Boggsville now lies off the beaten path and is uninhabited but, founded in 1862, it was important as the first non-fortified settlement in southeastern Colorado. My daughter and I stumbled onto Boggsville as we were headed west on Highway 50 through Las Animas. We spotted a small sign that said “Boggsville Historic District” and, on a whim, decided to check it out. So a quick left turn and a couple of miles led us to this interesting piece of history. The Boggs and Prowers houses have been restored and are operated by the Pioneer Historical Society of Bent County and the site is open to the public. We visited in March so none of the buildings were open but we wandered the grounds, picked up a brochure and read the descriptive signs.
In 1840, Thomas Boggs, son of then Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs and great-grandson of Daniel Boone, came to what would eventually become Colorado Territory to work with the Bent Brothers at Bent’s Old Fort along the Arkansas River. At that time, the Arkansas River was the boundary between the United States and Mexico. Under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which officially ended the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), Mexico ceded to the United States Upper California and New Mexico (present-day Arizona and New Mexico and parts of Utah, Nevada and Colorado), relinquished all claims to Texas and recognized the Rio Grande as the southern boundary of the United States. The United States agreed to honor existing property rights in the transferred territories. This was important to Boggsville as it was on a 2,040 acre parcel belonging to Rumalda Luna Bent Boggs (part of the four million acre Las Animas Land Grant by the Mexican government in 1843) that Thomas and Rumalda Boggs and a small group of families settled about 1862.
Near the Purgatoire River, this site provided good grazing land, which was significant in this high and dry country. In 1866, Boggs began construction of an adobe home that blended Territorial architectural style with Spanish colonial. In 1867 John W. Prowers and his family settled in Boggsville and built an adobe two-story home. Boggs raised sheep and Prowers raised cattle. That year they were also joined by John Hough’s family and the famous frontiersman Kit Carson and his family. This was to be Carson’s final home as both he and his wife died in 1868 and were originally buried in Boggsville, although later moved to Taos.
In Boggsville, Hispanics, Anglo-Americans and Native Americans co-existed with each other and the environment and thrived. The women of Boggsville were of different cultures but held recognized social positions of their own and were obviously powers in their own right and formed strong bonds with each other. Rumalda Jaramillo Boggs and Josefa Jaramillo Carson were from upper class New Mexican families and Amache Ochinee Prowers was the daughter of the prominent Cheyenne chief Lone Bear. Each of these women had claim to land which made the settlement possible.
Boggsville was a major site on the Santa Fe Trail and served as a center of trade, agriculture, education and culture. It was a vibrant center for a time but, when the railroad bypassed it, its fate as a town was sealed.