TORRES/CAPPS— One hundred and twenty years ago this month, two local post offices were established – one in Las Animas County, and one in Huerfano. Coincidentally, both were named for the largest landowners in the areas. On Sept. 25, 1894, the Torres post office came into being. Torres is on the south fork of the Purgatory River, south of Stonewall. It was inhabited as early as the 1860s as settlers crossed San Francisco Pass into the fertile and forested valley. This pass, once used as a stagecoach route, connected the Vermejo country and the Canadian River drainage with the Purgatoire, and all the land was a part of the Maxwell Land Grant. Most of the pioneers came from Mora, Peñasco and Taos, NM, though some came over from the San Luis Valley via another San Francisco Pass. They called their little settlement El Valle Redondo, or the Round Valley, and El Valle for short. These settlers were farmers. One of the most notable men of this community was José Luis Torres, called Luis. Torres owned a great deal of forest, pasture and crop land, all of which
he used to create himself a small fortune. His farmland yielded excellent crops and his cattle herds covered the hillsides. He operated a store and, in lieu of charging some of his less fortunate neighbors, traded his goods for their labor. Being El Patrón, Torres was much respected among his neighbors in El Valle. He served as county commissioner in Las Animas County from 1896 until 1900. In 1903, Colorado Fuel and Iron Company opened the camp of Tercio just a few miles from Torres. While several settlements near Torres, one named San Francisco, another called La Placita, and a third dubbed El Rincón, in the same valley, had been founded in the early years, Torres Plaza was the center of activity and commerce. The settlers had their own school and their own economy. The plaza boasted both a Catholic church and a Penitente morada. St. Francis, or San Francisco, was the patron saint of the community. The priest from Trinidad visited every Oct. 4, to observe St. Francis Day and the visit was cause for a big celebration. Tercio brought increased activity on many fronts. CF&I needed timber for mine props and ties, for building homes and company buildings, plus hay for their mules, the railroad that soon arrived needed ties and material for building bridges, the coal camp inhabitants needed fresh produce and root vegetables. In return, the people of El Valle received jobs as miners and coke pullers, as sharecroppers on company land, got new markets for their productive gardens and hayfields, found work at the several sawmills and as freighters for the goods coming into and out of their hills. The children of El Valle soon were students at the Tercio School. People could also take advantage of passenger trains to make regular trips to Trinidad and beyond. One of the young people raised in Torres was Luis’s daughter, Carmelita. In 1911, she married a clerk from the Colorado Supply Store in Tercio. He, too, had been born and raised in Torres, and his mother had chosen his bride when the little girl was just two years old. His name was Damacio Vigil, and he transferred to the company store in Walsen camp in 1915, then to Ideal, and finally to Cameron. Damacio went on to serve as Huerfano County Clerk and Recorder from 1930 until 1947. They had been married for more than 65 years before Carmelita died in December of 1976, and her husband just two months later. One day after the Torres post office opened, the Capps office also opened, on Sept. 26. 1894. It was not a new branch, just a new name. The first name had been Quebec in the summer of 1880. The second name was Scissors, named for Benton Canon’s Scissors Ranch. Benton Canon was a Huerfano pioneer and was, in fact, a county treasurer in the early days. He bought his ranch in 1882 from Louis Sporleder, and in turn sold to the Pryor Brothers about 10 years later. Canon himself had come to the area in 1865. His first stop was the Sotelo Pino plaza at Badito, on the Huerfano River, where he quickly found the some 200 residents enjoying a fandango. He settled in and raised a crop of corn in 1866 that he sold to Kit Carson, commandant of Fort Garland at the time, for 12 cents a pound. Then he went on to Plaza de los Leones and opened a mercantile store, invested in cattle and land. He left the county in 1886 but returned in 1915 to help form the Huerfano County Pioneer Association. S.J. Capps was secretary and directors included Alex Levy and Charles Mazzone. The goal of this group was to complete the early history Canon had begun writing many years before, but it was not to be. In 1880, George Crofutt wrote a tour guide of Colorado. In it he describes Scissors as “a small ranche and post office, 13 miles south from Walsenburg, a station on the Denver & Rio Grande railway. Cattle, sheep, goats and babies are the chief productions of the settlers”. Mail was delivered twice a week, by horseback, from Walsenburg. “Next door” to the Scissors, Samuel J. Capps established his Sunnyside Ranch in 1882. Capps had arrived in Huerfano County in 1872 and had bounced from ranch to ranch as an employee. His own ranch was located a few miles north of the later coal camp of Rouse, in the valley of Santa Clara Creek. When the post office was moved from Scissors to the Sunnyside, Capps’s wife, Amelia, took over as postmaster, and served as such for 20 years until the couple moved to La Veta with their now-sizeable family. They had eight children in all, and many of their names are still familiar to old time residents. Capps himself served several school districts – wherever he was living – as director, was county commissioner, county school superintendent, helped organize the local chapter of the Grand Old Republic, or G.A.R., for veterans of the Civil War, and was a staunch member of the Masonic Lodge. He was mayor of La Veta from 1907-1912 and 1915-16. During those years he and his sons purchased a large hunk of southwest La Veta, developed the lots, built some homes, and opened what was called then the “Capps Addition”. The Torres post office lasted longer than Tercio camp, closing at last in 1918. It was then renamed Tercio and remained to serve the local residents until Sept. 30, 1949. The Capps post office lasted just seven years, closing in 1901 when the population centered at nearby Rouse and the rural office was no longer needed.