The land which was to become Archuleta County had been part of Conejos County since the territory of Colorado was formed in 1861. Prior to the formation of the county in 1885, Pagosa Country residents had to travel to the town of Conejos, the Conejos county seat, to transact county legal business.
The trip to Conejos from Pagosa Springs was long and arduous, especially when winter snow buried the southern San Juan Mountains, which separated the two cities. Some relief was obtained later when the Durango Land Office opened in 1884 and homesteads could be filed there.
After a rather hotly contested political fight, newly created Archuleta County was named in honor of Jose Manual Archuleta, then a representative of Conejos County in the Colorado legislature. Archuleta sponsored the legislation creating Archuleta County April 14, 1885.