Sidebar by Martha Quillen
History – December 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine
It’s impossible to say how many settlements there were before San Luis was founded. Some communities were abandoned almost as soon as they were founded, and many were known by several names. Communities also sported similar names, like Culebra — with “San Francisco” and “San Antonio” being particular favorites.
The common dates given for the birth of known communities can be confusing. For example, I had 1849 for San Pablo, but Jessen has 1848. I used 1849 because it was used by Simmons, several Wet Mountain Tribune articles, and a genealogical website, whereas Jessen cites Olibama Lopez Tushar’s People of the Valley.
The reality: it’s entirely possible that both dates are wrong since official records for these vintage communities are seldom available. But it’s also possible that both dates are right — since towns were often scouted out, camped at, and settled over a period of time. In some cases, though, I found dates for arrivals and foundings that were not just one or two years different but six or seven years apart. Such discrepancies, however, seem to be a natural part of trying to recapture the lives of those who came before towns, magistrates, court houses, and county clerks.
As Jessen, the author of several volumes about Colorado ghost towns and local lore, points out: This information was often recovered years and even generations after the fact through oral histories.
For our part, we tried to match up the dates in these two articles for the sake of consistency, and we generally deleted dates that were wholly mismatched in so many sources we didn’t know what to think. There were also other discrepancies regarding whether early settlers stayed or left or were driven out by Indians or just plain disappeared. In those cases we told the story as best we could.
But of course, there’s always the chance that in articles like this one — with so many dates and so many facts to check — we’ve flat out gotten something wrong. So if you have another version of history that you feel is more accurate, by all means write to us. We welcome your input.
For those who want to know more about Colorado’s early towns (and there were many, many more of them than we’ve mentioned), we’ve included bibliographies for these articles. But in the course of working on these articles, we also consulted numerous other sources for checking dates … and for color, clarity and understanding.
In that light, we recommend that readers interested in Colorado’s pre-statehood history should also consider checking out works about early frontiersman like James Beckwourth, Uncle Dick Wooten, Kit Carson, and the Bent Brothers, and generalized histories of western characters like Hafen’s famed work Mountain Men and Fur Traders of the Far West. Numerous good books about the trappers, traders, mountain men and town builders of this era are available and can give some dimension and color to the lives of early settlers like Thomas O. Boggs, Joseph Doyle and Lucien Maxwell.
Also valuable to complete this picture are books about the Native Americans in our region. The Utes, the Navajo, the Pueblo, the Cheyenne, the Arapaho, the Jicarilla Apache, and the Kiowa were the primary residents hereabouts, but Apache and Commanche bands more commonly thought to be at home in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas also played a pivotal role in the history of settlement in our region.
Jessen tells us that there are also two new books available about San Luis this year, published for the town’s sesquicentennial:
“La Cultura Constante de San Luis (in English) by Randall Tweeuwen, editor and photographer, with contributions by several noted authors. This is well-written and well-illustrated and draws heavily on The People of El Valley by Olibama Lopez Tushar.
“Celebracion San Luis 150 years by Charlene Garcia Simms, published by El Escritorio, is a commercial publication with advertisements.”