Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Jan 30, 1883, The Kohn & Wirkowski report on Cotopaxi

As we have just seen, Julius Schwarz submitted a report to HEAS in October 1882.  That report was not published in newspapers, so Saltiel never rebutted it as he had done so freely with earlier reports.

A "committee" from Denver visited Cotopaxi, but we do not know when.  We can safely assume it was sometime after the Schwarz report of October 1882.  This was written on January 30, 1883 and published in:

the Denver Tribune on Feb 7, 1883
the American Israelite on Feb 16, 1883
and a shorter version in the American Hebrew on Feb 23, 1883

This is a rebuttal to the Schwarz report.

It was the beginning of a huge debate in Denver about the Cotopaxi Colony.  We will look at this "argument" one document at a time.
Report of the Committee from Denver, Col., Upon the Condition of the Colony of Russian Refugees at Cotopaxi, Col.
The American Israelite.  Feb 16, 1883. p 274
On the 8th of May, 1882, a colony consisting of thirteen families, numbering fifty souls, arrived after a five days’ journey from New York, at Cotopaxi.  From the 8th of May until the 28th of August, three family, numbering fourteen souls, arrived, so at that latter date (one child having died soon after its arrival at Cotopaxi) the colony numbered sixty three souls.
This concurs with the number of Colonists I have found through genealogy.

Happy to escape with their lives from Russia, they were ready, eager and willing to go anywhere in order once again to establish for themselves, their wives and their children, a home.  It was one of those times when—
“Their’s not to make reply
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die.”
We have not at hand the records or correspondence of the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society of the United States, that would inform us at whose suggestion or upon what investigation it was resolved to plant this colony at Cotopaxi.  WE know the colony came, and is now at Cotopaxi.  One Julius Schwarz came with the colony as its “clerk,” and subsequently the entire management was intrusted to him. 
We already have confirmed that Schwarz was given the management of the Colony because Saltiel failed to provide for them as he had promised.
From all the information that we can gather at present, consisting of the report of Mr. Julius Schwarz to the President of the H. E. A. S. of the United States and the statements of the refugees, we conclude it was the intention of the Society to give each head of a family a house and the necessary furniture and cooking utensils, farming implements, seed, and 160 acres of land.  It was the duty of him in whose charge the colony was placed to so provide for them.
They have the Schwarz report, but from the first paragraph, we know they had nothing else.  One has to wonder why/how that happened.

Confirmation of what each family expected upon their arrival at Cotopaxi.
How was it done?  The houses, twelve in number, constructed of rough timber were built at a cost of about $280 each, and we can safely assure you and the H. E. A. S. of the United States, that any of the houses could have been built for $100. 
Here is the first conflict about what it might have cost to build these houses.  
But what strikes us as being a greater outrage upon the liberality and confidence of the H. E. A. S. of the United States, and therefore an imposition upon those who are intended to be the beneficiaries of their bounty, is the fact that these houses are constructed upon land claimed by the Cotopaxi Placer Mining Co. as a town site, for which we are informed by Mr. E. L. Saltiel, the resident director of that company, the colonists have a fourty-nine years lease. 
I will be providing documentation at a later date that this is true.  Saltiel staked a claim of 160 acres under the homestead act.  Then he sold 155 acres of that land  within a few months(a violation of the homestead act)  to the Cotopaxi Placer Mining Co (a company that he created and owned 100% of).
Upon inquiry we find that no lease has ever been executed by the company to the colonists. 
I have not located copies of any leases.  However, the sale of the Shuteran and Nudelman properties both state that the houses were on land that had been leased to them for 49 years from Saltiel.  I will share these documents later.
This of itself is a fact pregnant with danger, and reflects sadly upon the management of the colony.  If, perchance, the Town Site Co. should see fit to eject the refugees from their land, what would become of these sixty-three souls? 
There are several issues to consider here.  First being that there is no evidence that there were written leases.   Who allowed the Colonists to build on this land?  Those who state that Saltiel was generous and kind would make him appear to be benevolent by allowing the Colonists to build on his land.  Yet this would only be in Cotopaxi proper.  The farms located south of Cotopaxi - there is absolutely no evidence that Saltiel ever staked any claim to any of that land....although he claimed the the did.
Notwithstanding the glowing description of Cotopaxi, present and prospective, given by Mr. Schwarz in his report, where he says (page three):
“Cotopaxi is the headquarters of a rich mining district; is situated in a beautiful valley, surrounded by high mountains, most of which contain valuable minerals, especially in silver and copper, galena and lead.  The Arkansas River runs at the foot of the valley.  It is a pretty lively railroad station, and is, by means of its favorable site, destined to become one of the best places in the Centennial State,”  the fact still stares us in the face that Cotopaxi contains in all but sixteen houses and a water tank.
Again, no one knew that the mines were very limited in product and would soon be emptied and nothing left to mine.  Because of that, the town never thrived.

