Our Community Newspaper, Website & Tour Guide



The intent of the following stories:
Using my forte of boiling down volumes of information for the last 40 years,    business, geological, technical, scientific, archaeological, and historical,

to create an OVERVIEW that will pique your interest

to delve more into the detail history of our heritage, like the listed sources, and
to understand the courage, strength, and brilliance required of our pioneers.

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Guest Speaker Topics
of Gary Courtney

Click here for Author Bio of
Gary Courtney


Table of Contents
(Click on a title to go straight to the story.)

The Original Inhabitants of the San Juan Country
At This Time, in the Winter of 1878
Scared Out of Its Stripes
Chief Buckskin Charley
Chipeta and Chief Ouray's home
The Bruce Sullivan ranch house
Sam Parks
The name of the town of Bayfield
Dr. E. W. Newland's second home
The Riverside Home of Bayfield
The Bayfield Silver Fox Farm
James McKinney moved his family
The first person to settle the Pine River Valley
The earliest permanent white settlers in Vallecito
Teelawuket Ranch
Wit's End Ranch
The stagecoach route
The Vallecito Lake & Dam
Some Firsts in San Juan Country
Durango was the site of a smelter
The Banking History of the Area
"The Solid Muldoon" newspaper of Ouray
Telluride's original name and mines
San Miguel Valley Bank of Telluride Robbed
Otto Mears "Pathfinder of the San Juan"
Chipeta Park
Gunnison in Colorado
At My Cabin in the Pines

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with Page Breaks.



Camp bird - A Canada Jay, also known as a camp robber.
      Prospector Andy Richardson's inspiration for the name of a rich mine at
Thomas Walsh then bought Richardson's claim, and named all the other claims
             he held in the area the same, in 1895.
Gulch - A small canyon or steep-sided valley
, such as Horse Gulch near
             Durango, going the old stagecoach route from Vallecito, or
             McCoy Gulch, leading into the Florida River above Lemon Reservoir.
(In eastern Oklahoma and on east to the Applalachains,
                     you would hear the term “hollow” or “cove” used.)

La Plata - The silver
, Spanish. The original river name was Rio de San Juaquin.
Mesa - A flat-topped mountain
             such as Endlich Mesa above Vallecito
, or Mesa Verde.
            Derived from the Spanish word for "table". “Verde” in Spanish means “green”.

Ouray - Arrow
, Ute and Apache.
Pagosa - Healing waters
, Ute.
Park - A meadow or clearing
, such as Runlett Park.
Tres Piedras - Three Rocks
, Spanish.
Umcompaghre -  Hot water spring
, Ute.
        Also said to be derived from the Ute "Ancapogari", meaning "Red Lake".
Weminuche - A branch of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Others included
                                the Capote, Severo and Muache.
                       Chief Ignacio split off the Weminuche, and they are now known as
                                the Ute Mountain Utes, with tribal headquarters at Towaoc,
                                near Cortez.


The Original Inhabitants
of the
San Juan Country

Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, Home of the Anasazi, "The Ancient Ones",
and abandoned 1276 A.D., due to 24 years of drought.
Photo Copyright 1999 Gary D. Courtney.

   The original inhabitants of the San Juan Country and adjacent states were classified in four  different categories, by time period, customs, and lifestyle. A finer line of distinction now gives us three sub-classes of each major category.  The people and cultures are classified in two groups by linguistics.

   The period classifications are:


Basket Makers -
            A short, slender, and long-headed people, who used an atlatl and spears
                    (before bows and arrows were invented, circa 1,200 years ago)
            They lived in caves, made fine quality baskets, and raised agricultural crops,
                    including corn, beans, and squash.


Post-Basket Makers -
            Began making pottery, and crude houses, and used a bow and arrow.


            circa 700 A.D.
            A short, stout people, with a broad skull flattened at the back,
                    possibly caused by the use of a baby carrying board.


Pueblos -
            The inhabitants of established, permanent communities, with multi-story,
                    cut stone houses, such as:
                                Chaco Canon,
                                Canon de Chelly, and
                                Mesa Verde, at its height circa 1066 to 1273 A.D.
                                         One four-story complex at Mesa Verde is estimated to have
                                         housed at least 125 people, and took over 70 years to build.
            They were a sedentary agricultural people, and even created
                     protected walled granaries and water cisterns on the rock ledges,
                     with doors to control rationing in times of shortages.
            The Pueblos were very advanced, and were known for:
                                Religion, and their use of Kivas,
of bone and stone,
                                Clothing of buckskin, cotton, fur, and feather cordage,
                                Dyes of minerals and vegetables,
                                Elaborate ornaments,
                                Extensive herbal medicines, which modern medical science is
                                         now substantiating and correlating with the identical use
                                         in China and Korea for thousands of years,
                                Yucca products, including ropes, mats and sandals,  and
                                Extremely elaborate and beautiful pottery.

   The linguistic classifications are:


Shoshonean type language -
                                                        The Utahs or Utes and Hopi.


Athabaskan type language -
                                                        The Navajos and Apaches,
                                                                 the Navajos having separated about 400 years ago.
The Acoma and Zuni were assimilated by the dominant Navajos.

   By 1300 A.D., the Utah or Ute Indian had displaced the original Anasazi living in the area. This occurred some 228 years before Cabeza de Vaca's exploration of southwest Colorado, and 240 years before Coronado's visit to the area.


   In the 1880's, the Director of the Bureau of American Ethnology, John Wesley Powell , commissioned a study of linguistics. All Native American Indian languages, 51 groups, were studied in depth and classified. He had met personally with many different tribes on his expeditions through Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Arizona, and was the first to discover the Anasazi ruins in Grand Canyon.

   In the same period, Powell also commissioned James Mooney to live with the Cherokees for four years, to study and document the knowledge of Medicine Men and their use of plants, and their folklore and customs.

   Major "Wes" Powell was:


An English teacher and principal, before the Civil War,


Professor of Geology at Illinois Wesleyan University, in 1865,
with only an honorary Masters Degree,


Curator of the Illinois Natural History Society, in 1867,


The Director of the Bureau of American Ethnology for 23 years, helping the Smithsonian Institute begin the B.O.E. in 1873.


The explorer and charter of Grand Canyon and the Colorado (Grand) and Green Rivers,


One of 33 founding members of the National Geographic Society, in 1888,


A founder of the American Association for the Advancement of Science,
which he served as president, and


Originator and head of the U.S. Geological Survey, mapping the western U.S., from its inception in 1879 until 1894. The U.S.G.S. project initiated by Powell produced 54,000 topographic maps of the western U.S.

   He functioned without a right arm, from the early 1860's, having lost his arm directing his artillery battery in the April 6th, 1862 Battle of Shiloh in the Civil War. When Powell was stranded on a precipice near the top of 700-foot Echo Rock in Grand Canyon, during his 1869-72 exploration expeditions, he had only the one arm to hang on until an expedition member, Lieutenant Bradley, could take off his trousers and use them as a rope to lift him up.

   On his first scientific expedition to Colorado, in 1867, his wife Emma became the first woman to climb Pikes Peak.

John Wesley Powell
circa 1900
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

          At This Time, in the Winter of 1878
                                                                 Gary Courtney
                                        Author, Photographer & Historian

   Do you remember, or did you ever know, the original name of Pagosa Springs? Well, in the winter, about this same time, in 1878, a pioneer Army Post was established at the "Pagosa" or "Healing Waters" hot springs.  It's name? The very first
                                             Fort Lewis!
The springs had been first discovered, other than by the Ute and Navajo Indians, in 1859, by Captain J. N. Macomb of the U.S. Topographical Engineers, who also led a geological expedition to first climb the north rim of Mesa Verde. In 1875, three miners, Leon Montroy, Welsh Nossaman, and Peter Holmes, cut a road from Summitville, over Elwood Pass, and down the East Fork of the San Juan, to the springs. Their first wagon trip took three weeks, forging a trail which would later be used to haul supplies from Fort Lewis.

   The fort was named to honor Lieutenant Colonel William H. Lewis of the 19th Cavalry, who died in action battling the Cheyenne warriors of Chiefs Dull Knife and Little Wolf, September 17, 1878, at "Squaw's Den Battleground" in Scott County, Kansas.

