“How did Mancos get its name and what does Mancos mean.” In Spanish the word refers to someone whose arm has been maimed.
According to an article that appeared in a 1997 publication of the “Mancos Visitor’s Guide,” Fern Ellis wrote in her book, “Come Back to My Valley,” about a gentleman named George M. Carr who, in 1895, identified how Mancos got its name. In his story for the "Mancos Times" he described how an old manuscript, written by Father Salvero, was found at a Spanish mission in New Mexico. Father Salvero described how he stopped with his Indian guide, Juan, at the top of a divide. He took in the view and could see the bluffs of the San Juan River to the southwest and the blue range of mountains to the west where his mission was located.
He and his guide continued to follow the river downstream and then made camp. Father Salvero rose to his feet and wandered closer to the river when a rock broke free and he fell into the river. He injured his ankle badly. He had to rest for ten days while his Indian guide helped him.
One day, while getting water from the river, Juan found some nuggets that Father Salvero immediately identified as gold. Juan gathered up more of the gold nuggets. But, then a snow storm forced them to move to a lower elevation and work their way toward Father Salvero’s mission. By the time they reached their destination the Father’s leg was so badly injured it had to be amputated. Because of the severe injury that “maimed” him for life, they named the river “El Rio Mancos.”
Father Salvero’s manuscript mentioned two other streams “of goodly size, joining this one from the east” and it also mentioned that the river is on the west side of the range. From this information it is supposed that the good priest was near the head of the West Mancos when the accident happened. Not long after his return to the mission, people learned of Juan’s discovery of gold in the river and began coming to the area in a quest for gold.
If this bit of history interests you, there are a variety of books about the history of the area at the Visitor Center. Fern Ellis’s book, “Come Back to My Valley,” and several books by Darrell Ellis are available for purchase at the Visitor Center.