The first settlers


Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Welch Nossaman, in 1876, built the first cabin in what today is Pagosa Springs.

In 1876, Pagosa Country’s first settlers located along the road connecting Tierra Amarilla and the lower Animas Valley, where Durango is today. In the southern part of what today is Archuleta County, they settled on the banks of the Navajo River in the Edith area.
Those first settlers were Jose Marcelino Archuleta and Jose Guadalupe Trujillo. Archuleta County was formed in 1885 and named for the father of Jose Marcelino. Archuleta and Trujillo had been living near Conejos in the San Luis Valley for several years. They crossed Cumbres Pass and dropped into the Chama River Valley on the west side of the Continental Divide while driving a herd of 500 sheep and 17 cows. Trujillo later moved on to the Montezuma Cañon area. The community of Trujillo is named for him.
Also in 1876, Eli Perkins settled on the Piedra River near the present U.S. 160 bridge. It was written of Perkins, “Along about 1876, Anno Domini, there came to this virgin land of promise a bachelor named Perkins, whose outlines reminded one of Kit Carson, and one-half mile west of the Piedra, and just off the present highway, excavated himself a primitive doodlebug dugout with a periscope in its attic for observing Lo’s early morning habits. Nearby he tilled a few acres of wild soil all by his lonesome.”
Needing cash, Welch Nossaman, probably the first to live in the town of Pagosa Springs, helped Peterson dig an irrigation ditch from Yellowjacket Creek. After working for two months for the promise of one dollar a day, Nossaman learned that Perkins couldn’t pay him and left for the mining town of Silverton. Along the way to Silverton, Nossaman stopped in Pine River to work for Charley “Racehorse” Johnson for a few days. River was today’s Bayfield.
More next week.