Recently, I have been digging into Alonzo Hartman and his impact on Colorado history, particularly the Gunnison area. Hartman was one of the original white settlers on the western slope in Colorado and is said to have literally built the first house in Gunnison. Hartman has a variety of accomplishments on his historic resume. He was the first postmaster in Gunnison and the Hartmans were responsible for the beginnings of cattle ranching on the western slope.
In this story, though, I want to talk about Hartman’s time working at Los Pinos Indian Agency near Cochetopa Pass.
Los Pinos Indian Agency near Cochetopa Pass
Alonzo Hartman first arrived in the Gunnison area in 1872. He worked at the government’s Los Pinos Indian Agency from 1872-76. By all accounts the conditions were extremely treacherous. It appears to me that the point of the Los Pinos Indian Agency was to be a point of contact between the US government and the Ute people residing on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains. Accounts depict the Indian agency as a place providing resources. Alonzo Hartman knew Chief Ouray well the two developed a relationship.
I see mixed accounts of Hartman’s exact job. On the 1874 payroll, Hartman was listed as a carpenter, but other accounts suggest he frequently worked with the cattle. Nevertheless, Alonzo Hartman worked at the Los Pinos Indian Agency at Cochetopa Pass in 1874.
The Alferd Packer Story
Alferd Packer was a miner. He and a group of other men had been traveling from Salt Lake City to newfound gold in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. They ended up at Chief Ouray’s camp and were warned against traveling through the mountains in the Winter. According to accounts, Packer had convinced some of the men that he was familiar with the territory and five men from the group followed him through the mountains. It turns out Packer was a cannibal and in the end the men’s bodies were found near Lake Cristoval by what is now Lake City, Colorado.
When Alferd Packer Arrived at Los Pinos Indian Agency
The interesting part, though, is that once Packer continued on his journey he came upon Los Pinos Indian Agency in 1874. As the story goes, the men at Los Pinos were at first friendly and accommodating to Packer. Packer convinced the men at first that his group had left him due to illness. At some point some of Ouray’s men showed up at Los Pinos and reported finding dead bodies, and at some point Packer admitted that he had eaten some flesh of his traveling mates that had died due to starvation and bad weather. All said and done, it turns out Packer voluntarily killed and ate some of the flesh of the men that followed him.
The point though is that he must have spent quite a bit of time with the men at Los Pinos. Reports suggest that Packer led at least one expedition to find the location of the dead bodies. That expedition and possibly others included Packer, a couple of Ouray’s men, and two men stationed at Los Pinos. So, Packer had to have spent quite a bit of time at Los Pinos.
Did Alonzo Hartman meet Alferd Packer?
So my curiosity got me thinking. Hartman worked at the Los Pinos Indian Agency from 1872-1876. Below you will see a list of the payroll at Los Pinos in 1874.
We can see that Alonzo Hartman is listed as a carpenter, We also know from news reports that one of the Los Pinos men that traveled with Packer on his voyage to find the dead bodies was H.F. Lautter, another man listed on the payroll above. As we see above Lautter is listed as a herder at Los Pinos. Even though Hartman is listed as a carpenter he was reported to have frequently worked with the livestock, cattle did end up being one of his most influential accomplishments in the area later in life. So, perhaps Alonzo Hartman was the second Los Pinos man that traveled with Packer and Ouray’s men to look for the remains of Packer’s group.
Final Considerations on Whether Alonzo Hartman Met Alferd Packer at Los Pinos
It is certain that Alonzo Hartman was employed at Los Pinos Indian Agency at the time Alferd Packer showed up there in 1874. Considering the conditions and how long Packer seems to have spent there, it is almost certain that the two men encountered one another. Did Hartman voyage through the Colorado wilderness with Chief Ouray’s men in search of Packer’s dead companions? That remains uncertain to me, but I will continue digging and if anyone has any leads, leave them in the comments.
Help Preserve Hartman Family History in Colorado!
If you are interesting in helping preserve the history that Sam Hartman and his family brought to Colorado’s western slope, you can donate to the Hartman Castle Preservation Corporation.