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Little house on the river

by Carolyn Newman

1619 History detectiveWALSENBURG — The little stone house – only 14 feet wide – described in last week’s article remains a mystery.

The concrete-lined square well under the home, apparently used to supply water for the upstairs sink via a pump, is still collecting seepage water from the nearby river or from an irrigation ditch.

A look back through the land’s history does not help to answer the questions about who built the house and when. However, the history of the property is fascinating too.

The old trail that led through the early Plaza de los Leones (Walsenburg today) split the town in half. The land on the east side of the trail belonged mostly to the Atencios after the settlement was platted or mapped out in 1873 by Theodore F. Braunn.

Even though streets, alleys, and individual lots were planned out, that did not mean land owners acquired only one or two lots at a time.

For example, west of the trail (today’s Main Street) the land belonged largely to Joseph Bourcy, an old Frenchman (sometimes described as a rather eccentric man). In 1874 he bought 31 blocks, containing 134 separate lots, for $150.23…including the lot with our mystery house.

How did he use the land? Because it is so near the river, undoubtedly the rich soil was used for farming corn, squash, grain. and beans, and for grazing the animals.

About 20 years later, in 1894, Maria Agustine Bourcy sold about 78 of those 134 lots to Antonia Armijo Archuleta for $1,000. Who was Maria? Perhaps Joseph Bourcy’s widow, or a daughter? In one account Bourcy is described as having a squaw. In another account, Louis B. Sporleder wrote that Bourcy owned one female Indian slave, a common practice. Indians camped along the Cucharas River near town,”mostly respectful, courteous and communicative,” wrote Sporleder. Whoever Maria was, she had the legal authority to sell some of the land Bourcy had owned.

Since the Bourcy ownership, only seven families, mostly deceased, have owned the lots where the stone house stands. And so the mystery remains.

Information is from the Colorado Magazine of January 1933, from other writings by Louis B. Sporleder and Benton Canon, from Dotter Abstract Co., from John Gasperetti, and from personal observation.

The History Detective is a service of the Huerfano County Historical Society 719-738-2840.

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