Pagosa Country has existed under a variety of national flags. The Spanish flag flew over Pagosa Country until Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821. The flag of Mexico waved over Pagosa Country until the U.S. defeated Mexico and the treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo was signed in 1848, ending the 1846-1848 Mexican American War. Since 1848, Pagosa Country has been under the U.S. flag.
Until Colorado was designated a territory in 1861, the western half of Colorado was part of Utah Territory, the eastern half part of Kansas Territory. Because Pagosa Country is in the western half of Colorado, it was part of Utah Territory until 1861.
Even before the U.S. acquired title to Pagosa Country, U.S. trappers had worked the San Juan River at least since the 1820s, maybe a few years earlier. They were pretty quiet about it because most of them were trespassing without permission from the Mexican or New Mexican governments.
Shortly after 1800, a few Americans drifted across the plains into the New Mexican settlements of Taos and Santa Fe. Taos became headquarters for a group known as the southern trappers. One of the first trappers to work out of Taos was a man named Jacob Fowler, who entered what became Colorado through the Huerfano, now known as Walsenburg, country. Historians like to read Fowler’s written comments because his English elevates phonics to a humorous extreme. Fowler trapped the San Juan Mountains on the east side. He left us this recollection of his travels through Huerfano Country. I’m not correcting his English. The Indians he describes were likely Jicarilla Apaches.
“We have been viseted by some of the Spanish Indians from maxeco the live in the vilege of Tows – in Six days Easey travel from Heare — the are all Catholicks the Indians Inform us that there are White men near the great Peak of the mountain on the River Platt — and three days Hard travel from this place — on the night iof the 23rd a Snow fell about one foot deep and the Weather is now Cold the River is frozen up the Ice a great thickness and the Indean Children that is able to walk and up to tall boys are all out on the Ice by day light and as naked as the Came to the World Here the are at all kinds of Sport Which their Setuation Will admit and all tho the frost is very seveer the apper quite Warm and a lively as I Heave Ever Seen Children in mid Summer I am shure that We Have Seen more than one thousand of these Children on the Ice at one time and some that Ware too young to Walk Ware taken by the larger ones and Soot on a pece of skin on the Ice and In this Setuation kick its (legs) Round and Hollow and laff those Round it at play.”