The land around Saguache (pronounced "sah-WATCH") has been inhabited for thousands of years - first by unnamed nomads, later by the Utes (who camped here seasonally), and later still by Mexican traders bound for California on the Old Spanish Trail. Hispano farmers first settled the area in the early 1860s, followed by Anglos after the Civil War. By 1874, the year of its formal incorporation, Saguache anchored one of Colorado's most important agricultural regions, supplying the mining camps of the Arkansas Valley and the San Juan Mountains. Despite its prosperity and county-seat status, however, the town never obtained the railroad access that would have enabled it to grow. It nonetheless evolved into a leading cattle center and remains the county seat. Saguache today is one of Colorado's deepest-rooted towns, with ranches worked continuously since the late 1800s.
Otto Mears and John Lawrence
John Lawrence and Otto Mears were both orphans, then soldiers, then Colorado pioneers - and both were instrumental in founding Saguache. Mears, a tireless enterpriser, boistered local agriculture with his mills and wagon roads; although those highways eventually carried him away, his gifts to Saguache were enduring. The same was true of Lawrence, who gave the community his life as well as his work.
He helped establish the Saguache County and served it in various capacities (including state assemblyman), but it was through quieter gestures - loaning money, employing the jobless, nurturing schools and churches - that he earned the respect and friendship of the people. Among these (largely Hispano) ranchers and farmers, Lawrence found the family he'd never had. When he died in 1908, his tombstone was inscribed simply: (The Founder of Saguache County Colorado 1835-1909."
· John Lawrence (standing left) moved from the south San Luis Valley up to the Saguache area with James B. Woodson (seated) in 1867. In 1902 Lawrence married Woodson's widow, Juliana Vigil Woodson (standing right) - a marriage both would agree was one of "convenience".
· Saguache, c. 1920. While the Ute word Saguache is popularly translated as "water by the blue earth place", the Ute language is a living entity and today's Southern Ute Tribe states its literal meaning as "water that comes from underground".
· Otto Mears and Ute Chief Ouray, 1880. Prior to Anglo and Hispano settlement of the Saguache area, it was Ute country. The 1873 Brunot Treaty (Mears played a key role in the negotiations) permanently removed the Utes from the San Juans.
· The Saguache Crescent first went to press in 1882 (it was
published under different names until 1886 when it adopted Crescent). It is still in business today using the traditional hot-lead process to set type.