We see that Cotopaxi has 16 houses and a water tank.  In previous posts, I have shown plot maps, photos and other evidence that there may not have been 16 houses at that time in Cotopaxi.  But if you count up to 8 houses located on the farms south of town, with the 8 remaining houses in Cotopaxi proper, then yes, there could have been 16 houses in the total region at that time.
For the present we will leave the colony at Cotopaxi and proceed to the farms. 
But this statement takes us back to the concept that there were 16 houses in Cotopaxi proper at that time.  From what I have found at the clerk and recorder's office - this was not true.   Could there have been houses built that were not recorded?  
Proceeding up Oak Grove Creek we came to the first so-called farms.  Here are three “farms” of 160 acres each. 
Remember, I have never found the Chorotsky (Shradsky) land declaration so we do not know the location of that farm.
And we know of no instance where quality was so sacrificed to quality as in the selection of these so-called farms.  We do not exaggerate when we say that a beast could not subsist on these lands.  This, a mean, narrow strip of land, extending a few yards on either side of the creek, which runs dry in winter and contains no water in summer except when the snow melts in the mountains above and suddenly comes down in a flood, terrible in its devastation, inundating the whole valley, sweeping everything before it and leaving deposits of sand, huge boulders and drift wood to tell of the remarkable action of water and the freaks of nature.
My personal experience from living in this area would agree with this statement.  Flash floods will devastate and destroy every single thing in it's path.  These creeks run great in the spring if there has been a good amount of snow the previous winter.  No snow, no water.  Most all of them run dry by August - often earlier.  We know for a fact that these plots were long and narrow.  

