Monday, May 2, 2016

June 29, 1882 letter about the Colony

Orange highlights are the letter - everything else are my clarifications from other research - just to help you understand this a little bit better.  This is one of the earliest letters written about the Cotopaxi Colony.
Letter of Julius Schwarz to HEAS
Julius Schwarz, a young Hungarian lawyer, was sent with the colony on May 9 to manage the operations.  Leon Tobias was a field overseer.   Both of these men were provided by HEAS.  Tobias made a land claim.  Schwarz did not - he had left Colorado by October and was off supervising another colony by December, 1882.  He was in Cotopaxi less than 6 months.
Cotopaxi, Co June 29, 1882 
This was written about 7 weeks after the immigrants arrived at Cotopaxi
 A. Kursheedt, Esq.
Dear SirIn order to secure a more speedy advance of the field work, I have ordered the field overseer Leon Tobias, to stay at the farms for at least two days. All the farmers remain on their respective lands during the week, and return on Friday afternoon to observe the Sabbath which we keep very strictly. I have also ordered that during the night, watchmen shall walk up and down the lands, so as to keep away the hundred of cows and oxen that grass on the rich pasture in the mountain valley. Myself rode yesterday to inspect the work and I can say with conscientious sureness that the seed the New York Committee has sown will yield precious fruits.
Those local to mountain living - cattle have the "right of way" unless you fence them out.  Most areas, including Cotopaxi, are open range.  Of note above is the fact that there were hundreds of cows in the area.  Other places one can read that there were thousands.  This area was great for cattle ranching.  Were there enough Colonists to protect their farms from the cattle?

As for those night watchmen.....not so sure I'd want to venture out at night alone with the bear and other wildlife in the area!

Where did Tobias stay?  Where did the Colonists stay?
It rains since two days, and every drop falling from the drifting clouds brings the tidings of a good success, and increases us more and more with the hope that the money invested and the work done, done with so much fervor, goal, good will and love, and done with so small moans and under so many unfavorable circumstances was not in vain, and that our endeavors will not be frustrated.
"unfavorable circumstances" - what were they?
I found that we shall have an excellent and first class potato crop, and further I found that all the vegetables sown, spring out with surprising rapidity, thereby proving the richness of this virgin soil. I found further that the cabbage plants will yield cabbages of almost incredible largeness, and turnips in comparison to which the New York turnips are perfect dwarfs.
The Colonists arrived on May 9.  No houses.  The land had not been surveyed.  Yet by June 29, they had planted.  They were coming up in the ground.  Afternoon showers - common in the mountains in some years, were providing needed moisture.  We see here they had planted potatoes, cabbages and turnips.
I found finally that the soil hides in itself wonderful growing powers, because cabbage, beans, beets and cucumbers that have been sown on Wet Mountain Valley last week, came out on the 4th day after they had been sown. They came out despite of the intensive heat that threatened to dry to powder every seed.
Here we see they also planted beans and cucumbers.  And the first hint of the arid mountain climate.   Schwarz it very optimistic....but a local might know that planting the end of June does not give you much of a growing season at 8000'.

Had we had more time, and more means, we could have proved to the world that the prejudice that the Jews are not fit for farming is a prejudice and nothing but a prejudice. We further would have been able to repay almost every cent that the Committee has expended for the benefit of this colony, and thereby been able to present at least one gratifying feature in the sad history of the modern migration of nations. However, let us be contented with what we have accomplished this year, and we surely will make up for the deficiency please God next year.
Here, he is already predicting that the crops that were planted won't produce enough income to repay HEAS.  He knows there will be a deficiency.

One thing is proved by our efforts and that is the fact that the East has an exceedingly wrong and erroneous idea of the qualities of Colorado. There is hardly one person out of every 500 in the East but who believes that Colorado is a barren plain, utterly unfit for agricultural purposes. It is the common belief that the State is good for nothing except mining and stock raising. It is my unshaken belief and conviction that Colorado can be made one of the greatest agricultural States in the Union if the proper efforts are taken to make it so.
The optimism of the young - that Colorado can become the greatest agricultural state?  134 years later and that has not happened.

One great big bear that has gained wide circulation is, - it never rains in Colorado and agriculture cannot be made a success in a desert. There never was a more egregious error than this. This present season has simply verified the fact that it does rain in Colorado, but even if it did not rain, farming could be persecuted (sic) successfully and profitably. The system of irrigation commends itself to the farmers as the means of promoting the growth of agricultural products, and there is no tiller of the soil but who will say that he prefers irrigation to natural rainfalls. The system of irrigation enable the farmer to get just as much water as he needs and no more, and to put it where it will do the most good. Therefore even the scarcity of natural rainfalls would not operate to the detriment of Colorado and will not do as long as the means for irrigation can be so easily taken advantage of.
Perhaps Schwarz did not know at the time of this writing that all of the water rights for that area had already been claimed.  You would need to purchase water rights at this point.  And while there can be years of substantial rain in Colorado....there have been numerous years where there has been very little rain as well.  The same is true of the snowpack in this state which provides runoff for the rivers and lakes in the state.

The cost of irrigation cuts no figure in the case at all the increased production from the land more than compensating for the cost of water. Myself and Tobias have carefully searched for water on Wet Mountain Valley and have found in the mountains a natural reservoir that is capable of binding for the time of eight months as much water as needed for the whole Wet Mountain Valley. The cost of this reservoir would be in the neighborhood of 800 to 900 dollars, the farmers however, would be able to repay this outlay after the next crop, as the irrigation would increase the producibility (sic) of the soil and thereby also the financial condition of the colonists. For this crop I believe we can make shift with the natural rainfall.
This paragraph is a little confusing.  I think he is saying that he's found a reservoir and it would cost $800 to $900 to purchase it.  Yet he might be asking for money for an irrigation ditch from the reservoir to the farms?  An irrigation ditch would be necessary, but it would do little good as he would also need to purchase the rights to the water in the reservoir.  It would seriously need to be a huge reservoir to supply water to all the farmers in a dry year.

I am very glad indeed that I am placed in the agreeable condition of reporting success and hoping that all will go well, I remain as usualYours very truly,Julius Schwarz

A couple of thoughts for future blogs.  Schwarz was very young.  He had been in this country about 18 months.  He surely wanted to impress his bosses at HEAS, thus, he wanted the Colony to be a success.  At the same time, it is apparent he now understands the water issue in Colorado to the extent that water is needed for successful farming.  He probably doesn't understand the complexity of water rights even at this early stage of the state's development.

What I take away from this letter is the incredible determination of the Colonists!  They have been in Cotopaxi for about 7 weeks and they have crops in the rocky ground, starting to come up.  Accomplished with very few farming implements and only a couple of cows.  While it might not be enough to support them through the winter...they did it.  In prior blogs, I show that as of June 30, most of them did not have houses on their farms.  So they were walking the 8 miles from Cotopaxi to their farms to work them.  They were dealing with the open range cattle.  They were dealing with rain and extreme heat.  Yet by the end of June, they had a Tora and were keeping the Sabbath and all other religious laws.

Amazing people!
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