71 pages WITH foldout map attached to inside back cover. #2109 of 2500 copies.
The Southwest has had a most romantic history. It is the oldest portion, both in the way of interior exploration and in the way of settlement, in the United States.
The Coronado Expedition of several hundred Spaniards left Mexico in 1540 and journeyed up into what is now central New Mexico. The convoy consisted of soldier aristocrat on their caparisoned horses and in their picturesque regalia, and of common soldiers, fortune seekers and servants. Accompanying the train were hundreds of horses packed with supplies and hundreds of cattle, sheep and hogs for food purposes.
They established themselves at Tiguex, New Mexico and spent two years, 1540-42, conquering the Indians and searching for treasure. One party went west and discovered the Grand Canon and another went east as far as Kansas. They found no riches but explored, mapped and named the country and took possession of it for Spain.
New Mexico was settled in 1595, permanently, except for a short period when the populace fled because of an Indian uprising. The first capital was San Juan though it was soon moved to nearby Santa Fe. It should be noticed that this settlement preceded colonization on our eastern coast.
No one knows when the Spanish first entered Colorado but the country seemed well-known and named when Juan Rivera made his first trip into it in 1765. Ile led a party across the southwestern part of the state to the Utah border and back to the Gunnison River near I Hotchkiss. Within the next ten years he made three more trips of the same kind.
The Escalante expedition of 1776 wanted to find a northern route from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. They followed the same trail as had Rivera to Hotchkiss but from there went north and then west to Utah Lake. Because of a shortage of food they started home, crossing Utah, the Colorado River and Arizona and arriving at Zuni, New Mexico. This party very thoroughly mapped and named everything in the course of the journey.
The most commonly traveled route across Colorado was the "Old Spanish Trail", used in the 1830's and 40's by trade caravans operating between Santa Fe and Los Angeles, woolen goods going to the west and horses and mules to the east. It traversed Colorado, Utah and southern Nevada. All of these caravans, incidentally, crossed the Animas River and Ridges Basin Pass just at the south edge of Durango. This last part was later used by the American pioneers.
Meanwhile, trappers were thoroughly working every stream in Southwestern Colorado and selling their furs at Taos or Santa Fe.
After the war with Mexico and due to the treaty of 1848 the United States acquired all of the southwestern part of the country.
Gold was discovered on Cherry Creek, the Denver area, in 1859 and a rush to that place began. The same year Captain Baker led a prospecting group into what was later Silverton and named the spot "Baker's Park".
Two years later he, with another party, made his way up the Animas River and established the little town of Animas City, fifteen miles north of present Durango. There the settlers panned the river for gold and built the first bridge in all of southwestern Colorado, "Baker's Bridge". The panning operation was not successful and, on news of the outbreak of the Civil War, the whole citizenry precipitately departed.
After the Civil War a young man by the name of Otto Mears moved into the Saguache country and went into the wheat raising and merchandising businesses. To get his wheat to market he had to start building roads. I le ended up with about 450 miles of roads which laced together all of the mountain towns in the extremely rugged San Juan Mountains.
Mears served as Indian Commissioner for a number of years and, as such, negotiated several treaties with the Utes. The first one in 1868 forced them out of central Colorado, the second one in 1873 forced them out of the San Juan Mountains and the third one in 1881 forced them out of Colorado entirely. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad arrived in Durango in 1881 and in Silverton the next year. Meanwhile it was building another line from Salida to Grand Junction and arrived there in 1883. Four years later a branch was run from Montrose to Ouray.
The same year, 1887, the Silverton Railroad, one of the subjects of this booklet, started out of Silverton and was completed in 1889. The next one, also a Mears creation, was the Rio Grande Southern, built in '90 and '91, which ran from Ridgway via Telluride and Rico to Durango.
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