   The first time United States soldiers entered the San Juan Mountains was in 1872, only seven years after the close of the Civil War. The site of the fort, long known by the Ute and Navajo Indians for it's healing hot springs, was selected by the Adjutant General's Office, Headquarters Department of the Missouri, in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It's purpose was to protect the Utes in their own nation.

   The fort, covering a six-mile square, consisted of a few log buildings and a flagpole, in late 1878. The log barracks, officers quarters, administration building, and other structures, were located just across the modern-day San Juan Street, where Hersch Mercantile and the town of Pagosa Springs are now located.

   The first commanding officer, who garrisoned troops there on October 17, 1878, was Lieutenant Fletcher, with the 15th Infantry of Lieutenant George A. Cornish, and the 9th Cavalry, Company "D", of Lieutenant John F. Guilfoyle. The morning of October 18th, the weary troops awoke to their first bugle of "Reveille" in the crisp, Fall Colorado air.

   Official designation of Fort Lewis came February 17, 1879, and the military reservation covered 36 square miles, on both sides of the San Juan River, with the hot springs in the southwest corner. The barracks and parade ground encompassed the area later occupied by the Pagosa Springs High School.

The Original Fort Lewis in 1880
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

   Civil War veteran Lieutenant General Phillip Sheridan, "The Hero of Winchester", visited Fort Lewis in June of 1879, from his headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, on an inspection tour. The nearly 50-year-old General Sheridan came by horseback over 700 miles to make the tour, crossing Cochetopa Pass on Otto Mears' road, and beginning at Meeker, then Ouray, then to a cheering crowd at Silverton on May 31, 1879, Pinkerton Springs, and the Shaw House at Animas City, before crossing the mountain trails to Fort Lewis.

   Several geographic landmarks, including the 12,795-foot Sheridan Mountain above Vallecito, the Sheridan Mine in Marshall Basin, the rich Sheridan Vein of gold at Telluride, which included not only the Sheridan Mine, but also, the Mendota, Smuggler and Union, Sheridan's Pass on Red Mountain Divide, and the Sheridan Hotel at Telluride, are named for him and the occasion of his visit here. William Jennings Bryan gave a speech on the street in front of the Sheridan Hotel, on a high plank platform, in 1903. The Sheridan Building, next to the hotel, burned down in 1906.

  Lieutenant General Phillip Henry Sheridan
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

   A famous frontiersman left the remains of his beaver trapper's log cabin a few miles southeast of Pagosa Springs and Fort Lewis. His name? Yup, it was Kit Carson!

Kit Carson, Otto Mears' commander during the Civil War, was,
in his frontiersman days, a trapper living in a cabin near Pagosa.
From 1854 to 1868, he was Indian Agent for several tribes, including the Utes.
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

   The original Fort Lewis was closed and moved to a new location on Rio La Plata, between July, 1880 and 1882, with a commanding view of the La Plata Mountains. The second Fort Lewis was abandoned in the Fall of 1890, so all the troops could go to Montana for the Battle of Wounded Knee.

   Fort Lewis was completely abandoned by the Army as a fort in the fall of 1891, 114 years ago this Fall.

A footnote to Lieutenant Colonel Lewis:

Of the four scouts Colonel Lewis selected, who located the enemy warriors on his fateful day,
     J. J. Webb, Bill Tilghman, A. J. Anthony, and Robert Wright, the one scout,
Bill Tilghman
later became the most famous and highly-respected U.S. marshal in our history.
When asked who was the best ever, famed Dodge City Marshal Bat Masterson replied,
"Bill Tilghman was the best of us all."
was one of the "Three Guardsmen of Oklahoma", three tough marshals, appointed by Fort Smith Judge Isaac Parker
to clean up the outlaws and holdup gangs in the entire Oklahoma Indian Territory,
including the Doolin and Dalton Gangs.

Bill Tilghman, U.S. Marshal
(Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.)

   At age 70, and called back out of retirement by the Governor to clean up the bawdy houses of oil boomtown
                        Cromwell, Oklahoma, Bill Tilghman was shot and murdered in cold blood by one of the owners.
                        Marshal Tilghman was so well-respected and well-liked, by the public and his former fellow marshals,
                        overnight, that entire rowdy section of town was burned to the ground!
                        His closest friends, such as U.S. Marshals Chris Madsen and  Heck Thomas,
                        were among the toughest men on the face of the Earth.
                        Madsen served in the French Foreign Legion before becoming a marshal.


            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

            Scared Out of Its Stripes       
                                Gary Courtney

    Last night after supper, I worked on writing my books at the computer. About 8:45 P.M., I decided to take a break for a cup of coffee. It was already dark outside.

   Coffee cup in hand, I sat in the chair on the front porch, gazing at the moon-glow on the forest in front of the cabin. My woodsman ears detected a little rustling in the area, but I couldn’t see anything.

   After a half of a cup of coffee, I decided to go down the steps to the car, and listen to the radio for a few minutes. Since I recently moved into the cabin, my TV wasn’t here, yet.

   While I sipped the remainder of my coffee, a little country music played on the radio, and the 9:00 news approached. With the ignition key turned to “Accessory” position, I mused it would be quite humorous if some wild animal came around the house, while I was sitting in the car. All it would take would be one quick, deft flick of the fingers on that ignition key, and the car engine would start, and the horn could honk!


     Volume 1,  Issue 1                                                        October, 2005                                                                   Page 6


   Suddenly, within five seconds of my mischievous, contriving thought, a big, burly raccoon waddled in front of the car, moving toward the front steps of the cabin.

                                    And, the Devil made me do it!

   As he reached halfway between my car door and the porch steps, which were some 15 feet away, I reached over, and turned the key in the ignition. The car exploded instantly into a threatening metal monster!

   That coon’s eyes got big, as he startled and jumped straight up in the air! He must have moved faster than the space shuttle, and almost turned white with fear, like an albino. He moved so fast, he almost left the stripes on his tail behind!

   Last night, if a raccoon’s stripes are like Army rank, that coon was so scared he instantly went from a master sergeant to a buck-private! You want to know why they call animal droppings “scat”?  Well, that’s all he left, as he scatted and shifted into passing gear, almost running into the steps on his way out!!!

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

Early Pioneer of Vallecito -
Chief Buckskin Charley

(l. - r.) Little Plume (Piegan), Buckskin Charley (Southern Ute), Geronimo (Chiricahua Apache),
                  Quanah Parker (Comanche), Hollow Horn Bear (Brule Sioux), American Horse (Ogala Sioux)
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

   One of the early pioneers of the Vallecito area was the respected and longtime Southern Ute Chief Buckskin Charley. He served as chief 16 years longer than the 40-year term of John Ross of the Cherokees, and many times the term of most chiefs, of all tribes through history. He also had some big moccasins to fill, that of his predecessor, Chief Ouray.

   Buckskin Charley was a noted chief of the Southern Ute Indians, in the last half of the 1800's. He succeeded Chief Ouray in August, 1880, upon Ouray's death from Bright's Disease, during the tumultuous times of the Colorado Gold Rush era. This was a time when white men were killing each other over every little plot of ground they could grab.

   Born in 1840, Buckskin Charley, also known as "Sapiah", became a prominent Ute chief in 1870, right in the midst of the Indian Wars, when the U.S. Army and government was battling with many tribes. Before Chief Ouray died in 1880, Buckskin Charley was Chief of the Mauche and Servero Bands, and Principle Chief of the Capote.

   In a handwritten, personal diary of Jim Weaselskin's granddaughter I recently read, Belle Cuthair wrote a firsthand observation of the living Chief Buckskin Charley she knew: "He was half Apache from down around Tierra Amarilla. The Utes often frequented the northern part of New Mexico where the Apaches ranged. The Weaselskins (Northern Utes fleeing the forced movement to Utah) had settled on reservation land that was apparently not assigned to them. Buckskin Charlie  perhaps didn't feel those Northern Utes deserved such choice Southern Ute land and a nice, wooden house."

   The Weaselskin Creek, off Endlich Mesa to Vallecito Creek, is named for Belle's family, who settled in Vallecito after the 1880 death of Chief Ouray, and summer pastured their horses on the mesa. Chief Buckskin Charley didn't have any affinity for the Northern Utes moving in, and was a staunchly loyal and concerned leader to his own people.

