Dreams for a Better Life
In 1894 members of the Colorado Cooperative
Company came to Tabegauche Park, a fertile
mesa north of here, fortified with the plan to
create an utopian community where equality and
service would triumph over greed and competition. In
the spirit of cooperation, they claimed homesteads,
planted crops, and built irrigation ditches, roads, and
sawmills for their burgeoning community. Often
subsisting only on beans and bread in the early years,
the members enjoyed a rich social life filled with literary
meetings, debates, dances, and plays. Their newspaper,
the Altrurian, reached people nation-wide, increasing
membership to 232 by 1903. But by 1909, their communal
farming efforts failed and private ownership
prevailed. Those seeking a communal lifestyle moved
away, others stayed to develop family farms and
ranches near Nucla.
With virgin soil, level terrain, and plenty of sun,
Tabegauche Park had favorable agricultural conditions,
except for the critical element of water. Undaunted, the
colony members designed an irrigation ditch from the San
Miguel River, a distance of 15 miles through steep and
rocky terrain. Colony members either labored on the ditch
or in the company's saw mills, boarding houses, carpentry
shops, and fields. Instead of wages, ditch workers
received water credits that could be traded for comissary
supplies. The colonists built a temporary work camp on
Cottonwood Creek called Pinon, where they waited,
sometimes impatiently, for the ditch to be completed.
Water finally flowed to Tabeguache Park in1904, and was
put to immediate use on the members' fledgling farms.
While the ditch sapped the small colony's
every resource, it was also their greatest
Nucla in 1920, included a town
well in the middle of Main Street
The main ditch work camp, Pinon, was the center of all
company activity from 1898 to 1904. Fifty rought-hewn
lumber buildings dotted the settlement, inclkuding an
assembly hall, office, post office, school, library, and
dining hall. By 1905, with the ditch completed, the
colonists left for other homes in Tabeguache Park,
until only the cemetery at Pinon remained.
Cottonwood Canyon presented a
formidable obstacle to ditch builders.
At the time of its completion (1903)
the Cottonwood Trestle was one
of the highest in the country,
reaching more than 100 feet.
Colorado Cooperative Company
ditch work crew.