Town of South Arkansas

Where was the town of South Arkansas?

To preface: the South Arkansas River has its headwaters in the Sawatch Mountains near Monarch Pass. It follows Highway 50 eastward and flows through the towns of Poncha Springs and Salida, then joins with the Arkansas River.

According to Colorado Post Offices: 1859-1989 by Bauer, Osment, and Willard, there was a post office called ‘South Arkansas’ in Lake County (Chaffee County was part of Lake County in the early days.) The name was then changed to Poncho (now Poncha) Springs so presumably this post office was in Poncha Springs. It was established in April 1868 and discontinued in March 1877. The post office in present day Salida was established in March 1881. It was formerly named ‘Arkansas.’

post offices

This is from History of the Arkansas Valley, p. 482:

‘In the following spring, 1886, John Burnett and Nat Rich with others settled on the South Arkansas, near the present town of Poncha Springs, and in July of the same year the South Arkansas was declared an election precinct, embracing all of the county south of Sand Creek, and W. Christison living in Adobe Park, John Burnett and Nat Rich were appointed judges of the election, the election to be held at the house of Nat Rich.’

Wendell Hutchinson freely used the term South Arkansas when referring to the town of Poncha Springs:

‘Joseph S. Hutchinson was not only active in mining and the cattle business but had at least three grocery and general merchandise stores — one was located in Cash Creek, another in South Arkansas (present day Poncha Springs) and one in Saguache that was called Hutchinson and Henson.’
from A History of Chaffee County

The town of Salida was also known as South Arkansas about 1880 when the town of Cleora was disbanded to move to where the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad had set up shop, about 2 miles northwest right alongside the Arkansas River.

From Hugh Boon’s statement:

Hugh Boon

The Mountain Mail listed South Arkansas, Colorado, as its location in its banner in 1880. It referred to the present day location of Salida as South Arkansas in its advertising as well. Link here to a description of South Arkansas from the Mountain Mail, June 5, 1880.

(click on each image for a larger view)


mtn mail ad

The following is from The Gunnison Review-Press, June 12, 1880.

‘South Arkansas is the liveliest town in Colorado. Buildings cannot be put up half as fast as they are needed. The business men of Cleora are all settling with us. They see that South Arkansas is to be the town and are governing themselves accordingly.’

During the summer of 1880, South Arkansas was officially renamed Salida to end the confusion, ‘although the U.S. Post Office retained the name Arkansas for several more months and the railroad clung to South Arkansas for a while.’ The Mountain Mail changed its banner to the new name on July 31, 1880.
above quote taken from The Upper Arkansas: A Mountain River Valley by Virginia McConnell Simmons.


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