   He married his squaw, Te-Wee, also known as Emma Buck, and lived at Ignacio. The couple posed for a portrait photograph in full native clothing, taken by Rose and Hokins of Denver, in 1899.
(Denver Public Library, Western History Department)

   Buckskin Charley was the Ute Indian leader responsible for convincing his people to follow a peaceful way of life, by setting an example as a successful farmer in the Los Pinos River valley. This followed the peace philosophy and policies of Chief Ouray.

   When Buckskin Charley lived in the Vallecito area, the Ute Indians called the meandering part of Vallecito Creek, now under the lake built in 1940, "Shu-ah-gauche" or
"Crooked Water".

   At the same time the related Andrew Frost family, including brothers John, Carl, and Sam, Ute tribal members living south of Bayfield, drove their cattle to summer pastures in Chicago Basin, by way of Red Creek and Carbonate Basin, Buckskin Charley and tribe member Rob Richards drove their herd up East Creek to the east of Vallecito Valley. Annetta Buck, Buckskin Charley's great-granddaughter from his son Antonio Buck, married Jack Frost, Andrew's son. When Buckskin Charley removed himself from the cattle business, the Frost family assumed rights to the grazing range.

   Frequently, his Southern Ute Indians rode into Bayfield from Ignacio, in full headdress, on 4th of July holidays, to participate in parades and rodeos.

   After Vallecito settler Daniel Pargin died of exposure in the winter cold, in December of 1882, leaving his wife Serelda, and four boys, plus a newborn girl, to raise by herself, the then new Chief Buckskin Charley befriended the family. He would show up with six pairs of moccasins for the family, and some food. The Pargin family and Buckskin Charley and the Ute Council and warriors became such close friends, Ben Pargin was adopted by the Ute tribe, in a special ceremony approved by his mother. His learning the Ute boys' hunting and fishing skills provided food for his family.

   In 1890, Chief Buckskin Charley was presented the Peace Medal by President Benjamin Harrison. He prized the Peace medal as one of his most precious possessions, and wore it proudly, especially for photographs.

   During his 56 years as leader of the Ute people, Chief Buckskin Charley went to Washington numerous times. In the course of his trips there on behalf of his tribe, he met personally with seven U.S. presidents.

   Vallecito and the Bruce Sullivan ranch were the scene of many of Buckskin Charley's family and friends' get-togethers for the Sullivan rodeo. Riding all the way on horseback, and arriving at nearly noon, they convened for events, including calf roping, bronco riding, and wild-cow milking, at an entry fee of $5 per person. The biggest event was the Sullivan rodeo each Labor Day. The Model "A" Fords and other vehicles would form the arena by making a circle, like a wagon train at camp. In 1938, two years after Buckskin Charley passed away, the Bruce Sullivan Ranch was covered by Vallecito Lake. Sullivan went out of the cattle business, and into being Sheriff Sullivan of La Plata County.

(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

   Buckskin Charley served as Chief of the Southern Ute Indian tribe for 56 years. He died in 1936, at age 96. When he was near death, Buckskin Charley requested two things: to live back in his traditional teepee, and to have his life-long friend, Ben Pargin, at his side. Ben made it to Charley's bedside in time to be recognized and to remain with Buckskin Charley for the last few moments of his friend's life.

   At his request, Buckskin Charley's burial was according to ancient tradition. His face was painted with a white stripe down over one eye and to his chin, a symbol of sickness or death.
That custom is identical to the burial sites found of Pre-Columbian Indians in Mexico and Central America, which date back to before the time of Christ!

   His son, Antonio Buck, succeeded him as Chief, until the Southern Utes changed to a Tribal Council form of government, and his position became Tribal Chairman. That's the reason the Southern Ute leader is no longer called "Chief".

           Clement Frost is the Chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, today.

                                                                Gary Courtney
                                                        Author, Photographer & Historian

Chief Buckskin Charley,
c. 1890's, wearing his Peace Medal
from President Benjamin Harrison
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

Footnote to Jim Weaselskin:   
                                                            In 1918, an influenza epidemic swept La Plata County,
                                                                     killing 5 of every 75 people.
                                                            Jim Weaselskin was one of the victims.
                                                            The government agent later changed their family surname to Williams.

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

   Chipeta and Chief Ouray's home was near the present site of Montrose, Colorado, from 1875 to 1881, until his death. It was located on the southern edge of Montrose, on 400 acres dedicated to Ouray.

   Their small, modest home was adobe brick construction, one story and attic, with a wood shingle roof. The home was built and fully furnished, down to the rugs and stoves, by the U.S. government.                    

Chief Ouray and Chipeta
(Photo courtesy of State Historical Society of Colorado)

   Chief Ouray spoke four languages: Ute, Apache, English and Spanish. He was raised as a child in a Spanish home near Taos, New Mexico. On many occasions, he traveled as far as Washington, D.C., as an emissary of his "Blue Sky People", as the Utahs were known.

_____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

   The Bruce Sullivan ranch house had to be moved for Vallecito Lake in 1938, as did the Patricks of Wit's End. When the Sullivan house was moved on skids, it was placed at its destination setting facing in the same direction as before the move.

   Where is it now?
The old original Sullivan ranch house is the store at Elk Point Lodge!

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

   Sam Parks settled the Pine River Valley in 1894, to raise potatoes and hay.

   Sam was known to have killed 12 mountain lions in a single day, with his favorite lever-action 1899 Savage 30-30 rifle and dogs. He's shown in old photographs holding one of the big cats, and his favorite rifle, which I identified using a magnifying glass to get a good view.

   Personally, being a collector, and having owned several 1899 Savages, lever-action Ballards, 1895 Marlins, and 1873 Winchesters, I tend to agree with him on the quality of hunting rifle he favored. The other brands were well-advertised, but Sam's Savage was the best built firearm, and a comfort when facing the big cougars.

   Parks' homestead was next to a realignment of the road and a giant ponderosa pine landmark in the middle of the road, now known as C.R. 501. The Parks land was at the intersection of 501 and Spring Gulch (Florida Road), and was known, and still is known, as "Black Dog Corner".

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

   The name of the town of Bayfield was decided by the toss of a coin.

   Early pioneer Warren A. Schiller, who donated the land south of Mill Street to the development of the town, wanted to name the town Schillerville.

   William A. Bay, who owned the land north of Mill Street, wanted to name the town Bay's Field.

   They tried to come up with a compromise using both names, but failed, and decided to toss a coin to settle the issue in a gentlemanly fashion. Bay won the toss!

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  ____________________________________

   Dr. E.W. Newland and his wife Edna Francis Bell Newland's second home in Bayfield, built in 1911, was a pre-fabricated two-story house, ordered from the Sears & Roebuck mail order catalog. The material and plans were carried by rail to Ignacio, and by freight wagons and mules to Bayfield. Concrete blocks for the foundation were poured on the site.

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

   The Riverside Home, the center of Baytown social events, was also referred to as the Hartman Hotel, in 1911.

The grand Home was owned by Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Salyer
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

   The Bayfield Silver Fox Farm, owned by L.E. Jenkins, marketed their furs as far away as the historic Hudson Bay Company of London, England, by 1930.

   The Hudson Bay Company, known for its excellence in fine furs for centuries, was the original explorer of much of North America, as early as the 1600's. They competed strongly against other companies in the American Northwest for the fine pelts taken by famous mountain men and frontiersmen, such as Jim Bridger, Jeremiah Johnson, Jim Sevier, and Kit Carson. The early furs were often traded for during remote mountain rendezvous, such as on the Green River in Wyoming.

   The fox farm, once noted for its quality, is now a pasture on the Jenkins family homestead.

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

   James McKinney moved his family from Bayfield to the Pine River Valley, in 1913, loaded in a covered wagon.

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

   The first person to settle in the Pine River Valley, other than the Ute Indians, was not white. He was John Taylor, the son of black slaves, and veteran soldier for the Union in the Civil War, a black cavalry member of the famed "Buffalo Soldiers". He moved to the Vallecito area in 1871, and married a Ute girl.

   After the Civil War, John Taylor had come west to Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, where he lost his wife and children to smallpox. It was after he moved to the Ignacio area, when he married Kitty Cloud, and became a member of the Ute tribe.

