The Boggsville Times
THE BOGGSVILLE TIMES
Written and edited by Richard F. Carrillo,
The summer issue of The Boggsville Times History Notes section introduced the American Period and American Influences During the 19th Century. This issue concludes the series with a continuation of the American Period and its transition to Boggsville today.
The American Period: 1849-1900 (con’t)
Prowers was soon joined by his brother-in-law, John Hough. Hough was a merchant from Missouri and came with a load of goods to open a store and go into business with Prowers. Hough and his wife (the only American woman at Boggsville at the time) lived in three rooms of a six room adobe house near the original settlement site. Prior to his death in 1868, Kit Carson and family lived in the other three rooms of this house. Hough left Boggsville in April of 1869 and moved to Trinidad to open a store.
Prowers continued business as merchant and freighter, but his main passion was the raising of
high quality cattle. He began breeding better beef cattle while still at The Meadows. He continued cattle raising to the time of his death in 1884. He controlled most of the grazing land along the north side of the Arkansas River, extending over the prairies to the north. Where he controlled the water, he controlled the open range. At some point in his career he owned over 10,000 cattle.
In February of 1869, William Craig, a notorious lawyer and land speculator, having Power of
Attorney for Ceran St. Vrain, sold 400 acres to the Trustees of the Las Animas Town Company to layout the new town of Las Animas City. The town was located in the northeast corner of the Vigil and St. Vrain land grant, about three-quarters of a mile from Fort Lyon, on the south side of the Arkansas River, and three miles northeast of Boggsville. A toll bridge over the Arkansas river was constructed in July of 1869, connecting the main Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail with roads along the south side of the river, leading to The Meadows, Boggsville, Bent's Old Fort, and Trinidad. Other ferries and fords across the river, upstream and downstream, were soon out of business. Las Animas City grew to about thirty buildings and to a population of about 150 by January of 1870. It appeared that Las Animas City would become the hub of the newly created Bent County.
Las Animas City was a trade center for troops of Fort Lyon and for the surrounding countryside. A.E. Reynolds, the sutler at Fort Lyon, had a dry goods store in town, and R.M. McMurray, a former officer from the fort, also had a store. The Barlow and Sanderson Southern Overland Mail and Express Company used the town as a major stage stop on its line between Kit Carson and Santa Fe, and Prowers and Hough soon opened a commission house and transfer company. The town enjoyed a brief boom, and by the spring of 1873 it boasted 700 inhabitants (Las Animas Leader, 6/27/1873). Reflecting the influences of New Mexico, many of the buildings in Las Animas City were of adobe, some of stone, and a few were wooden frame on stone foundations. As the town grew it quickly acquired a reputation as a wide open frontier town.
Las Animas City had been named the county seat in February of 1870, but at the following election Boggsville was designated the county seat and remained so until after the election of 1872. After Boggsville was designated the county seat, due to Las Animas City's reputation as a wild town, Boggsville was selected as the site of the first public school in new Bent County. Prowers and others had hired Mattie Smith as a subscription school teacher in December 1869, but it was not until 1871 that a new public school was opened west of the Prowers house. Its first teacher was Peter G. Scott. The children of Kit Carson, John Prowers, R. M. Moore (son-in-law of William Bent), and others attended during the first term.
In July 1867, Dr. William A. Bell, undertaking a survey of a southern railroad route to the Pacific Ocean in July 1867, photographed the original settlement of Boggs Ranch, situated on the west bank of the Purgatoire River. Excerpts from Bell’s journal describes the ranch as follows:
Three miles farther we crossed the Purgatoire, to join the surveyors on the eastern bank, over a bridge built by settlers who live in this part of the valley.... Then there was Mr. Boggs, a tall, shrewd, energetic Western man, by whose perseverance fine fields of maize and wheat seen on either side had been planted.... Two or three other Americans, doing business in a small way, either as traders or farmers, also lived in the colony....
