Prohibition and flooding on the horizon for Pagosa Country

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The flood of Oct. 5, 1911, pretty much decimated property adjacent to the San Juan River and other rivers in the Four Corners area. This photograph shows the downtown area along Hermosa Street and known as Town Park. Every bridge in Archuleta County was washed out.

Opposition to drinking and alcoholism was on the rise in the Pagosa Springs of 1910. The adoption of prohibition was to take place not too many years later. Women took the lead in this movement.

By 1910, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) had gained sufficient strength to attempt to influence the town election. They asked that a woman be appointed as an election judge, along with J.S. Hatcher, E.M. Parr, Herbert Loucks and J.C. Dowell. The WCTU request was for the appointment of Mrs. Myrtle Hersch. The town board tabled the request. Women had won the right to vote in Colorado in 1893, almost two decades before they were allowed to vote nationwide.

A proposition in the April 10 election to make the town anti-saloon was narrowly defeated, 154 votes to 148. In June of the same year, the WCTU took another step, this time bringing an action prohibiting the town from using town funds to defend itself against still another suit brought to prevent the town from issuing liquor licenses.

In 1911, the town and county cooperated in acquiring property and buildings at the east end of San Juan Street on the river side of the street for use as a hospital for care of contagious diseases. This building was likely the remnants of the historic San Juan Hotel. It was known as a pest house. Mrs. Hattie Russell was hired to care for the pest house inmates.

Morris Hyler was ordered to renovate his slaughter house premises and do no more slaughtering there. Like most slaughter houses in those days, the refuse and leftovers ended up floating down the creek known as Slaughter House Creek, which emptied into the San Juan River. When I was a young man, almost every small community had a slaughter house where you could sell animals ready to be butchered and buy freshly cut meat. In the best interest of public health, we no longer have pest houses and slaughter houses.

In December of 1909, a contract had been signed between the town and Charles E. Moon for Moon to operate the water-pumping plant and boiler. Moon was to supply water for the town and the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad by consolidating pumping plants. By April of 1910, Moon and Deller Light and Power Company was operating the pumping plant then located at the east end of San Juan Street just below the water tank on Reservoir Hill.

In October of 1911, the town, along with much of the Four Corners area, was ravaged by the worst flood in the recorded history of the area. Among other things, Moon and Deller’s Light and Power facilities were caught up in the flood waters, never to be used again.