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A Brief History of Lake City:
The Mining Era, 1874-1904

Transportation:  The Toll Roads

Road construction was accomplished through private enterprise during the first decades after Colorado Territory was formed on February 28, 1861.  The territorial legislature encouraged private citizens to organize toll road companies, established by paying a $5 permit fee and filing articles of incorporation that identified the road's two terminus points.  As soon as the Brunot Treaty was signed by the Utes, road construction began into the San Juans.  (Note: secondary sources conflict widely on names, dates, builders, and routes of the early toll roads, therefore Articles of Incorporation for the toll road companies were consulted for this report).

Road building in the Lake City vicinity began with the Saguache, Los Pinos, Lake Fork, and Upper Rio Las Animas Toll Road Company incorporated on September 16, 1873 by eight businessmen from Del Norte and Saguache.  The articles of incorporation describe a 125-mile route originating at Saguache Creek near the town of Saguache, proceeding to the summit of Cochetopa Pass, through the Los Pinos Agency, then continuing 20 miles south to the Lake Fork, "thence on the most practicable route" over the Continental Divide and along the Rio Las Animas to Baker's Park (present-day Silverton).  The articles of incorporation include the provision that the road would be built "within two years after a treaty shall have been made with the Ute Indians by the United States government for the territory comprised within the mines and opening up the proposed line of road to the same."  The toll road company was capitalized with $50,000 in stock.*

This enterprise was reorganized as the Saguache & San Juan Wagon Toll Road incorporated on March 9, 1874 with $40,000 in stock and terminus points the "upper crossing of the Saguache River" on the east and Baker's Park on the west.**  The articles of incorporation define a similar route "from the Valley of the Saguache River to the San Juan Mines" from west of Saguache over Cochetopa Pass and in a southerly direction to the Lake Fork, "thence by the most feasible route to the head of Baker's Park."  Otto Mears was a major investor in the company, recalling forty years later: "At that time Lake City was not known so I built a road to that point and organized Lake City and built a newspaper there."***  Enos T. Hotchkiss was commissioned to survey and construct this road.

Surveying the route near Lake San Cristobal, Hotchkiss discovered the sizable gold deposit that heightened interest in the San Juans and in the Lake Fork vicinity.  In August 1874, he and J. D. Bartholf built two log huts in the broad, park-like valley four miles north of Lake San Cristobal near the confluence of Henson Creek and the Lake Fork.  The 260-acre townsite was surveyed in fall 1874.  On July 21, 1875, altogether 22 investors organized the Lake City Town Company to sell town lots and promote real estate.****  The town was incorporated the following month, on August 16, 1875.
Meanwhile, in January 1875, the Hinsdale County seat moved from San Juan City to Lake City.  Hinsdale had been created in June 1874 from portions of Conejos, Costilla, and Lake Counties.  San Juan City in central Hinsdale County near the Rio Grande Valley was made the county seat.

The first stagecoach arrived in Lake City on July 11, 1875, inaugurating the Barlow and Sanderson's tri-weekly service to Lake City from Saguache.  Soon the stage arrived daily from Del Norte and Alamosa as well.  Travelers arrived at Saguache via the wagon road from Cañon City; others came northwest to Saguache from the railhead at La Veta.

Toll road building continued.  In 1875, the Antelope Park and Lake City Toll Road was constructed north from the south over Slumgullion Pass to connect with the Saguache and San Juan Road, competing with the toll road from Saguache by providing more efficient freight hauling and passenger access from the railhead at La Veta.^

Local mining investors Jacob J. Abbott, Jr., James W. Abbott, and Richard Woodward built the Henson Creek and Uncompaghre Toll Road in 1876 to serve the Galena Mining District.^^  The Uncompaghre Road was eventually extended west over Engineer Pass to access Ouray, with a branch forking south to access Silverton.  In January 1881, H. B. Oatman and H. L. Franklin opened a stage and express line offering passenger and freight service west to Henson Creek Forks.

Thousands of prospectors passed through Lake City from 1875 through 1877 and local businesses profited offering a full complement of goods, services, lodging, and entertainment.  The initial mineral rush sustained numerous transportation-related businesses in Lake City, including wagon makers, blacksmiths, saddleries, livery stables, harness makers, freighting firms, and toll road companies.

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* Certificate of Incorporation, Denver: Colorado State Archives.  Incorporators were W. C. Lewman, J. W. Jones, W. P. Holt, William Cooper, Ashley Cooper, J. D. Bartholf, John S. Long, and Byron S. Bartholf.

** Certificate of Incorporation, Denver: Colorado State Archives.  Incorporators were D. Herbert Dunn, Henry K. Prior, George S. Parson, J. D. Bartholf, D. P. Church, Isaac Gothelf, and Preston Hotchkiss.

*** Quoted by Ruby G. Williamson in Otto Mears, Pathfinder of the San Juan, Gunnison: B & B Printers, 1981, 7.

**** W. J. Ring, Otto Mears, Isaac Gothelf, C. L. Peyton, Enos T. Hotchkiss, George S. Parsons, H. M. Woods, J. W. Wingate, Henry Finley, F. Newton Bogue, J. W. Birdell, John H. Shaw, W. H. Green, B. D. Jones, A. W. Stollsteimer, Herman Lueders, Charles Newman, H. R. Thomson, William Meredith, James M. Sparling, Henry Richart, and J. D. Bartholf.

^  Certificate of Incorporation, Denver: Colorado State Archives.  Incorporated July 15, 1875 with $5,000 in stock.  Incorporators were John H. Shaw, Herman Schiffer, Alva Adams, Edwin J. Shaw, Charles Newman, and Henry Finley.  Completed November 22, 1875.

^^ Richard Woodward manuscript collection, Denver Public Library - Western History collection.
 Town of Lake City, PO Box 544, Lake City, CO  81235.  970-944-2333.  
Toll house at the entrance to the Henson Creek canyon, Henson Creek & Uncompahgre Toll Road.  Click for larger pop-up version.
Detail of a stereoview by Lake City photographer T.E. Barnhouse, Pack Train on Henson Creek.  Click for larger pop-up version.
Advertising poster for the Bradley Barlow & J.L. Sanderson Stage Line, Overland Mail Company.  Poster features "View of Uncompahgre Mountain, 14,440 ft above the sea, on Overland Stage Route."   Click image  for larger pop-up version.

The Barlow & Sanderson stage served Lake City starting in 1875.

Luggage on top of the stage is labeled "Kit Carson," "S.B. Maxwell" and "Col. Bent."

Text note on the left reads "This is the only stage line running to all points in New Mexico and the San Juan Mining District in Southern Colorado, in connection with the Denver & Rio Grande R'y."

Original poster is in the Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. Collection of Early Californian and Western American Pictorial Material Collection, at the The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.