Pioneer times on the East Fork: Jacob Lane and the Murphys

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
While we’re reading about pioneers and old-timers, maybe its a good time to remember the oldest woodsmen in the area, and they’re still around. There are some other pretty good woodsmen, those pesky beavers, who might challenge the porcupine for first place in engineering and craftsmanship skills.

This week we’re continuing with the Jacob Lane biography. He was one of the last persons to live year-round on the east fork of the San Juan River.
We quote from his biography as written in the Pagosa Springs Times-Observor in October of 1907: “Jacob Lane was the son of Jacob and Mary A. Lane and was born in Alleghany County, Penn., November 10, 1838. He had three sisters and eight brothers, two of whom died in infancy, the others grew to manhood and womanhood. He moved with his family to Mason County, Illinois in 1841. He enlisted in Company F, 51st Illinois Volunteer Infantry, in June, 1861, and after serving out the full three-year enlistment, re-enlisted as a veteran, serving about two years more. His only surviving sister, Mrs. Mary Baety, and a niece, Mrs. Hester Anderson, both live in this city. One brother, Eastman Lane, lives in this vicinity on the East Fork of the river. Two other brothers, David B., living in Montana, and Francis M., living in Salt Lake City, Utah, still survive him.
“Mr. Lane came to this vicinity in 1878 and has been a resident of the park on the East Fork of the San Juan River, just over the line in Mineral County, about twenty miles from this city for nearly thirty years. He had a ranch there and lived alone, following the occupations of farming, cattle raising, and mining. He was well and favorably known throughout the San Juan Country, having spent a good share of his time prospecting and developing mineral claims with considerable success.
“The burial was at Hill Top Cemetery in this city. Thus, ends the last chapter of a man who spent some of his best years in the battlefield and has lived a quiet, honest, and industrious life among the grand old mountains of Colorado.”
Mrs. Mary Murphy may have been the last person to live year-round on the San Juan East Fork.
We read the following obituary in the Times-Observor of October 1907: “At her family home in North Durango, Tuesday afternoon, occurred the death of Mrs. Mary Murphy, beloved wife of Thomas Murphy, at the advanced age of 83 years.
“She was born in Clinton County, New York, and came to Denver in 1868. In 1879, she married Thomas Murphy, and together they came to San Juan country, first settling in San Juan County, New Mexico.
“In 1902, she, with her husband, moved to East Fork, north of Pagosa Springs, having purchased the Joe Mann ranch. Here they lived for eight years, then moving to Durango, where they have since resided.
“Interment took place at Hill Top Cemetery in Pagosa Springs. A sister of the deceased, Miss Kate Grace, preceded her in death thirteen years ago.
“Except for the husband, there are no remaining near-relatives. The many friends of this pioneer family join us in extending sympathy to the bereaved husband in the loss of his wife.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Murphy came down from East Fork the first of this week with the intention of going to the Durango Fair but after arriving here they learned of the death of their neighbor, Jacob Lane, and remained to attend the funeral yesterday.”
On Feb. 24, 1922, the following was printed in The Pagosa Springs Sun: “Word reached this city Monday that Thomas Murphy, Colorado Pioneer and old-time resident of the San Juan Basin, had passed away that morning at the Soldier’s Home in Monte Vista from heart failure. He had been in the best of health and his sudden death was unexpected.
“… Interment took place at Hill Top Cemetery at the side of his wife.
“G.A.R. comrades and old-time friends comprised the pall-bearers, as follows: N.L. Hayden, W.C. Hyler, E.M. Taylor, F.A. Byrne, J.L. Laughlin, and Charles A. Day. John Clarke and sister, Miss Martha Clarke, were present from Durango to assist in the last sad rites of their deceased friend and neighbor…”