We continue the history of the Great Pagosa Hot Springs intent on describing the competition among white settlers for ownership of the Springs. First, I’d like our readers to see the Springs through the eyes of one of the first white families to see the Springs.
In 1861, a party led by Thomas Pollock trotted out of Denver on their way to test their luck for gold in the recently discovered lodes in the south San Juan Mountains. They formed the wagon train in Denver, then trudged mile by dusty mile down the east side of the Front Range, struggled across La Veta Pass, turned southward down the east side of the San Luis Valley past Fort Garland into New Mexico and the Chama River Valley, which they followed northward, then crossed over to the San Juan River Valley at Pagosa Springs, where they rested for awhile before going on to the gold fields. Here is the story of that adventure as told by Nellie Pollock Snyder:
“They left Denver with a large wagon-train and of that train, there was nothing left except two yoke of oxen when they returned about two years later. I do not know how many graves were left in those lonely hills of men killed in their beds under the wagon in which she was sleeping. The tribes of Indians were at that time all hostile and they never knew when the war whoop would sound. I have heard her tell many things of that trip, of the dreadful winter and the terrible storms, she was at one time nearly frozen to death, and they cut to pieces the wagon boxes to make wood for fire to keep her warm. She told me that she saw my father drive his own men around the wagons and whip them with a black snake whip to keep them moving so they would not freeze to death. Several times on that trip, they were compelled to take the wagons to pieces and lower them over bluffs and cliffs. She told me of her first impression upon seeing what is now Pagosa Springs, and when I later stood and looked at that little town and the big, boiling spring, I tried to picture for myself how that camp of white men and one woman must have looked in that lonely and dangerous country where they never knew from one moment to the next when they must fight for their lives. It is a lovely place now, even after so called civilization has robbed it of much of its original beauty. What must it have been in all its wild glory?”