The farm on this creek, which Mr. Schwarz describes as looking “like a flower-garden” (see page four of report), is either visionary with him or was swept away before we arrived.  At least, we can assure you that there is not the faintest vestige of any such farm to-day.
This is interesting.  Schwarz said in October that it existed.  Now it doesn't.   And it is the Chorovsky plot that I couldn't find.
A steep mountain range, 2,000 feet higher than even Cotopaxi, which is 6200 feet above the level of the sea, strewn with gigantic rocks, separates the farms on Oak Grove Creek from those in the next mountain valley.  Here are six so-called farms.  These farms contain 160 acres each, and after careful inquiry, we find that two-fifths of these lands are absolutely worthless, because the soil contains nothing but rock
After visiting this area and walking around, I can confirm this to be true.  Perhaps they were being generous by stating only 2/5ths of this land is worthless.  Many would claim that all of it is worthless when it comes to farming.
and the other three-fifths can not be made available because they can not be irrigated, all the water in the creek (and that all is but little) having been previously appropriated by two earlier settlers,
this is true - all water rights had been divided before 1882 and would need to be purchased
and to bring water from the Lake of the Clouds (the nearest source of supply), at a distance of eight miles, could not be done for less than $4,000. 
$4000 was the estimated cost of purchasing water rights and digging irrigation ditches.
The next farms are three and a half miles further on, and are as worthless for farming purposes as all the other farms.
Maybe even more worthless as they were harder to access and drier.
The total amount of land embraced in these farms is 1,780 acres, and there is not 100 acres of it that is fit for cultivation. 
Again, from my personal experience in the area, I would concur that if you could find 100 acres to cultivate (with accessible water supply) you would be lucky.
As an illustration, we need only tell you that one of the colonists, who planted four bags of potatoes, gathered as a return fifteen bags of a poorer quality than what he planted, and this with the most favorable wet season that Colorado had for twenty years.
 This report failed to address the short growing season that is compounded by a general lack of water in this area.
The question may be asked, Was this the fault of the land or the farmer?  To this we answer, both.  The land is as poor as we represent it.  The farmer, who was probably an expert in Russia, is a mere novice in the art in Colorado.
However, even a novice farmer in Colorado would quickly learn that crops fail with no water.  Today, June 21, 2016, it will be 102 degrees F. here in Canon City where I live - 35 miles east of Cotopaxi and at a lower altitude.  I live 1 mile north of the Arkansas River which does me no good.  If I do not water my flowers by 8 am, they will wither and die by 2 pm in this heat at this altitude.  In a single day, you will learn that your crops will die.  I water 20 minutes at 4 gallon per minute, every single day during the summer months.    I grew up in Indiana and did not understand this concept - which I learned the first summer I lived in Colorado.
The possession of the cleanest printed book can not make a man, ignorant of the alphabet, read.  Nor are you a Paganini because you own a violin of his make.  You can not preach a sermon simply because you stand in the pulpit, nor are you a carpenter because you own a chest of tools. 
Instead of clerks and assistant clerks with which this colony, from their accounts and the logic of events is shown to have been burdened, there should have been practical Colorado farmers hired to teach and instruct these people in that art which it was intended they should learn.  Practical Colorado men should have been consulted in the selection of lands for these refugees, instead of leaving it to a man who, however learned he may be in other matters, shows his ignorance of Colorado soil, climate and water supply in many instances in the report from which we have heretofore quoted.
The Colonists spoke only Yiddish and did not understand English when they arrived in 1882.  And there were no "practical Colorado farmers" who spoke or understood Yiddish.  However, I do think that hiring someone local might have been much better than having Leon Tobias as the overseer of the Colony.   And perhaps that is the point they are trying to make.  E. H. Saltiel certainly had no experience farming.