On crossing the river [to west side] we found a well-filled ranche on the opposite side, which had only just been built by two enterprising Yankees [Boggs & Prowers or Prowers & Hough]. Here we could buy everything--cloths and candles, bowie-knives and groceries, canned fruits and Mexican saddles, powder and shot, boots and shoes, caps and crinolines, Worcestershire sauce, whiskey, and drinks without end. This well stocked storehouse, raised up in the wilds, to which everything has to be carried hundreds of miles by wagon through hostile Indian country, speaks more for the extraordinary energy and foresight of these Western traders than any panegyric I could write....(Bell 1965: 80-83).
The establishment of West Las Animas at the rail head prompted the movement of freighting to the southwest, beyond Boggsville's reach and convenience. Only local traffic passed through Boggsville by late 1873, and the hamlet settled down to become a typical large ranch headquarters for Boggs and Prowers. While the establishment of Las Animas City halted the thought that Boggsville might someday grow to become a town, the future of Las Animas City was doomed by October of 1873 when the Kansas Pacific Railroad built the Arkansas Valley Railway branch line from Kit Carson, bypassed Las Animas City, and established the new town of West Las Animas, north of Boggsville. By the early 1880s, Las Animas City had vanished except for its worn streets, foundations, and discarded fragments of habitation.
In 1874, Bent County's borders were expanded through its incorporation of Greenwood county. Greenwood county was originally formed in 1870, along with Bent County, from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation formed in 1861 as a result of the Treaty of Fort Wise, when Colorado became a territory. After its expansion, Bent County covered over 9000 square miles. In 1889, Bent County once again underwent a transformation in its size when six new counties – Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Kiowa, Lincoln, Otero, and Prowers, were formed from Bent and Elbert Counties.
In the early 1870s, Boggsville began its decline. This was mainly due both to the establishment of the rival town of Las Animas City in 1869, opposite the Arkansas River from Fort Lyon, and the coming of the Kansas Pacific Railway to West Las Animas in 1873. Thomas Boggs moved to New Mexico in 1876. John Prowers moved to West Las Animas in 1874 but retained his holdings at Boggsville until 1883. Boggs sold the ranch property containing Boggsville to John Lee in 1883 and it was renamed the San Patricio Ranch. John Prowers died in 1884. The former settlement dwindled and the adobe buildings returned to their natural state. Tenants occupied both houses after John Lee’s death until 1970.
Maintenance of the structures was not carried out and by 1985, only two of the original period structures remained, albeit in a state of bad repair. The site had once contained more than twenty structures. The property containing 110 acres was gifted to the Pioneer Historical Society in the late 1980s and rehabilitation of the Boggs House was initiated in 1989 and completed in 1992. The rehabilitation of the Prowers House began in 1993 and completed in 1996.
Before the establishment of Boggsville, or the Boggs' Ranch as it was known in the early 1860s, the lower Purgatoire Valley had been the setting for thousands of years of occupation by the Native North American groups. Beginning with the period from the late 1500s with the founding of New Mexico, when the initial European influences began from the south by Hispanic New Mexicans, a continuous impact occurred to the Native Americans cultures. Beginning in the early 1820s, and culminating in the late 1840s, a radical change was brought about by the American political conquest of the region. One of its successes consisted of total displacement of the Native American populations area by the late 1860s. Land lying south of the Arkansas River was claimed by Spain upon purchase of adjoining lands north by the United States, under the Louisiana purchase in 1803. The area claimed by Spain was its northern frontier. This region was situated away from the Spanish center of government in Mexico City, and European and American trade goods were not easily accessible on its northern frontier. Mexican independence from Spain in 1822, opened access to permanent trade with the Eastern United States and Europe, and led to the establishment of the Santa Fe Trail. In the early 1830s, Bent’s Fort was established on the north side of the Arkansas River, thirteen miles west of future Boggsville, in response to Santa Fe trade and the lucrative market demand for furs and hides in the eastern U.S. and Europe. The fort was the center of trade on the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail during the period ca. 1834 to 1849.
