From cattle station to stage coach stop

Thursday, March 9, 2017 6:19 PM
Remains of the building of the Cattle Station and Stage Coach Stop in Cross Canyon.

In 1934, Anna Florence Robison interviewed Elbert (Al) Nunn, an early pioneer, about the early settlement of our area. In 1880, he married Nettie Johnson, daughter of Charles “Granddad” Johnson of Dolores.

“In 1882, I took Granddad Johnson’s cattle to run on shares. He had moved them over on the Dolores River by then, and he told us I could take them all to the Blue Mountains. There was wonderful range out there, and he had taken several hundred head out there previously, without branding the calves. He had twelve hundred head. I went out there, but the Indians were bad. It took a good many men and twenty-four saddle horses to care for the cattle. We branded cows with calves at their sides together. We decided to drive the cattle out of that country. We drove the cattle from Blue Mountain to Dove Creek country at Cross Canyon. It was called an Indian Strip. This was in 1884. I built the stone house out in Cross Canyon about twenty eight miles from anywhere. I had several men there. My family and I lived at Cross Canyon about three years. My son, Albert was born there. I was the only man in my position that the Indians didn’t make leave there as they liked me and I treated them well.

Hank Sharp shot an Indian in the jaw and stirred up some trouble in ’84. My son Albert was a tiny baby four or five days old when the trouble began. A Mr. Anderson who was there saw eleven Indians coming and said to me ‘Get your gun, Al, get your gun.’ ‘No I’ll go talk to them.’ I told him. I asked the Indians ‘if I must go’ and they came up and said for me to stay and they stayed also. They remained overnight and took care of my horses and brought them in for me in the morning. They were good to me. I gave them some beets and they washed them. I tried to smoke the pipe of peace, but they didn’t care so much for that.

In 1886, I divided the cattle back with Granddad Johnson and we moved down into Montezuma County and lived at what is now known as Garrett Ridge.

Information from an article in the Dove Creek Press said after the Nunn family left the stone building was used by a number of the cattle handlers as both home and protection from unruly Utes. The grazing area at that time was between Yellow Jacket and Piute Springs.

The article mentioned the building continued to be used as a cattle station until about 1896, when it became a stopover for the stage and mail route between Dolores and Monticello. It was reported that John P. Granath was one of the first to work on the mail route. His first job, age 16, was to “wrangle” the 30 horses in the canyon that were used on the stage and mail route. In 1897, Granath began driving the stage from Dolores to Monticello. He made the round trip three times each week. Later the route was broken up into two sections, one stage starting from Dolores and the other stage from Monticello. They would meet at the stone house where horses would be changed and the sections continued on their way. The stage and mail route continued until about 1906 when the contract was given up.

At this time, Bill Hinton from Texas moved into the building with his family. Shortly thereafter, his three children contracted diphtheria which was highly contagious. All three died and were buried near the stagecoach stop where some flat rocks were put up as markers. The Hinton family then moved to Moab. A nice marker has been erected in memory of the children of Bill and Annie Bowen-Hinton which states their children died of Diphtheria. They were: Johnnie born Oct. 19, 1894, died Oct 27, 1900; Josie born May 2, 1898, died Oct, 27, 1900 and Dee born April 8, 1896 died April 6, 1900.

Other families reported to have lived in the stone house were Wades, McDonalds, and Calhouns.

In Al Nunn’s story he gives credit to Bill Graham for naming Secret Springs, Bug Springs, Bug Point, Cedar Point, Burnt Cabin, Nancy Patterson Park and Dove Creek. Bill Graham named Dove Creek because so many doves came to get water in Cross Canyon.

Note: The Gardner family furnished information on the Hinton family and photo for the article. The stagecoach station is located eight miles south of Dove Creek on private property.

June Head is Historian for the Montezuma County Historical Society and can be reached for comments or corrections at 970-565-3880. Four volumes of history have been published by the historical society. The complete interview by Elbert (Al) Nunn may be found in Volume 3 of “The Great Sage Plain to Timberline”.