Come Back to Our Valley
February is drawing to a close and March will bring more mud and potholes. We complain and at times smile at our complaints, but it was serious back in the 1880s. Just getting to town was bad enough without having to get out of a buggy and wade through mud to be able to tie the reins of a horse to a hitching post. No gravel crusher existed so any feeble attempts to put small rock down on the streets would soon disappear. Women must have grimaced as they got out of the buggy in long skirts and waded through the mud that seemed to be everywhere.
I remember a couple of times going to town with my parents in the buggy. Fifty years had passed since the 1880s and a car sat beside the buggy in the garage but it would have been nearly impossible to get out the lane and into town with the car. I well remember my cap and coat and the blankets.
The good roads we have today were built on the backs of those who came before us. Graveling the road to Cortez was a big deal as was gravel on the streets in town and roads outside of town. People knew they simply had to put up with what they had.
My father went to the Webber School about two and a half miles south of town until he was in high school and then he was transported by an enclosed school wagon pulled by a team of horses. My mother was only a year old when the Webber School was closed so from first grade until she graduated twelve years later she rode in the team-pulled school wagon. She said it was not only cold and uncomfortable but that the wagon seemed to hit every pothole between home and town.
In 1888, George W. Spencer was appointed as the first road commissioner. The $500 a year must have seemed at times like a slap in the face as people complained and he tried to get roads graded and pot holes filled.
In July 1913, $18,000 was appropriated to make a "good" road between Mancos and Durango. It was to be a first class graded road with dirt and rocks as the base. The construction started at the top of Mancos Hill and came west toward Mancos. It was tried again in 1919 with $40,000 appropriated. Gravel surfacing, the first in the county, was tried along with reducing the grades and cutting out some of the sharp curves. No cars traveled on that road in the winter until 1923.
The first graveling of streets in the county was done in 1923 on South Main Street and continued on south to the foot of the Cedar Grove Cemetery hill.
The road from Durango to Mancos and on to Cortez was declared a national highway (160) in 1925. The first paved road in the county, however, wasn't started until 1936 and that was east of Mancos.