UPPER HUERFANO — The truly obscure settlement of Seguro is a colorful part of Huerfano County’s roster of ghost towns. Despite its Spanish name meaning “secure”, “safe” or “trustworthy”, Seguro had a very short lifespan.
The Seguro post office was established Jan. 4, 1895. To clear things up, it was located between Sharpsdale and McMillan, at the junction of the upper Huerfano River and Shaft Draw. To those of later generations, the site is best known recently as Singing River Ranch.
Shaft Draw was named for John Shaft, who came to Huerfano County from Kansas around 1893 and took up a homestead about as far from civilization as he could get. The closest community and post office was Sharpsdale, said to be about five miles and at the time, the end of the road up the Huerfano. Sharpsdale, too, was a small settlement but had the advantage of being located on the toll road to Mosca Pass. This pass was in the 1880s the mail route into (and out of) the San Luis Valley and beyond. Seguro, on the other hand, was on no road.
Why Shaft chose such a remote home is unknown, but he was a gold prospector, so may have heard rumors about some rich strikes at the foot of the Sierra Blanca. The few other occupants of the area were miners, too, and had in 1889 hauled in a small ore concentrator and opened a sawmill to produce timbers to shore up their glory holes and tunnels. When they weren’t looking for gold, most landowners raised potatoes.
Two of these miners were the Hawkins brothers, mining veterans who moved from gold camp to gold camp. The brothers were Harvey and Charles Byrd, known as Byrd. Harvey was credited with finding the paying lodes.
About 1890 L.P. Santy arrived. He, too, was a prospector who homesteaded the upper Huerfano. What he found was marble. This was not a particularly convenient place to quarry marble, but he did, with crews cutting the stone into eight foot square blocks and then, arduously, hauling them down the Huerfano valley by wagon to ship by rail from Walsenburg. The trip would have been nearly 50 miles, but worth it when that sized block would sell for $300 in major cities. Santy invested in a 20-horsepower steam engine to power the saws. He also built a pretentious – for that area – home of three rooms, one and a half stories, and 18 by 50 in size, near the quarry. He called it Marble Hill Ranch.
Santy also sent raw ore to Pueblo, two tons in one trip, for assaying. When the report showed $27 of gold to the ton, he announced plans to build a stamp mill. By this time he had gone in with the Hawkins brothers in their mine, and it became known as the Scantic. Some 10 or 12 other claims on the upper Huerfano and onto the northern face of Blanca Peak were being actively worked.
In 1893 John Shaft was joined by two brothers, and they began buying up other miners’ claims, such as those of Ed Caddell, more commonly identified with coal mining, and A.P. McIntire. Caddell just located more claims and kept prospecting. A small settlement called Deadwood became the center of activity around the Shaft and Caddell mines. Deadwood was a collection of shanties and one boardinghouse. In 1899 the duo consolidated their claims as the Grand View Company, of which they were co-presidents. Some of their ore assayed as high as $500 in gold and copper.
The establishment of the Seguro post office signaled a growing population. George Shaddle was appointed postmaster. Byrd Hawkins won the contract to carry the mail up from Sharpsdale. When Byrd was off prospecting in greener fields, his sister Mrs. Decker filled in for him. Originally, the mail no doubt was sparse, and easily carried on horseback.
In July 1896 the county commissioners took note of the activity and ordered County Surveyor A.A. Foote to locate a road to Seguro. In 1898 this road became part of a new county road district – one of four – with Crestones (Chama), Bradford, Birmingham, Gardner, Turkey Creek and Badito. J.D. Montez was overseer and it was a lot of territory to over see.
In the summer of 1895 the Seguro area was said to have about 20 families. There was no school so children had to go downriver to Sharpsdale. Winter travel was hazardous at that altitude, and before a real road was put in. Many miners sent their wives and children off to nearby towns for the snow months, but that summer they determined to have their own schoolhouse, which may have formerly been a miner’s cabin. In 1897 they built a new one. It was in District 22. One assumes these fellows were better prospectors than carpenters, because the roof of the school collapsed into the building in 1901, luckily when no one was inside.
Some of the teachers were the Misses Ada Coan, Nellie Reed, Mattie Wright and Lydia Kepley. Average enrollment was about seven. Henry Reed was school board president. The school “year” was adjustable but usually lasted about three months in the summer and fall, depending on the weather.
In July 1896 the county commission formed a new precinct, #20, for the Seguro area and on up the Huerfano. Formerly, voters had to travel to Malachite to vote, about 12 or 15 miles.
In 1899 a man named McMillan arrived in camp to look over the prospects. Life in the sleepy camp of Seguro changed rapidly. McMillan purchased many of the small mining companies and began work in earnest, punching holes into Blanca Peak willy-nilly, even into the glacier on its north face. McMillan post office opened in 1900, and soon the community also boasted a store, boardinghouse and even 13 women.
The Seguro post office slid into history Sept. 14, 1901. L.P. Santy packed up and moved with his son Victor to Durango to operate a livery stable. Harvey Hawkins had died in 1899 chasing gold in Cripple Creek but his brother Byrd and family moved to Gardner. John Shaft and daughters Laura, Emma and Mabel moved to Walsenburg. John had sold his ranch to W.S. Wilson and bought a confectionery shop in the county seat and operated it for 17 years. Laura and Mabel became milliners. Emma died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic in 1918. Shaft sold his confectionery to Howell, his son-in-law, who in turn sold it to G.R. Moore. A.P. McIntire also moved to Walsenburg, building a home on Capitol Hill.
The former settlement of Seguro returned to its original tradition of potato raising and stock grazing.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward