By Aaron Sanchez Jr.
The Rio Grande Spring (also called Indian Springs and the Klauer Spring) was the primary source for water in the early years of the community. The Apache and Ute Indians used it for generations. The pioneers discovered where the natives got their good water and started using it too. They came from as far south as Velarde and Dixon, from Taos and Ranchos de Taos and from Llano Quemado. They watered their flocks and herds at the spring when moving to and from seasonal grazing and pasture and hauled it for their camps.
My mother and the old ones told me that by 1900, people were settling on the mesa on the west side of the river. They needed the spring water because the mesa is so dry, and forded the river to get clean water.
By 1910, many families had come to homestead. For years Pilar children went to the rock schoolhouse in Carson. The Shupes, Boxbergers, Graves and Templetons I remember well. They stayed when most families were starved out for lack of water and were good friends. Many of them were Mormons, they called “Lamanites,” who came to bring the gospel to the natives.
They were farmers, hard-working and industrious. They built the Taos Junction bridge, I think in 1912, to get to the spring easier and to bring supplies from the Chile Line Train at Taos Junction Plaza into Pilar and Taos. The first bridge was closer to the spring than the one we use now. After the bridge was built, they built the rock holding tank below the spring. Then, for easier loading, they put the first pipe in the mountain. It worked better than the holding tank; they didn’t have to bucket.
Prisoners from the State Pen improved the Taos Junction Road that runs along the river from the bridge to Pilar. I’m not sure if it was the prisoners or the homesteaders who built the rock holding tank at the spring. But everyone in the area used it, then the first pipe the Carson homesteaders put in.
The Chili Line train brought the building materials for the bridge from Colorado. During the depression, the WPA built dirt roads and homesteaders built some roads and kept them up. Taos Junction Plaza, at highways 285 and 570, was where the Chili Line train stopped to refuel and un load supplies. Ten miles north was Servilleta, then Ties Piedras. To the south was La Barranca, then Embudo Station.
The train brought freight from Colorado to transport by wagon to Taos. My mother said she and her friends used to ride the train. She grew up in Manassa and traveled back and forth to Santa Fe. Mormons hauled drinking water from the spring for Taos Junction Plaza. They hauled water for folks all over the mesa. They were hard working people.
Taos Junction Plaza grew into a good-sized town and the train started bringing tanks of water to the town. It had a barber shop and a store, and I’ve heard maybe 300 people. The spring water was the choice for drinking in the town, even after the train started bringing water.
My family hauled two wooden barrels of water from the spring by horse and wagon, covering them with canvas to prevent splashing, two or three times a week from some time in the 1800s, to the late 1940s and up to when we got our well. Before that, they got water from the spring on horseback. All my cousins families did the same. Some were able to haul three barrels at a time by horse and wagon, two or three times every week. My dad hauled our water in a Model A Ford in the 1940s.