What can be more ridiculous to a Coloradoan than the following, which we copy from the report of Mr. Schwarz (page 12):
“In Colorado, in a tent, the tenderest babe and the most delicate invalid can live and sleep all the year round and derive benefit therefrom.  As a consequence of these facts our colonists enjoy the best of health.”
Gentlemen, we do not for a moment believe that even our brethren in the State of New York will credit such monstrous statements.
There is no way that even the heartiest of adults could survive and entire winter in a tent when we know there are periods when the hottest it gets in the middle of the day can be below zero.  Yet no one had spent a winter in Cotopaxi at this point - so these statements are "monstrous" in content.
  And let us state to you and them that in our opinion, and from our observation, the houses of these refugees (upon which nothing was quite so lavishly bestowed as the Society’s money) were built upon the theory that the delicate mother and the half-naked infant would summer and winter require the balmy air of Colorado, wafted through creek and crevice, as it can only be wafted from the eternally snow-clad peaks of the Sango de Cristi Range.
We know that some of these houses did not have windows or doors.  A tent would have provided more protection.  While Kohn & Wirkowski had not experience living in Cotopaxi, they were from Denver and would have experienced severe winters there.
What other property does this colony possess?  Two plows make up the heading of “agricultural implements.”  Two plows for fourteen persons, whose “broad acres” number 1,7890!
Confirmation of previous reports.
  Each family (except three) possessed a cow and calf—the quality of the cows being that they gave no milk. 
This is the first report that tells us the cows did not product milk.
Then some of the colonists have barbed wire with which to surround their farms, which is like surrounding a poor chromo with a rich gilt frame. 
Yet barbed wire was necessary to fence out the thousands of cattle that the cattle ranchers brought to the open range of this area.
The clothing and provisions of the people are scanty in the extreme. 
Confirmation that the Colonists did not have much, if anything.  And winter was approaching.
The houses are so poorly constructed that on such a night as we saw them, the wind howling violently, the little shanty almost succumb, the illy constructed doors and windows, too small for their easements, admitting a constant draught of bitter cold air, the scarcity of blankets and bedclothing increasing the chances of sickness and death.
I can see both views here.  Schwarz, who had only experienced a summer and early fall, thought that the houses were good.  Kohn & Wirkowski who lived in Denver and knew what winter would bring, understood that the cold air would surly increase illness and then death for the Colonists.
We can sit at our cheerful firesides with gown and slippers, a book and a pipe, and listen heedlessly to the roar of the tempest and the rain as it comes down in torrents, but if it ever becomes your sad lot to find yourselves reduced to poverty, driven into a foreign, gloomy, desolate country, with scarce a shred to your backs, your wives driven almost to distraction in their attempts to obey the natural instincts of mothers to shelter their children, you will then wonder how people can be so deaf, not to the instincts of Judaism, but the instincts of humanity, as to let a poor, deluded people, Jews at that, die from cold and starvation.
This is Kohn & Wirkowski's ploy to the Jews in Denver to open their pocketbooks and provide assistance to the Colonists.
The instances of suffering among the colonists are numerous and pitiful. 
Confirmation of a number of oral histories.
On one occasion the family of Morris Mimkorsky was without food for two days; his wife was sick, and the Arkansas River was swollen to such an extent that it carried destruction in its terrible course.  It was a question of life and death.  Mimkorsky plunged into the stream, and, after a desperate effort, in which no other man would venture, reached the opposite shore in safety.  He secured the necessary provisions for his sick wife and brought them back with him.
There are those who have written that this was wrong because Minkorsky was single.  However, this report was written months after Mimkorsky (Menkowsky) had married Sarah Snyder at Cotopaxi.  So, yes, he did have a wife.  And while we have documentation of a flood about June, 1882, from a downpour.  But that is not the only reason the Arkansas will flood.