   John Taylor was one of the most popular and well respected members of the Ute and white community. He often brought his family on camping trips to Vallecito, and delivered the mail south of Bayfield.

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

   The earliest permanent white settlers in Vallecito, other than the Wit's End's John Patrick, were mostly after 1881 and the movement of Indians to the reservation, and included:


John T. Graham, and


Thomas Wilson, on the east side of Vallecito lake by Graham Creek and Wilson Creek,


Charles C. Graham, on the present-day Teelawuket Ranch,
where his original cabin still exists,


George Brawner, of Brawner Canyon, on today's Cool Water Ranch, and


Adolphus Germain, homesteading on the current Dunsworth/Warlich Ranch, south of Sawmill Point.

   The nearest settlement, from 1877 until 1898, was Pine River, some eight miles south of Vallecito. The one-house community had a stage depot, a flour mill, and a post office, later moved to Bayfield.

Pine River Store & Post Office
The three numbered are: 1- W. T. Helm, 2 - Chief Buckskin Charley, 3 - Charles F. Wood, Postmaster in 1890
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

   Other families settling on homesteads along Vallecito Creek from the 1870's and '80's to the early 1900's included:


The John Patricks of Wit's End Ranch,


The Decker brothers, Elmer, Claude and Jim, of Decker Livestock Company,


The Bruce Sullivans, of the Sullivan Ranch,


Grace Bishop Soloman, of Wilderness Trails Ranch, originally part of Teelawuket,


The Grahams, Peter Scotts, and John Kirkpatricks of Teelawuket Ranch,


The John Porters and General William J. Palmers of Granite Peaks Ranch, with General Palmer also being the founder and owner of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad throughout the state,


The Charlie Dunsworths and Commodore Warlicks,


The Leonard Browns, who had a sawmill,


The Beutons, of Cool Water Ranch,






The Will Pearsons and Louis Wilmers,




The Jasper Glovers,


The Sam Parks,


The George Pattons,


The Fred McCoys,


The Rob Richards,


The Mars,


The Nicholas Wommers, and


Dave Burkett and Louis Lissner families.

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

   The name of the local "Teelawuket" Ranch, on Pine River above Vallecito Lake, means "Summer Home" in the Ute language.

   Charles C. Graham and his brother, Joseph Howard Graham, were the original homesteaders of Teelawuket, naming it Graham Park, in 1886. The remains of the cabin are still there.

   John Kirkpatrick bought the ranch, and built the large ranch house with European craftsmen, in 1895.

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

   The Wit's End Ranch area settlement began before the Civil War, its first cabin being built in 1859. An earlier structure may have been left by the French trappers, in the 1700's.

   The lodge at Jim Custer's Wit's End Guest Ranch is a restored hand-hewn, timber-frame barn, built in the 1870's by the first permanent settler, John Patrick, with massive timbers and stone foundation. The ranch underwent a major restoration in 1988, and opened as a guest "Dude" ranch in 1992, drawing wide national acclaim and ranking as a Four-star guest facility.  The lodge serves guests as a dining room, reception area, library, and gathering center.

   The 1836 custom-made mirrors adorning the lodge tavern and a door were preserved from the Crystal Tavern of the grandest building built at the time in London, the Crystal Palace. Jim Custer located the mirrors, stored for many years, and negotiated for their purchase.

   Unknown to many, the cabins, now made modern, are the original cabins from a long succession of ranch owners since Patrick, and some very early occupants. Some of the cabins are from: 1930, 1910, 1870's, 1859, and one stockade-type dates as early as the 1720-60 French fur trader era at Vallecito, which lasted until about 1850.

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   According to Emerald Flint Patrick in the 1880's:

         "The stagecoach route came over Yellow Jacket Pass and on west to the Bellflower Ranch by the old settlement of Los Pinos. There it crossed over the Pine River on the middle bridge to Moss School, went out Wallace Gulch, and on past Benn Springs before going through Horse Gulch to Durango."

                    Note:  Emerald Flint Patrick's father was "Wash" Patrick, son of John Patrick, who
                                 settled in Vallecito in 1879. The family were the first owners and founders
                                 of Wit's End Ranch, and helped the Kirkpatricks of Teelawuket Ranch raise
                                 and milk eggs from trout in the Kirkpatricks' privately-owned
                                 Emerald Lakes.

Other stage routes included:


A route, after February 1, 1881, with Concord stagecoaches daily traveling from the nearest railroad, at Chama, to Pagosa, and on to the Animas City/Durango area.


A stage over the mountains from Animas Forks to Lake City, to connect with the Gunnison stage.


In 1914, during the mining boom at Cave Basin, a route was established by George Taylor of the Ignacio and Bayfield Stage Line, which transported people to and from the mines.

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The Vallecito Lake & Dam

   The Vallecito Lake and Dam were constructed in 1939 to 1940, and opened, or closed (the gates) if you will, in 1941. Dottie Warlick, of Vallecito, and her husband Dave tell the whole story in Dottie's very interesting and informative book, "Vallecito Country", one of my bibliography references for this web page.

   Very succinctly, these are the specifications:


The Vallecito Dam:  Length -    4,000 feet,
                                     Height -    162 feet,
                                     Width  -    35 feet at the top,
                                                      900 feet at the widest part of the bottom,
                                     Fill       -    3,738,000 cubic yards of crushed rock and earth,
                                                             mostly from near the Vallecito Campground.


Vallecito Lake:          Surface area -     2,720 acres,
                                     Capacity       -     129,700 acre-feet.

   The lake and dam were built by the Bureau of Reclamation and Wunderlich Construction.
Those primarily responsible for making it happen were the farmers and ranchers of the Pine River Valley, and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Everyone wanted to ensure a controlled water source for keeping the valley fertile and preventing floods.

   Only one flood has occurred since the dam was constructed. That was in 1957.

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Some Firsts in San Juan Country


The evidence of the first people building houses in the Durango area -
Mr. I. F. Flora's tree-ring dating established inhabitants circa 1000 B.C.


The only courthouse in the western third of Colorado -
A one room log structure at Howardsville, above Silverton, toward Eureka and Animas Forks, in 1875.


The first schoolhouse in San Juan Country -               
A tiny one-room log cabin at Animas City, in 1876.


The first La Plata County Courthouse -
Located where the Strater Hotel now stands.


The first train to reach Durango, the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway -
Had the first town mayor, John Taylor, Jr., drive a silver spike from La Plata ore, at the music of the City Band and with an excited crowd, on July 31, 1881.


The first store in Durango -
Built by Major James P. Alcorn, February, 1881.


The first theater in Durango -
"The Coliseum"
, operated by M. B. Marshall, town trustee, on E Street (7th) east of Railroad.


The first piano in Durango -
was delivered to Mrs. C. M. Williams' home on Railroad and C Street (5th).


Durango's first physician -
Dr. P. F. Bellinger
, who originally arrived in town the summer of 1881,
without his prospective bride, riding a railroad flatcar.
He became the county doctor and the railroad physician for the D. & R. G. Railroad.
Later was the house doctor at Mercy Hospital, having helped to get Mercy built.


The first building on the east side of Main in the 800 block -
The Windom Block, constructed by William Windom in 1886. Windom had been
Secretary of the United States Treasury in both 1881-83 and 1889-91, and invested heavily in the town of Durango.


The first wagon road into Rico -
was after the mining rush of Spring of 1879. Flour sold at $50 a sack, and some food and goods were not even available, because everything had to be packed in.


The first female residents of the Dolores Valley -
Mrs. William Embling and Mrs. Henry Knight, in August of 1879.


The first wagon freight to Rico -
A sawmill brought in by Jim McJunkin, September, 1879.

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Silverton in 1874
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

   In 1883, Durango was the site of a smelter, which served  Silverton and the surrounding area, by melting gold and silver, lead, and copper out of the mined ore.

