf Larson was born in Sweden Sept. 27, 1851, and died in Pagosa Springs Jan. 7, 1928. He settled at Monte Vista in 1880 and later worked the mines of Summitville. In 1888, he married a Miss Breding. The couple had one daughter. The Larsons moved to Pagosa Springs in 1910.

Denver Latham, who in his younger years had a reputation as a gunfighter, died in October of 1946 at the age of 77 years. He came to Pagosa Country from Arizona in 1895 and ranched and worked as a cowboy the rest of his life. His ranch was located on the Little Blanco River, where he was a neighbor of Jule Macht. At one time, he was married to a sister of Faye Brown. Pagosa Springs oldtimers were fond of telling stories about Denver. It is difficult to learn how many of the stories are true. He is said to have participated as a gunman in an Arizona sheepman/cattleman feud, and possibly in a similar scenario in Wyoming.

James Latham, Denver’s father, was born in Newcastle, Ohio, Nov. 23, 1839, and died at Pagosa Springs Aug. 25, 1899. He was wounded several times while serving for the North in the Civil War. On Aug. 13, 1865, he married Marguerite Harn at Woodsfield, Ohio, and the couple moved to Wisconsin, Kansas and Texas, before moving to Pagosa Springs in 1891. In Pagosa Springs, they joined two or more of the abandoned Fort Lewis enlisted men’s quarters to form a hotel known as the Latham House, on the main block of the old downtown.

Marguerite was born Sept. 10, 1845, in Ohio and died at Juanita south of Pagosa Springs in October of 1925. She married Capt. James Latham following the Civil War. In addition to their son, Denver, the couple had a daughter, Mrs. Pearl Brown, and grandchildren Raymond Brown and Joseph Brown Jr.