Red Mesa, La Plata County, Colorado Genealogy
History of Red Mesa
On 17 May 1900 the United States Congress passed an act providing free homesteads in the eastern portion of the Southern Ute Reservation for qualifying families.[] This was welcome news to many Mormon families located in the Mancos area who were experiencing repeated destructive floods and harsh winters. They soon began to file for land grants and pioneered the settlements of Kline, Marvel, and Redmesa.1
The first settlers in Redmesa, Colorado filed on land in the spring of 1905. The early settlers included Hiram M. Taylor, James M. Slade, and Joseph H. Dean. Later that same year other settlers arrived to spend the winter of 1906-1907 on the Redmesa bench. Redmesa was originally named Garland but the name was changed to Redmesa in 1908. By the 1930 census the total population of Redmesa precinct was 719 people.2
Redmesa LDS History
These first early settlers were LDS or Mormons, who attended meetings at Kline. A Sunday School was organized in the part of Kline which subsequently became Redmesa. On 27 May 1908 the church members in the Redmesa area, south of the Kline Ward were organized as a regular Bishop’s Ward, in a temporary meeting place, by Elders Francis M. Lyman and George Albert Smith, and established Hiram M. Taylor as Bishop. Later that year a new meetinghouse was finished which was used until 1951.3 Dances, plays, and parties were held at the Redmesa Church. In early 1951 the Redmesa church house burned and a new building was completed and dedicated in 1958.
Redmesa Ward Dam
The early Redmesa settlers were in need of irrigation waters during dry seasons and they soon built a dam on Hay Gulch stream before it flows into La Plata River. It was destroyed by a flood in 1911 but was later rebuilt and paid for by the LDS Church to serve the farmers who were largely LDS members. The water was stored in the reservoir until it is needed for farmers. All of the work on the earthen dam was done by hand and horse drawn equipment. It is still in use today.
Hiram M. Taylor built the original Mesa Mercantile. This store eventually had gas pumps, the post office, a cream-testing station, and ice house, a wool storage building, a grain room and a safe to hold Indian pawn. People brought their eggs and cream to the store to trade for supplies. Their cream was tested for butterfat content, and was paid for accordingly, then trucked to Durango.
Navajos often camped by the store overnight, taking another day to drive by team to Durango. They often pawned their jewelry to bet on horses in the races at the county fair.
A cooperative grocery store was built by some of the Redmesa residents in 1950. Verd Halls managed this store and acted as postmaster.2
Long Hollow Mill
The Redmesa farmers grew much wheat in the early days. This crop supplied the Long Hollow Mill with the grain it needed for its production of flour and other products. This mill has been in the Taylor family for many years and several generations.
Redmesa built a two-room schoolhouse on the north LDS meetinghouse site. Children in grades one through eight originally attended the school in this building. Later a smaller, white frame building was erected to the east where the first and second graders met. In the Late 1920’s and early 30’s, D. Dudley Jones taught all four years of high school here. Otherwise the children ended their education at eighth grade or traveled to the larger communities to continue their education.
The school grounds were school community athletics and events and there was always a parade and a big celebration on the Fourth and Twenty-fourth of July.
2. The Historical Committee, (1994). Pioneers of Southwest La Plata County Colorado”, Family History Publishers, Bountiful, Utah. p 408-9.
3. Improvement Era, (1908), Vol XI, No. 11, p 833