   Judge Greene and William Greene, owners of the largest store in Silverton, acquired a   group of mines, and sold them with the Greene smelter in New York. Pioneer banker John L. McNeil assisted in the transaction. The resulting company, the San Juan & New York Smelting and Mining Company, then built the smelter in Durango, in 1877. Mining engineer John A. Porter, later co-owner, with
General Palmer,of the Granite Peaks Ranch at Vallecito,                    Silverton c. 1880
was the new, young manager.                                                                          

   From experience with my own mine, a lost mine which I re-discovered from the 1880's, and from my friend of the 1970's, Brad Place, president and operating partner of the Mary Nevin and El Paso Mines and mill in Cripple Creek, I know that anywhere you find the occurrence of one, gold or silver, you find the presence of the other, in an average natural ratio in the Earth's crust of 32 to 1. Back then, the miners and assayers missed the finer gold that is now extracted by the cyanide solution method, sometimes from tailings they threw away 100 years ago.

   The narrow gauge steam train we ride today, between Durango and Silverton, is running the same route the ore trains ran in 1883, 122 years ago.

Note:    Learning a great deal about gold mines made me appreciate the mill and smelter processes.
                        In addition to working in geophysics and geology in an oil company, and utilizing the emission
                        spectrograph facilities at Dowell Research laboratory for assaying my mine and panning samples,
                        I helped the Home Petroleum Gooseberry Mine of Sparks, Nevada computerize its operations,
                        in 1976, and made a personal research tour of Asamera Minerals' Wenatche, Washington
                        gold mine, from the top to the bottom, as a guest of their management.

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The Banking History of the Area

Animas City, circa 1870's
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

   By August, 1880, Animas City was a thriving log-cabin town. Mr. Alfred P. Camp arrived, and rented a front space in the Goodrich Weightman and Wilcox store, the largest in town, and, as cashier himself, opened the Bank of San Juan, on September 1, 1889.

   When the postmaster took Mr. Camp on horseback to see where the city of Durango was going to be built, the area of present day Main Avenue to Third was covered with nothing but sagebrush, sunflowers, and some huge pine trees.

  Former Territorial Governor A. C. Hunt was the person responsible for Durango's location and name. Engineer Charles Perin (of Perin's Peak in Durango) surveyed the site. Durango was a town by the Fall of 1880, and functioning with an elected mayor, John Taylor, Jr., and other officials by the next Spring, on May 13, 1881. Those elected included: Recorder W. E. Parsons, Trustees M. B. Marshall, James Reed, O. F. Boyle, and John Foley.

   The town, the smelter, and the bank were pre-planned, integral blocks of the foundation to bring the railroad to San Juan Country.

   The Bank of San Juan was moved from Animas City to Durango on March 6th, 1881. The safe was loaded on an ox sledge, and dragged all the way.

   Later, in the same year, The Bank of San Juan incorporated as "The Bank of Durango".

   On February 4th, 1882, the First National Bank of Durango was founded.

   When, in 1885, The Bank of Durango acquired the First National Bank of Durango, The Bank of Durango also assumed First National's name. Both banks were Federal charters.

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"The Solid Muldoon" Newspaper of Ouray
from the "Ouray Primer" by David Day, in the early 1890's

        "God hates a coward, yet there are several of them engineering so called newspapers."

        "There never was a brewery boycotted, or a distillery's products called Unfair.
                  They are all good or better."

        "What is a legislature?", the child asked.
        "In Colorado, it is a conglomeration of Rural and Metropolitan Asses
                  elevated by Misguided Suffrage
                  to positions intended by the Constitution
                  for Brains, Honor and Manhood", I replied.

        David F. Day and partner Gerald Letcher started "The Solid Muldoon" newspaper
on September 5, 1879, with Solid meaning Honest, and Muldoon referring to a William Muldoon, who Day respected as ethical. On October 17, 1882, they made it a daily for a short while, then went back to weekly.

        Day's coarse western writing style was a hit in the mining town, and preceded the similar style, by four years, of the famous writer Eugene Field, whose later "Primer" in the Denver Tribune credited Field with having begun the style.

        Both writers were precursors to another sharp-witted columnist of the 1930's, who was published daily in over 500 newspapers around the world, Will Rogers.

        David Day was very much respected and admired by Otto Mears, the road and railroad builder. Mears gave Day a railroad pass, good on any route in Colorado, made of solid gold.
There was only one issue upon which the two men did not agree. David Day publicly, in print, disagreed with removal of the Utes from their native lands.

        As a conscience on morals and ethics, he was the ultimate, to individuals and groups, alike. He weathered through countless threats and 42 lawsuits, but won out in the end, because he told the truth. He was a Civil War battle veteran, with saber-scarred cheeks, and no one could shake him. He became a terror to pretentious politicians and mining con men.

        After Governor James B. Grant of Colorado appointed Day to his staff, during 1883 and 1884, Day was dubbed "Colonel" Day, and the moniker remained with him the rest of his life.

        He refused to join any organizations or groups, saying it would be a conflict of interest to his objective  journalism, save one - Medal of Honor Men of the Civil War .

At that time, there were only two men in the entire state of Colorado who held the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism in battle in the Civil War -
                    General William Jackson Palmer,
                 owner of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and Granite Peaks Ranch at Vallecito,                             and
                     Private David F. Day, owner and editor of The Solid Muldoon of Ouray.

           "Colonel" David F. Day, wearing his Medal of Honor                      General William Jackson Palmer,
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)                         of Granite Peaks Ranch in Vallecito

   David Day's battle experiences in the Civil War included:


Four times wounded by bullets,


Cut through the foot with a saber, by one of enemy General Wade Hampton's escorts,


Three times a prisoner and sentenced to death, three times escaping,


Constructing a Confederate uniform, and walking boldly into the enemy General Wright's headquarters, to secure an order for transportation to Georgia, where he walked back to Union lines,


A division scout of the 2nd Division 15th Corps, by the age of 16, and


Chief of scouts for General Frank P. Blair, when only 17.

He spent all the Civil War in the army, and when he was discharged, he was still only 19!

        After the war, he and General Blair went to Missouri, where David Day met his wife-to-be, Victoria Sophia Folck. They were married March 10, 1870, in a Presbyterian church in Arrowrock, Missouri. During 10 years in Marshall, Missouri, where Day had a grocery business, they had five children.

        When they arrived in Ouray in 1878, after losing their savings by co-signing a note for a friend, they had barely a penny to their name. A friend who came with them from Missouri, Gerald Letcher, practiced law, and David Day cut cord wood. The only major possessions they brought from Marshall, Missouri were two mowing machines, in the mule wagon. Closer to Ouray, there was no road, just a steep trail. So, David Day dismantled both the machines and the wagon, and packed the pieces into Ouray by mule!

        When Letcher raised some money from local Democrats to buy a printing press, David Day walked on foot 28 miles through the rugged mountains to Lake City, to buy the printing equipment and ship it by wagon to Ouray.

       During his tenure as owner and editor of the newspaper, he traveled as far away as London, in 1888, and was received there by Queen Victoria. She treated him very graciously, and was a fan and subscriber of The Solid Muldoon newspaper, for several years.

        In March of 1892, Colonel Day moved his family and the newspaper to Durango, where he published both a daily and a weekly paper. They left their beloved 160-acre Chipeta Ranch, on the river near Ouray, and bought the Kruschke home in Durango.

        In July of 1892, he consolidated the two newspapers, and moved them into a building he built for them on 8th Street.

        In 1893, President Grover Cleveland appointed Colonel Day as Indian Agent for the Southern Ute Indians, at Ignacio. He served in the position the exact number of days over three years as he served in the Civil War.

        Colonel Day's son-in-law, Thomas Tulley, published the newspaper from 1900 to 1912, when David Day and his son Rod assumed management.

        During that period, Victoria Day and son Guy took over and operated the Trimble Springs Hotel, September 1, 1906. She purchased a small ranch at Bondad, which she lived on after David Day passed away.

        In December of 1924, the newspaper was sold to George W. Lane and J. B. O'Rourke, and it was, in turn, sold in April of 1928, to a Mr. J. H. McDevitt. From the time of first introduction in Durango, and through multiple owners, the newspapers had a series of name changes.

David Frakes Day had left behind a huge footprint
in early Colorado journalism and courage,
in his establishment of those newspapers and his stories.

The name of his last newspaper?
It is now
The Durango Herald!

The succession of names had gone from the Daily Herald & weekly Muldoon, in March, 1892
Day's change, in the Fall of 1893, to The Durango Weekly Democrat,
McDevitt's April, 1928 consolidation of the Democrat with the Durango Evening Herald
The Durango Herald-Democrat.
In 1952, Arthur and Morley Ballentine purchased the newspaper,
and Richard Ballentine is the current publisher.
The Durango Herald also now owns the Cortez Journal and the Dolores Star.

