Dutch Henry Born: Wild West legend

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Posing for the camera with buffalo rifle in hand and six-shooter on his waist, Dutch Henry Born serves as a classic picture representing the legendary frontier West he knew so well.

As you learned last week, Dutch Henry Born performed an almost impossible, totally unbelievable turnabout with the final years of his life. He purchased a 160-acre homestead on the West Fork of the San Juan River just a few miles from the foot of Wolf Creek Pass, married his childhood sweetheart Ida Dilabaugh, built a log cabin on his homestead and with the love of his life, raised a family.
The hardworking couple turned what became known as Born’s Lake into a resort focused on trout. Trout raised in the lake were sold to other fisheries, caught and sold through butcher shops for people in Pagosa to eat at home, and Pagosa folks visiting the lake fished while enjoying the surrounding mountain grandeur.
Pagosa newspapers in the 1890s and early 1900s contained a number of stories reporting that “Dutch Henry Born was in town today buying supplies” or “the Dutchman came through town today carrying a load of fish.”
It was not uncommon for the editor to lavish praise on Born’s resort by describing how many a local family enjoyed a wonderful time celebrating at Born’s Lake, catching trout and then dining on the tastefully prepared, lip-smacking meals served with plentitude midst the splendor of the wondrous mountain scenery.” Born’s Lake was truly the “in” place for locals to eat out.
According to his daughter, Mabel Bennett, during his later years Dutch talked little about his past and for the last seven years did not even keep a gun in his house, claiming that he had “had all of the killing he wanted.” Charles Siringo and Oklahoma lawman Bill Tighlman were among his friends who took advantage of standing invitations to fish with Born at the lake.
One day, it is said, Tighlman and Born showed up together in Pagosa Springs. As Dutch Henry and the famous lawman clopped into town from the east, even before they hitched their horses on Pagosa Street, word of their arrival circulated to such an extent that large numbers of Pagosa’s finest, worried about the possibility that Tighlman might have a stash of wanted posters in his saddlebags, vacated the bars and other public venues, grabbed a week’s grub, cinched up their saddles and galloped off for unknown hideouts while waiting anxiously for the Oklahoma lawman to get out of town.
Dutch Henry died of pneumonia on Jan. 10, 1921, and is buried, along with his memories of the wild and woolly west, in Hilltop Cemetery in Pagosa Springs.