As a means to keep control of its vast frontier, Mexico offered large tracts of lands to its
citizenry in exchange for settlement and production. This giving of land reached its peak in the 1840s and many millions of acres were given to notable Europeans and Americans who had become Mexican citizens. The Vigil-St. Vrain Land Grant (also known as the Las Animas Grant) , comprised over four million acres, and was given to Cornelio Vigil and Ceran St. Vrain. Vigil was an influential New Mexican rico. St. Vrain was a trader and partner of William and Charles Bent of Bent, St. Vrain and Company, the proprietors of Bent's Fort. Although the land grant was contested, Boggsville and the surrounding area derived good title through settlement on the Las Animas Grant.
In the midst of the major increase of settlement activity along the lower Purgatoire Valley during the late 1860s-1870s, the historical importance of Boggsville is evidenced by its inception in the early 1860s in the midst of questionable land grant titles, unresolved Native American antagonism to further settlement, the presence of U.S. troops protecting the Santa Fe Trail trade, and explosive movements of Americans to the gold fields in the Colorado Rockies. Sometime during ca. 1862 or 1863, Thomas O. Boggs, L.A. (Leftwich) Allen and Charles L. Ritc established a settlement on the west bank of the Purgatoire River for purposes of raising stock and crops. Boggs, as well as John Prowers and Kit Carson, was originally from Missouri and arrived in the region in 1841 to work at Bent's Fort.
Boggsville was first built near a sharp bend in the Purgatoire River. The buildings were made of local timber or adobe and followed a typical New Mexican architectural pattern. There are indications based on the archaeological, historical and pollen data that the original site may be associated with the early Bent Period (ca. 1830s-1840s through the late Bent Period (ca. 1850s). Thomas Boggs built an L-shaped adobe building south of the original settlement. By the year 1866, a successful Boggs built a new seven room adobe house on higher ground west of the original settlement. This probably occurred based on the location of the original settlement adjacent to the Purgatoire River where flooding presented a problem.
In 1867 Fort Lyon was relocated to the north bank side of the Arkansas River, northeast of Boggsville, fromits former location near Bent’s New Fort. In 1865, a branch of the Santa Fe Trail was located through Boggsville. Traffic reached its peak from July 1869, upon construction of a bridge across the Arkansas River between Fort Lyon and Las Animas City, through October 1873. During this time, one notable addition to the settlement was made by John W. Prowers who built a large two-story adobe house north of the Boggs House between 1867 and 1869. Prowers had been in the territory since coming to work at Bent's New Fort in 1856. He pioneered a large successful cattle ranching business along the Arkansas River, in addition to his involvement in the mercantile business with his brother-in-law, John S. Hough who came to Boggsville in 1867. Hough operated the newly constructed “trading house” east of Bogg’s first house at the original settlement along the Purgatoire River. The store was located at the entrance to Boggsville, north and adjacent to the Santa Fe Trail branch and a newly constructed toll bridge.
Kit Carson and his family lived at Boggsville, in Bogg’s original house, and shared half of it with John Hough, in the months prior to his death at Fort Lyon in 1868. That same year, Boggs added a wing with two rooms to the house. It is thought that this was done at this time to create more living space, as Thomas and Rumalda Boggs became the guardians of Kit and Josefa Carson’s children. Architecturally, the addition served to create a New Mexican style porched courtyard on the south side of the house. During the succeeding years, Boggsville and the adjoining upriver area, became populated by many families and individuals.
(Note: The entire series was taken from a study entitled A SUMMARY OF THE CULTURE HISTORY OF SOUTHEASTERN COLORADO (2009) by Richard F. Carrillo, Principal & Historical Archaeologist, Cuartelejo HP Associates Inc., 719.384.8054. If anyone is interested in a copy with bibliography, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).