When David Day passed away in Durango on June 22, 1914, he was removed to Denver for burial in the family plot at Riverside Cemetery.
Meeting the family in Denver was a fellow Civil War veteran,
who officiated at the graveside services,
and who saw to it the services were by
the Denver Chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic.
That fellow veteran was Mr. Otto Mears.
His Medal of Honor inscription read:

The Congress
to Pvt.
David F. Day
Co. D. 57 Ohio Vols.
Gallantry at Vicksburg, Miss.
May 22, 1863

He was a soldier before his 15th birthday, and, without schooling,
could not even sign his name when he enlisted!

Victoria Sophia Folck Day
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

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   What was the town of Telluride, before it was called

Telluride Main Street, looking east,

The original name of the mining town was Columbia.

The name was changed on June 4, 1887, in order to reflect the tellurium ore, or gold telluride,
that was prevalent in the geological formations of the rich mines.
There was also a conflict with a similar town name in California.

The telluride formations included bonanza-rich mines, such as the
Sheridan, Mendota, Smuggler, and Union Mine
When John Donnellan and William Everette leased the Sheridan
from prospector John Fallon, in 1878,
they cut a 100-foot tunnel, into the vein rich in
sulphide, zinc, lead, copper, iron, silver, and gold.

Other rich mines of Telluride included:
The Liberty Bell, situated two miles north of Telluride, and west of Marshall Basin,
The Tom Boy Mine, discovered in 1880, one mile east of Marshall Basin in Savage Basin, and
The Keystone, a placer mine, four miles west of Telluride on the San Miguel River.

The Newport Mine, named after Newport, Kentucky, opened in 1876,
and was changed to Pandora, in 1881,
the same name as the ore mill a couple of miles above Telluride,
on the San Miguel River.

The Road to Smugglers Mine in 1902
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

Between 1902 and 1923, under Bulkeley Wells as president and general manager,
the Smuggler-Union Mine produced $50,000,000 in gold!
In 1900, the mine consisted of 35 miles of tunnels, and 325 miners.
Wells became president or director of at least 60 mining companies,
in Colorado, Nevada and California, and
president of Western Colorado Power Company and First National Bank of Telluride.

In 1882, Sanderson's stage office had the only telephone in the town,
beginning to replace the telegraph messages in Morse Code.
The first church services were held in Jim Hurley's Corner Saloon.

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San Miguel Valley Bank of Telluride Robbed

   A cowboy named Robert Leroy "George/Bud" Parker, from Harry Adsit's huge LC Ranch near Lone Cone, up in the Norwood area, robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank of Telluride, on June 24, 1889.

   On the Adsit ranch, Bud was working with 5,000 head of cattle and 1,000 horses,
on a range of over 30 square miles. He never was caught by the posse.

   A friend of Parker's, Harry Longabaugh, who also raised and worked with horses and worked on the LC Ranch, lived in Durango, then moved to  Cortez, where the two met.

Parker later became the leader of the infamous "Wild Bunch" of Utah and Wyoming,
hiding from the law at the "Hole in the Wall" box canyon.

He was better known by his alias nickname -
Butch Cassidy!
and his friend, Harry Longabaugh, from Cortez
was later known as -
"The Sundance Kid"!

It was only fitting that the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid",
starring Paul Newman, as "Butch" and Robert Redford, as "Sundance",
was filmed with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

"The Hole in the Wall Gang"
(l. - r.) Harry Longabaugh (The Sundance Kid), Will Carver, Ben Kilpatrick, Harvey Logan (Kid Curry),
and Robert Leroy "George/Bud" Parker (Butch Cassidy)
in 1900.
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

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Otto Mears "Pathfinder of the San Juan"
by Gary Courtney

Otto Mears in front of Engine 100 of the Silverton Railroad,

(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

   The visionary builder and owner of the 450 miles of 15 toll roads in Colorado, including the road from Durango to Ouray, was also:


Constructor and owner of the first flour mill in Conejos, in the San Luis Valley.


Builder of his first toll road over Poncha Pass, in 1867. This was after he spilled a wagonload of wheat on rugged terrain.


Operator of pack trains from Saguache to Denver, by way of La Veta Pass and Pueblo, from 1866 to 1873.


Founder and publisher of the Saguache Chronicle, the first newspaper there, in 1872.


Founder and publisher of the Silver World in Lake City, publishing the paper with equipment in a tent. First issue delivery at Del Norte was by the editor Mr. Wood, on snowshoes.


Builder of the road from Saquache to Howardsville, across Cochetopa Pass to Cebolla Valley, and over to the Lake Fork and on to Lake City, in 1871. This is the road General Phillip Sheridan rode in 1879, on his way from Ouray to the original Fort Lewis at Pagosa.


A freighter, who began freighting from Saguache to Lake City, as soon as he finished building the road.


Translator for Chief Ouray of the Southern Ute Indians.

Otto Mears, with Chief Ouray and Chipeta
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)


The designer and contract agent for the U.S. Mail routes in the San Juan country,
in 1876, the year Colorado became a state.


Owner and operator of a hardware store in Saguache, with Louie Schwanbeck, in the Dunn Block building in 1876.


One of three Presidential Electors for Colorado, in 1876,


One of five commissioners appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant to find a peaceful solution in the relocation of the Northern (White River and Uncompahgre) Ute Indians.


A close family friend of Colonel David Day, owner and editor of "The Solid Muldoon"
newspaper in Ouray. Later, Day moved and founded the Durango Herald.


Builder, in 1880, of the toll road from the Uncompahgre Valley over the Dallas Divide
to Columbia (Telluride) and San Miguel City, 
a trip of two days by stagecoach from Montrose.
The weary travelers could then rest at the American House hotel.


Builder, in 1881, of the original road from Ouray to Ironton, seven miles south of Ouray on Red Mountain, at a cost of as much as $40,000 a mile! The toll station was at Bear Creek Falls.
The road was later used for the Million Dollar Highway, in the early 1920's.

        Ironton in 1888
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)


Builder and owner of the Mears Hotel, which started a construction boom on Main Street in Montrose, where he lived at the time. The hotel later was headquarters for the
J.C. Sanderson Company, which ran four-horse stages
from Montrose to Gunnison, Ouray, and Telluride.


Representative to the Legislature from Saguache County, in 1884.


Chairman of the Committee on Counties and County Lines, helping form Montrose, Delta and Mesa Counties.


Commissioner to supervise construction of the Colorado State Capitol building.
In recognition of his service, the Colorado Legislature voted to engage an Italian artist to create a stained glass portrait of Otto Mears as one of the windows in the Senate Chamber.
Otto Mears was the one who suggested a gold leaf dome on the Capitol, and was involved in the planning, building and maintenance of all Colorado state buildings, until 1922.


Builder of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad,
which was constructed from Ridgeway to Placerville and Telluride, in 1890. This made Montrose the freighting center supplying and shipping ore for the mining towns.


Creator of the town of Ridgeway, as a terminus connection point between his Rio Grande Southern Railroad, and the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad from Montrose.
The town was located three miles up the Uncompahgre River from the community of Dallas,
and was named for the Denver and Rio Grande Superintendent of the Mountain Region, R.M. Ridgeway, who had loaned locomotives, engineers, and cars to Mears.
George Hurlbutt was the surveyor
, and the town plat was filed July 7, 1890.
The depot at Dallas was moved
to a little community called Colorow, after the Ute chief, and, because of the Meeker Massacre, its name and the Post Office name, Brown, were changed to Olathe, suggested by new depot agent Will Finney, of Olathe, Kansas.


Originator of the custom of rail passes, made of buckskin and trimmed in gold and silver.


Builder of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, 160 miles from Ridgeway, through Placerville and Rico, to Durango.
As a result, Placerville became one of the largest cattle shipping centers in the world.

   In Southwest Colorado alone, Otto Mears:                           


Built the first sawmill,                                An Otto Mears Toll Road


Built the first grist mill,


Planted the first wheat crop in Saguache County,


Owned the first threshing machine,


Was the first County Treasurer,


Carried the first mail into Ouray,


Dug the first irrigation ditch, and


Built the first telegraph line in Colorado.

