150 YEARS OF HISTORY
Boggsville played an important, and brief, role in the development of Southeast Colorado. The settlement’s local and regional historic value was recognized by its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, as an early Colorado agricultural and trade center, and is also a certified site on the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.
Boggsville was established in 1866, but the history of its location has been written about numerous times prior to Thomas Boggs settling here. Zebulon Pike made entries in his diary on November 15, 1806 about camping on the banks of the Purgatoire some two miles south of the Arkansas River. Major Long reported camping in the valley of lost souls in Purgatoire in1820. The trader and explorer Jacob Fowler camped at the mouth of the Purgatoire on November 13, 1821 and recorded that the Kiowa’s were established in the area. Early explorers enjoyed the native beauty of the valley, as it provided food and shelter for them, and a place to rest their horses so as to regain their strength on the rich grasses.
Thomas Boggs first came to the region in 1840, and worked at Bent’s Old Fort for about 6 years as a trader. During this period he learned to speak the languages of 11 Indians tribes, and Spanish. He was considered by William Bent as the most useful and trustworthy of plainsman of the time. In 1858 Thomas was employed by Lucien B. Maxwell in Cimarron, New Mexico. It was around this time that he brought some sheep and cattle to the Purgatoire River in the spring and summer time. Recognizing that the area was ripe for ranching he acquired land from Vigil & St. Vrain/Las Animas Mexican land grant by way of his wife Rumalda, and they built a house on the Purgatoire River in 1862. In 1866 they built a more substantial adobe building to house them and additional structures for employees or tenants who helped supported the agricultural and business operations.
John W. Prowers came from Missouri in 1856, and also found employment with William Bent. He worked as a store clerk and later as an Indian agent at Bent’s new fort. When Fort Lyons was moved to its present location in 1867, Prowers realized the importance of being near the Fort, he knew a ready market for fresh vegetables and beef was needed. So, in late 1867 he moved to Boggsville and started raising crops and livestock to sell to the army, had a two-story adobe house built in 1868 at Boggsville. He also secured a contract for a stagecoach station, built a store, and helped improve the farming enterprise to help supply food to the army at Fort Lyons.
Kit Carson a good friend of Thomas Boggs secured his own land grant south of Boggsville and also moved to Boggsville in late 1867, and lived in the first house Boggs had built in 1862.
Boggsville became the gathering place for settlers not only for protection from Indians, but also for social gatherings. Being most active between 1866 and 1873 there were over 30 buildings at one time that housed the farmers, cowboys, store clerks, school teacher, and many more people to support the small community. In 1873 the railroad established a railhead in the new town of West Las Animas, two miles to the north of Boggsville. West Las Animas quickly grew and as a result Boggsville’s importance died out as a prominent place for the local people.
Boggs and his family moved to Springer New Mexico in 1877, when the land grant he had gotten back in 1862 was disputed. He sold out to John Lee for $13,000. Over the years it has passed to various owners and lessees. In 1985 Alta Page gave the land to the Pioneer Historical Society of Bent County. The Boggs and the Prowers houses were in great disrepair at that time, so a committee was established to reconstruct both houses. By 1993 both houses had been restored to reflect their hay day style of 1866-68. Unfortunately, due to the lack of capital, the houses are showing the stress of age.
Funds for a long range strategic plan for this historic site can help keep Boggsville from falling into disrepair again. We are working with interpretive consultants to replace and upgrade the existing interpretive signs since many of them are severely weather damaged. The Bents Old Fort Chapter of the Santa Fe trail Association, does a cleanup one day ever year before we open for the season. We have future plans to move the RV site’s and establish camp ground with restrooms, and a maintenance facility to help enhance the visitor’s experience.