Pagosa Country pioneers: E.M. Taylor

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
E.M. Taylor’s daughter (on left) with friend posing in Pagosa Lumber Company Engine No.37, probably parked at the depot in Pagosa Springs.[/caption]

We’ve been writing during recent weeks about Pagosa Country pioneers who had a major influence on local history. Last week we completed a series focused on Ethereal Thomas Walker, who played a major role in the struggle between Anglos and Hispanics for control of Archuleta County during the years immediately following the county’s creation, roughly 1885 into the early 1900s. Walker came to Pagosa Springs in 1879 and remained until he passed away June 4, 1916.

Our next pioneer of interest had a first name rivaling the name Ethereal Walker’s parents hung on him. Eudolphus M. Taylor visited Pagosa Springs in 1881 and obtained a contract to supply wood for the troops stationed at Fort Lewis. When Fort Lewis shut down he moved to Michigan for a year and returned permanently to Pagosa Springs in 1885.

Much of Taylor’s life paralleled that of Walker. Taylor was born in New York in 1846 and joined the Army of the North at age 17 and fought in the Civil War. You’ll remember that Walker was born in Virginia and joined the Confederate Army at age 17 and also fought in the Civil War.

Taylor apparently had some money and engaged in raising sheep and cattle in Pagosa Country. In the years prior to Pagosa Country having a bank, Taylor was a money lender. He was also deeply involved in politics and shared with Walker and others in the conflict with Hispanics for control of Archuleta County.

Taylor probably served more years in more elected positions in Pagosa Country than anyone else, before or since. He was the first county clerk and also the first town clerk and served in both positions for a number of years. He also served as court clerk and county judge.

Back in those days before computers, all town and country records were handwritten in ledgers. Taylor’s handwriting in those ledgers is a work of art in its clarity. In the interest of history, we should note that the writing had to be done in ink and fountain pens had not been invented. Consequently, Taylor wrote with a straight pen that had to be dipped regularly in a small bottle of ink. A blotter was kept nearby to soak up any spills. The ledgers I have read show no indication of blotting. Neither did they have removable pages.

On a personal diversion, I and folks my age had to practice handwriting in elementary school with the same tools Taylor used. In the fourth grade I was attending a country school called New Hope a few miles outside of Grants Pass, Ore. The year would have been 1944. It was a two-room school house. The teacher lived in one room and the other room was a classroom for grades one through eight. There were four or five rows of desks facing the teacher’s desk in front of the room. The left row started at the front with the first grade and the grades progressed from front to back with the eighth grade at the rear of the far right row.

There were two of us in the fourth grade. A girl with pigtails sat in front of me. An ink well containing a small bottle of ink resided at the front right of each desk. We were practicing handwriting. I couldn’t help noticing how the girl in front of me’s pigtail was really close to my ink. I couldn’t help dipping that pigtail into the ink. What I hadn’t noticed was the presence of our teacher coming up from behind on the aisle on my right. She got my attention really quick with a hard slap to the face.

There were several eighth-grade boys in that class. In those days, eighth-grade boys were considered men and a lot of them went to work after graduating from the eighth grade. Those boys resented what the teacher did to me and en masse they stomped out of the classroom. End of school for that day; end of story.

Next week we’ll continue with E. M. Taylor and the time he shot his son-in-law.