   Otto Mears was an orphan immigrant, born May 3, 1840, in Kurland, Russia, of Jewish descent. He  lost his English father at the age of one year old, and his mother shortly thereafter.

   After being passed around by relatives, including to an uncle who had 12 children, Otto Mears ended up in New York City, and then selling newspapers on the streets of San Francisco at age 10.                                                                                              (Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

   At the outbreak of the Civil War, Mears received his Naturalization papers, and joined the 1st Regiment of the California Volunteers Company, serving under Kit Carson, and was discharged at the end of the war,  in 1864.

   Prior to coming to the San Juans, he worked at a mercantile store in Santa Fe, and opened his own store in Conejos in the San Luis Valley.

   In 1870, he married Mary Kampfschulte, at Granite, Colorado. She had come there with her brother from Germany. She was abruptly initiated into the ways of the frontier, when their home was attacked by Indians, on the first Christmas of their marriage. She was a benevolent representative of the family, and very charitable to those in need. Both Mears were known to be a champion of the "under dog".

   The Mears had two daughters, Laura and Cora. Their home in Saguache was on the site of the current Saguache County Court House, and they lived, at various times, in Denver, in 1880, and Washington, D.C., moving to Silverton in 1907 for their mining involvement.

   Mrs. Mears, a true pioneer woman, merged her charm, culture and refinement with an adventurous spirit and expert horsemanship. She frequently accompanied Otto on road building projects, driving a very spirited team of black horses. She was even known to have driven straight down a mountainside, with her daughter tied onto the seat, and drag logs tied to the back of the buggy, to keep it from rolling over the horses!

   Otto Mears was very moderate in his personal habits, not drinking but an occasional glass of wine with a meal. His one passionate diversion was the American game of "draw Poker", and he was quite good at it.

   He had only one basic problem in building the railroads, that he never overcame. When he was building the Animas Forks Railroad from Silverton, in May, 1903, he and his superintendent hired Navajo workers during fill work at Eureka. The only problem was Otto Mears didn't speak the Navajo language. His superintendent related how funny it was to watch Mr. Mears assume the role of crew boss, and to try to tell the Navajos something by gesturing. The more frustrated or angry he got, by not being able to communicate, the wilder his arms waved. The Navajos started waving and gesturing back at him, in jest, and everyone laughed, including Mears. Mr. Mears gave up, and went back the Denver, turning the day-to-day concerns back to his superintendent, George Vest Day, son of David and Victoria Day.

   (George Vest Day was also a member of the survey crew that mapped a railroad route all the way to Clinton, Arizona, in 1901, to try to link with the coast-to-coast major rail line there.
His mother, Victoria Day, was the first woman to ever ride on Mears' toll road out of Ouray, on horseback on a Sunday in 1882. The road was completed just past Bear Creek Falls, without a bridge, and she and Otto Mears rode over Bear Creek Falls on two boards.)

   Otto was a charter member of the San Juan Pioneer Association, consisting of only those who came to the San Juan Country before July 1, 1881.

Otto Mears died on June 24, 1931 at age 91, in Pasadena, California.
At his request, his ashes were sprinkled over the mountains he had conquered -
on Engineer Mountain, southwest of Silverton.

His memorial plaque still stands today, at the edge of Bear Creek Falls,
on the Million Dollar Highway.

Otto Mears, "Pathfinder of the San Juan"
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________


The town of Pomona, Colorado was named after the Roman Goddess of fruit.
It was destined to be grown to great size by the coming of the railroad, and the site of large commercial fruit orchards.

   The original town site was selected by Joseph Selig, 21 miles up the Uncompaghre River from where Grand Junction founder George A. Crawford and surveyor Samuel Wade, had staked out a site to create the town of Delta. Joseph Selig and O. D. "Pappy" Loutenhizer, known as "Lot", laid out the 320-acre townsite, with the help of A. Pumphrey, John "Dad" Baird, S. A. Culbertson, Ben Nichols, and Major Adams.

   Chief Ouray and Chipeta had their winter home near here, and hosted Joseph Selig on his first scouting visit.

   The first cabin in the town was built by "Dad" Baird, circa January 1, 1882, and he later operated a livery stable one block north of the newly-built first hotel in town, built by some construction guy trying to encourage other businesses to locate there.

   Building continued along the same street, old 10th and now called South 7th, because it was believed the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad would locate its depot there. The tracks were being laid from Gunnison to Salt Lake City, through the Black Canyon, while the town tried to materialize in its path.

   The town of Cimarron, at the confluence of the Cimarron River and the Gunnison River near Squaw Hill, was created as a "helper" town for construction of the railroad, where it came out of Black Canyon.

   On January 20, 1882, a town meeting confirmed the site. The surveyor selected was H. C. Cornwall, and a plat of the town was hastily filed on record February 25, 1882. Incorporation came in April, 1882, with the consenting votes of 112 new residents.

   Pomona doesn't even show on a map of Colorado.

   It seems that during the town meeting to select the site, a suggestion was made by Joseph Selig. He was founder of the town and the person, along with William A. Eckerley, who had brought in the town's only sawmill, so buildings could be frame instead of log. Selig's suggestion was to honor the famous contemporary author of the time Sir Walter Scott, by changing the name of the town to that of one of Scott's recent books.

So it was, that the town of
was born, named after
the Duchess in "A Legend of Montrose",
by Sir Walter Scott !!!

And the name of the construction guy, who wanted to help the town grow,
by building a hotel?
It was Otto Mears!

   J. C. Frees built the first grocery store, A. E. "Uncle Bud" Buddecke and Charles Diehl had the first general store, Major Adams was the first lawyer in town, Dr. D. W. Cummings was the first doctor and the first mayor, and Abe Roberts opened the first newspaper, "The Messenger", in Spring of 1882. In 1883, Aspenfelter planted a large commercial fruit orchard on Spring Creek Mesa, only four miles west of Montrose, and the projects began to create irrigation ditches in the area.

   The long-awaited railroad reached Montrose in June of 1882, but it built the depot and track to a different side of town. This sent businesses scurrying, with the help of free town property, to relocate. This is when Otto Mears stepped in to build his hotel, and try to relocate and encourage new business in the future Main Street of Montrose.

   "Lot" Loutsenhizer later bought the Mears Hotel, and the fancy and expensive, 50-room Belvedere Hotel was built, in 1889, complete with two plush lobbies and a bar. Ironically enough, the Belvedere burned down only three years later, in 1892, during a Fireman's Ball!

   Dave Wood then built his freighting empire, and the Dave Wood Road, from Montrose to Telluride across Horsefly Mesa. This was the only way of hauling freight in and out of Telluride, until Otto Mears built the railroad there.

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

   Chipeta park, between Colorado Springs and Woodland park, where an old friend of mine, Colonel Jim Walker (USAF retired), had the Chipeta Gems rock shop for years, is named to honor Ute Indian Chief Ouray's squaw, Chipeta.

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

Gunnison in Colorado

Captain John Williams Gunnison
(Courtesy of State Historical Society of Colorado.)

   Originally a Spanish claim by Cabeza de Vaca in 1528 and by Coronado in 1540,
the Western Slope of Colorado was ceded by Mexico, on February 2, 1848,
by the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo at the end of the Mexican War.
It was near this same time, in 1846, when Texas joined the Union,
after being a separate nation for 10 years.

   The name of Gunnison, Colorado, and the Gunnison River
comes from only five years later, in 1853.

   Captain John W. Gunnison of the Topographical Engineers was sent by the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, to chart a route for the first railroad through the Uncompahgre Country and overall Western Slope of the Rockies.

   This was when Jefferson Davis, nine years before the Civil War and his role as President of the Confederacy, also commissioned an 1852 Army expedition to explore and map the uncharted Red River to its unknown source near Palo Duro Canyon by Amarillo. The area was still referred to as "Louisiana", being acquired in 1803 by Thomas Jefferson from the French. My personal library includes the original 1852 account submitted to then Secretary of War Davis and the 33rd Congress, plus the volume of maps and hand-engraved pictures of geological formations, fossils, and flora and fauna they recorded on the expedition.

   Captain Gunnison was preceded by an escort of Captain Morris, and a detachment of 30 soldiers from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, then Army headquarters for the entire Missouri Western Region.

