‘Citizens of Archuleta County desire to change their name to Logan County’

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
J.T. Martinez and his family were members of the Hispanic community who battled with the Anglos for political control of Archuleta County during the early years of settlement here. The Martinez family contributed much to the growth and development of the county. Martinez Creek is named for this family. In this photo. J.T. is overseeing the shearing of his sheep. Sheep were an important economic asset during those early years.

We’ve just begun a series of columns describing the conflict between Hispanics and Anglos for control of Archuleta County following the first election of county officials in1886.

We’ve been quoting from a news article in the Del Norte Prospector. We’ve learned when the newly elected officials, all of them Hispanic, held their first meeting for the purpose of organizing and conducting county business, a gang of armed gringos from Pagosa Springs led by E.T. Walker, interrupted the meeting and threatened the elected officials with various forms of physical violence unless they resigned. Walker was carrying a hat box sporting a hangman’s noose. One of the commissioners, by the name of C.D. Scase resigned. The other two, J.P. Archuleta and J.B. Martinez, refused to resign. We continue now with the Del Norte newspaper article.

“The mob deserves a little credit for coming out boldly instead of writing more anonymous letters, which some of them have certainly done before this time. If the people of Archuleta County can find no way to stop this bulldozing, they need not to expect to increase their 140 votes of last election. We understand the people opposing the commissioners have called a special meeting for the election of three commissioners, which is certainly illegal.”

The same newspaper reported a short time later, “These are red hot times for the people and commissioners in Archuleta County. The citizens of Archuleta County desire to change their name to Logan County.” And still later the editor of the Prospector wrote, “The Pagosa troubles have called out much comment all over the state. One of the Archuleta County Commissioners has been making himself [scarce] of late. When they get tired of county administration, they simply drive the commissioners into the woods.”

Scarce they were. There are no entries in the commissioner’s meeting book between Jan. 20, 1887, and Sept. 24 of the same year. A grand jury convened in Durango Oct. 5, 1887. Under indictment for riot were the following leading citizens of Pagosa Country: E.M. Taylor, John Dowell, Frank Cooley, H.D. Bowling, John Kemp, Jacob Dowell, Charles Chambers, E.T. Walker, Tully Kemp, J.H. Hallett, and R.J. Chambers. District Court Judge George T. Summers heard the case brought by the People of the State of Colorado versus the above defendants. Summers entered a nulle prosequi (unwilling to pursue), filed certain communications with the court, dismissed the defendants and excused the witnesses. Barzillai Price, A.C. Poor, and Tully Kemp were appointed to examine the county books.

The events of this conflagration were also recorded in the memoirs of one of the West’s most famous investigators, Charles Siringo, who went undercover to investigate the power struggle in Pagosa Country. Siringo was apparently in contact with Eudolphus M. Taylor and reported to the grand jury at the trial we just described.

Witnesses to the riot, in an unrelated trial held in 1890, said the riot had resulted from a contest for political control of the county, between 10 or 15 Mexicans living in the southern part of the county and English speaking people from Pagosa Springs. They affirmed that the English people won the contest. In 1890, the Archuleta County Commissioners denied a claim from C.D. Scase for $2,538.26 to replace a building burned during the political riot of 1886.

Next week we’ll look into the memoirs of John Taylor, an Archuleta County school teacher (not related to the currently retired John Taylor, school teacher) who was personally involved and helped end the so-called Hispanic illegal voting from the southern part of the county.