Pagosa’s Past: Settlin’ down in Pagosa Country

    Photo courtesy John M. Motter
    This is a 1925 photo of Bonnie and Billie Kern, two of Pagosa Country’s most prominent settlers.

    Pagosa Country today is inhabited by people from three distinct cultural backgrounds. One of the cultures, that of the native American Indians, is the least evident and the least dominant. It is also the oldest in terms of the number of years the people have lived here.

    Other cultures having substantial significance in Pagosa Country today are each of European origin, although they differ markedly. One is English-speaking and came to Pagosa Country from colonists who first settled on the North American Atlantic Coast. This group is dominant today.

    The other culture of European origin is Spanish-speaking and first entered North America on what is today Mexico’s Atlantic coast. In the long years of their movement north through Mexico into what is now considered the southwestern United States, they absorbed a considerable amount of Native American culture.

    As long as 10,000 years ago, the date is uncertain, small bands of hunters worked out their lives in Pagosa Country. We know little about these people. What we do know has been largely unearthed by probing through a few bone fragments, some projectile points and other items of extreme antiquity. These findings date from the period which immediately succeeded the Wisconsin glacial period, the last of four great continental glaciations. The climate 10,000 years ago must have been cool and moist as the glaciers retreated north.

    As the glaciers disappeared, the climate became warmer and lakes, swamps and lagoons dried up. The hunting and gathering people turned to smaller game such as elk, deer and rabbits.

    Gradually, the climate became drier and during the second postglacial period there is little evidence of man’s occupation of Four Corners country.