Preserving, Recording and Celebrating the
  Historical Heritage of Mancos Town and Valley
Mancos Valley
   Historical Society

Town of Mancos

Please see our Cowboy History, Indian History, and Mancos Valley pages on this site for further information.


The town of Mancos was laid out in 1881.  It consisted of the school house, a few cabins, and a store set up by George Bauer (Ellis, 1999:13).  By 1885 the town boasted C.J.Scharnhorst, the shoemaker; Snyder’s blacksmith shop; C.M. Vetts’ grocery store; George Bauer’s general merchandise, now in a larger building; the George Bauer Bank; the post office which had been moved into town;  a log hotel owned by D.H. Lemmon; and two saloons (Freeman, 2005:35). A.C. Honaker, who had arrived in 1881, contracted to build the first bridge across the Mancos River southeast of the school house (Ellis, 1999:16).

Meanwhile a community was developing in Webber Canyon to the south.  The first settlers there had been a Mr. Webber and his wife around 1878.  One of Mancos’ great mysteries is the death of Mr. Webber under undiscovered circumstances. Later the canyon was settled largely by Mormons.   Joseph Stanford Smith settled there with in his family in 1881 and spread the word to many other families who homesteaded in the canyon.  A Mormon church was built there in 1884 (Freeman, 2005:30, 30-38).  A school house was built in Webber Canyon in 1891 (Ellis, 1999:37).

In the 1880s the Methodists had a congregation meeting in a private home and held Sunday school in the old log school house, later moving services to other school locations.  They were served by circuit riders who preached their sermons.  Sometime after 1883, when Reverend W.J. Sage came to organize the parish, a church was built.  In 1899 the Methodists moved their church to its current location (Ellis, 1976:105-106).

The early Episcopalians also held services in private homes (Ellis, 1976:106) and possibly in the town hall or the Knights of Pythias building (“Brief History,”n.d.:1).  Various visiting ministers offered services.  James K. Comings  was the first to provide permanent services when he moved to Mancos in 1898, but a permanent church was not built until 1913 (Ellis, 1976:107).

The First Baptist Church of Mancos was organized in 1899, preceded by an organization called ”Gospel Tabernacle.” A church building was built the same year.  When they later sold that building to the Catholics, the church congregation met in the Odd Fellows Hall until the present church was built in 1922 (Ellis, 1976:111).

Little is recorded about the early Catholic community in Mancos.  The first Catholic priest assigned to Mancos was Reverend Joseph Bruner in 1912.  Under his guidance, they purchased the old Baptist church in 1915, establishing St. Rita’s Catholic Church and making improvements in the building and grounds (Ellis, 1976:110).

The railroad reached Mancos in 1891.  Rails had come to Durango ten years earlier.  The Denver and Rio Grande Southern brought new progress and development to the area for many years (Freeman, 2005:208).  A new railway station was completed in 1896, and new shipping pens were located below the depot to handle the growing livestock business (Freeman, 2005:209).

Mining continued on a small scale.  In the 1880s prospectors had searched for gold, and some small placer operations existed.  About 1892 Captain George A. Jackson prospected the Mancos River, among others, and started a placer operation in the Mancos area. A rumor that he had found rich ore spread, and gold fever took hold.  Ellis (1999:39) writes, “ It wasn’t long until the streets of the little town were alive with men with gold pans, burros, picks and shovels, all headed for the hills to seek their fortunes in gold.  The mining claims with names such as Georgia Girl, Silver Falls, North Star, Timberline, Hobo, Sundown, and Belle of East Mancos dotted the mountainsides.  There were some strikes, but “few, if any, ever found real riches” (Ellis, 1999;39-41).

The Mancos Times, the first newspaper, was started in 1893 with C.M. Danford as editor.  Veteran newspaperman W.H. Kelly took over after three months, and it was he who would tout the mining potential of the Mancos area, perhaps overzealously (Ellis, 1999:34-37, 39).  In any case, the mining excitement brought employment and financial prosperity for local businesses (Ellis 1999:41).

By 1893 Mancos had added two doctors, a dentist, another boot and shoemaker, a barber, a contractor, a druggest, a saddle and harness shop, a steel and ironworks, a billiards hall, two liveries, and a lumber yard. Mrs. Hyde’s Restaurant served meals for twenty-five cents (Ellis, 1976:37-38).

The town of Mancos was incorporated in 1894 with George Bauer as mayor.  The incorporation had been hastened by “horse racing in the streets and much disorder about town” (Freeman, 2005:209).

Following are resources which give additional information on the history of the Mancos Valley and its environs:

The town of Mancos was incorporated in 1894 with George Bauer as mayor.  The incorporation had been hastened by “horse racing in the streets and much disorder about town” (Freeman, 2005:209).

Following are resources which give additional information on the history of the Mancos Valley and its environs:

“Brief History of St. Paul’s:  Mancos, Colorado.” Unpublished paper, n.d.

EllIs, Darrel.  Come Back to My Valley, Volume Two.  Mancos, CO:  Fifth Raccoon, 2004.

Ellis, Fern.  Come Back to My Valley:  Historical Remembrances of Mancos, Colorado. Cortez, CO: Cortez Printers, 1976, reprint 1999.

Freeman, Ira S.  A History of Montezuma County.  Cheshire, England: Trafford, 2005.

Reddert, Lottie W.  Cow Talk:  The Memories of George W. Menefee: An Early Day Cattleman of the Southwest.  Dolores, CO:  Dolores Star, 1976.

Rockwell, Wilson.  The Utes: A Forgotten People.  Montrose: Western Reflections Publishing, 2006.

Ubbelohde, Carl, Maxine Benson, and Duane A. Smith.  A Colorado History.  Boulder, CO:  Pruett Publishing, 1982.

Wardrip, Molly K.  Montezuma’s Trails of Time.  Cortez, CO, 1993.