   The soldiers built any needed roads and temporary bridges for the Gunnison survey party, including: 16 freight wagons, 108 mules (6 per wagon), an ambulance wagon, and a survey equipment wagon.

   The harsh, steep terrain the Gunnison party had to navigate began on the Continental Divide at Cochetopa Pass, and included the Black Canyon, 2,240 feet deep and up to 3,000 feet wide, which they skirted to the south on Blue Mesa, and continued, to reach the Uncompagre River on September 15th of 1853. They followed the river to its junction with the Gunnison River

   In following the Uncompahgre River, they passed the current sites of Montrose, Olathe, and Delta, Colorado. When they met the Gunnison River, they went downstream to its junction with the Colorado River, near where Grand Junction, Colorado exists today.

   After they traveled as far west as central Utah, Captain Gunnison was killed by hostile Piute Indians, reconnoitering the Sevier River.

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________


   At the time Horace and "Baby Doe" Tabor lived in Leadville during the Silver Boom,
in 1879, the town of Leadville had grown from 1,200 to over 16,000 in one year, and had:


19 hotels,


41 lodging houses,


82 drinking saloons,


38 restaurants,


13 wholesale liquor houses,


10 lumber yards,


7 smelting and reduction works,


2 sampling works for testing ores,


12 blacksmith shops,


6 livery stables,


6 jewelry stores,


3 undertakers,


21 gambling houses,


4 banks,


A fire department & militia, and


3 newspapers.

   Horace Tabor was the first mayor, and the first postmaster, before he became Lt. Governor, and built the first bank, the opera house, the Tabor Grand Hotel, and the fire department and militia. He also owned the largest silver mining operations in Leadville, including the Matchless Mine and the Chrysolite Mine.

   It was at this time he bought the land and built the Tabor Block at 16th and Larimer, and the Windsor Hotel, and the Tabor Grand Theatre, in downtown Denver. He also  bought half of the First National Bank in Denver, the block at 16th and Arapahoe, later provided to Denver for the Post Office, and the Henry P. Brown house on Broadway, for a summer residence.

   A trip from the mining town of Blackhawk or Central City to Leadville required traveling by Colorado Central narrow gauge railroad to the Forks, and on to Georgetown. From there, a stage traveled 56 miles, over Argentine Pass and through Ten Mile Canyon, in order to bring you to your destination at "Cloud City", as Leadville was known. The fare for the stage was $10.

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________


 Chief Ignacio, of the Weminuche, Capote & Muache Utes          Elizabeth McCourt "Baby Doe" Tabor
                                                                                                                                (After clicking above, click on "Slide Show",
                                                                                                                                            at lower right of the next screen.)
(Courtesy Ft. Lewis College, Center of Southwest Studies.)


Indian Projectile Points & Other Stone Artifacts

Late Archaeic to Woodlands Period,
from the author’s collection.

Crow Canyon

Tuckerville & Cave Basin

The Strater Hotel

 _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

Research Bibliography:    "Pioneers of the San Juan Country"
                                                             by the Sarah Platt Decker D.A.R. - Durango, CO
, 1942
                                                "Uncompahgre Country"
                                                             by Wilson Rockwell
, 1965
                                                "Vallecito Country"
                                                             by Dottie Warlick of Vallecito
                                                                        A special thank-you to Dottie, for signing my copy.
                                                "Bayfield and the Pine River Valley 1880-1960"
                                                             by Laddie E. John of Bayfield

                                                                       A tip of the hat and my very best regards to Laddie,
                                                                         who now lives in Durango, for his work on the book.
                                                "Silver Queen"
                                                             by Caroline Bancroft
, 1955

            _____________________________________  *  *  *  _____________________________________

At My Cabin in the Pines
Gary Courtney
Author, Photographer & Historian

    As the nearly-full moon rose last night, over the mountains towering above Vallecito Lake, it shone bright through the tall pines and illuminated the white bark of the aspens in front of my cabin door. The constellations inched their way across the night sky, shining brilliantly through the thin and unpolluted mountain atmosphere. I looked through the forest, while I sat on my front porch steps with a bottle of local Durango dark beer, and could see the moon casting an eerie glow on the grass of the small meadow, before the dark forest lining the banks of the creek a block away.

   A wolf howl echoed far up the deep valley toward Runlett Peak and Tuckerville, piercing the song of the singing rapids of Vallecito Creek, making its way toward the lake a half mile downstream.


     Volume 1,  Issue 1                                                        October, 2005                                                                   Page 7


At My Cabin in the Pines (Cont’d.)

    At 9:30 P.M., the bright Fall moon was rising in Father Sky, about 35 degrees above Mother Earth’s horizon, 20 degrees above the 10,148-foot peak of Middle Mountain, where the mountain’s rocky, heavily-forested crags rose sharply 3,256 feet above Vallecito Creek, on the far side of the valley from my cabin.

   The temperature registered 40 degrees at nearly 6,892 feet elevation, on the 16-inch, clocklike thermometer hanging on the wall next to my front door. Sitting there under the protective porch roof, I knew frost would be on the meadow grass and my car, when the temperature dropped to near freezing before the night passed. Just think, I was camped out in the same cold, alone and with no shelter, only two nights ago, up on the nearby Pine River Trail!

   Come morning, my fold-up chair on the porch becomes, as my favorite rock or log at a wilderness campsite, a place to perch and watch the sunrise, while opening my eyes with a first cup of coffee. Here, comes the chattering of the squirrels and the scolding of the jays, in the tall pine acting as a frame of the view of the mountain above the creek. The local mascot chipmunk flits his bushy tail at me, as he jumps from one log to another on the woodpile, and scrutinizes me at a safe distance.

   The smell of sage sausage and hickory-smoked bacon frying, biscuits just baked, and freshly-brewed coffee fill the air, and whet the appetite. The crisp mountain air does its work in making everything taste its best.

   Finishing a simple breakfast, I check the batteries in my camera and my film supply, put on my boots, hat, and jacket, and begin my day’s work in the cool Fall air, with my lens and pen during daylight hours, and with my laptop computer late into the night.

   In my traipsing about the mountains and valley, the only traffic I will possibly encounter consists of a wrangler from the Big Corral or Wits End Ranch, leading horses and riders on a trail crossing the lake edge road, occasional errant, runaway black Angus cattle, from the Teelawukut Ranch on the Pine River, and deer, crossing the road from a verdant, lush-green meadow of the Golden Eagle Ranch below the lake.

   Sometimes I set forth by foot, sometimes by horseback, sometimes by canoe or sail, and sometimes by vehicle. It is my assignment in life to miss nothing, to remember all, and to record everything of significance and noteworthiness, in this God-given world we so briefly visit.

   The measure of a person’s life is the mark they leave behind. Part of my mission must be using my varied life experiences and knowledge, gained while I’ve tried to learn and make the world a better place, and using my innate love of people, places, and nature, in order to understand, describe, and tell about participants, as history unfolds.

 September 16, 2005

The Original Inhabitants of the San Juan Country
At This Time, in the Winter of 1878
Scared Out of Its Stripes
Chief Buckskin Charley
Chipeta and Chief Ouray's home
The Bruce Sullivan ranch house
Sam Parks
The name of the town of Bayfield
Dr. E. W. Newland's second home
The Riverside Home of Bayfield
The Bayfield Silver Fox Farm
James McKinney moved his family
The first person to settle the Pine River Valley
The earliest permanent white settlers in Vallecito
Teelawuket Ranch
Wit's End Ranch
The stagecoach route
The Vallecito Lake & Dam
Some Firsts in San Juan Country
Durango was the site of a smelter
The Banking History of the Area
"The Solid Muldoon" newspaper of Ouray
Telluride's original name and mines
San Miguel Valley Bank of Telluride Robbed
Otto Mears "Pathfinder of the San Juan"
Chipeta Park
Gunnison in Colorado
At My Cabin in the Pines


All but three of the  above stories, "Scared Out of Its Stripes", "At My Cabin in the Pines",
and "Baby Doe Tabor"
 were researched, written, typed, proofed, corrected, programmed, and tested,
until 2:00 A.M., the weekend of November 12-13, 2005.

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Copyright 2005 Gary D. Courtney