Last night, the Arkansas river reached flood level in Canon City and it is continuing to rise.  With the 102 degree temps, the snow still on the peaks is melting fast and this causes the river to rise and flood - without any rain in the forecast.  A much different situation that people back east might understand. If the water is high enough, it could easily have taken out these early bridges.

Currently, there are many warnings issued by BLM to stay out of the water, to not go near the banks of the Arkansas.

Of note here - we now know that Sarah Menkowsky died sometime before 1885.  One has to wonder if she ever recovered from her illness at Cotopaxi.

The wife of Zolle Puisane has for eleven weeks lain sick in a miserable hut in the mountains, without medical attendance or medicine; her husband has no work, and the people of Cotopaxi would not so much as give them credit for a sack of flour.
Zolle Puisance was Charles Prezant.  His wife was Clare.  He is one of the men who was not given land of his own, he arrived later with the second group of Colonists.  His wife was a sister to Anna Milstein, who was married to Baurch Milstein.  She also had another sister in Cotopaxi - Frieda Shames, the wife of Michael Shames.  So 3 sisters in the group at Cotopaxi.  And this one had been sick for 11 weeks.

Was this the Hart's store that would not give them credit?
Three women are in a very delicate condition, and will be confined shortly. 
Pregnant?  Well, not Clare Prezant.  They had 1 child at Cotopaxi and the next one wasn't born until 1885.
The cries and appeals of these poor creatures, as they contemplate the perils of childbirth - peril enough anywhere, but terrible beyond expression at Cotopaxi, where there is sickness and death in store for healthy persons, and where there is neither nurse, midwife, physician, medicine, or even food or clothing necessary for mother and child in such condition, are absolutely heartrending.  These Women must be cared for; they must either be properly attended to where they are or they must be removed to Denver temporarily, where our Hebrew Ladies’ Relief Society will give them that kind attention which only one Jewish mother knows how to give another.
I might tend to agree with this statement.  These women were living in an area in western Fremont county that took 2 days to access by wagon.  There were no doctors in that are, no medical facilities, no source for fabric diapers, etc.  The anticipation of childbirth would surely be frightening.  I have often wondered what these women did for a mikvah.  Someone said they dug a hole and filled it with water from the Arkansas River - but that would have froze solid in the winter.
The lands being barren and not susceptible of cultivation, for the reasons herein given, there remains nothing for these refugees to do save here and there a day’s employment in the zinc mine at Cotopaxi or an odd job for the Railroad Company.  But at no time have all the men had occupation; at no time have they had steady employment, and if one earned a dollar to-day the unemployed would share that dollar with the family of the man who earned it.
We know for a fact that their employment in the mines was not steady and then Saltiel stopped paying them.  We do not have records of their employment at the Railroad, but we do know the the tracks had been completed, so it makes sense that would with them might be scarce and/or irregular.
The fact is not, as some suppose, that the Russian refugee is lazy and unwilling to work.  How eager they are to work and provide for themselves is shown, among other instances, by the fact that two men, one of them just able to be out after two weeks’ sickness, hired out to the Railroad to saw logs.  These logs, probably eighteen inches thick, had to be carried down to the railroad track on the shoulders of these men and there sawed and piled up; for all of which these men were paid one cent per log, and realized together in one day $1.39, and froze their fingers besides.
That means they cut 139 logs in one day.  That's 2 men, so 70 logs per person per day.  1 cent per log then would be 23 cents per log today.  $1.39 in 1882 would be the same as $32.33 today.  Each man got $16.16.  Would you cut 70 logs today and carry them to the railroad for  $16???   These were incredibly hard workers.
There is so much exaggeration in the report furnished by Mr. Schwarz to the H. E. A. S. that we are pleased to be able to quote something at least which approaches the truth.  It meets our views, and we heartily indorse what is said on page thirteen of the report, which is as follows:
“‘Your folks are first-class workers.’  That’s what I was pleased to hear about the laboring capacities of our people.   There is no doubt that the refugees have shown that they are not that lazy  for which they were taken.  Under favorable circumstances they have done more than could be expected.  Only one who knows what it means to break up virgin ground with a common shovel can appreciate the industrious efforts of the refugees.
“They have broken up the ground with a shovel; they have done the hardest part of the work required to make a wagon-bridge; they have filled the ditches with big rocks which they were compelled to cut and hew from the mountains; they went up to their throats in the swift Arkansas River to make a foot-bridge to enable them to reach their lands; they worked in dark, damp mines as good and as perseveringly as trained miners; they worked on the railroad, giving entire satisfaction to their employers; they carried lumber on their shoulders to speed the erection of their houses; they walked often twenty miles a day to chop wood in the forests for the purpose of putting fence posts around their farms. 
With one word I can testify, and I fulfill a pleasant day in doing so, that our Russian co-religionists, as a rule, can work, and willingly, if they are properly treated and understood. 
 These are direct quotes from the Schwarz report which I have already commented on.
We are at a loss to account for the expenditure of $8,750 said to have been expended up to October 23, 1882. 
And I have already commented on this.  There is simply no way to resolve the math given in the Schwarz report.
We can assure you that the New York Society, and, therefore, the refugees, have paid more than twice as much for what they received as an honest administration of the funds would warrant.
This means that for every dollar that HEAS and the Colonists spent, they received a value of 50 cents.  Thus, only $4375 of the $8750 given to Saltiel could be accounted for.  What had Saltiel done with the rest of the money?  Did he use it to pay off his own personal debt?  We will soon know!
In conclusion, we would earnestly recommend that immediate relief, in the shape of clothing and provisions, be at once and without delay sent to the colony.  
That some means be immediately devised for the care and treatment of the sick, and those about to be confined.
That we recommend to the H. E. A. S. of the Untied States the immediate  removal of the colony to some other place—some place where their eagerness to farm will be rewarded by crops that will keep them alive and reward their labors. 
And we will see that some did leave and go other places as early as the end of 1882.
 Then we can agree with Mr. Schwarz in the quotation from Cicero:  “Nihil uberius, nihil delcius, nihil homine, liberte dignius, agricultura.”  There is nothing nobler, nothing sweeter, nothing more becoming to a freeman than agriculture.
Respectfully submitted.
George H. Kohn,
Louis Wirkowski,
Denver, Jan. 30, 1883.

Final notes on this document.  When looking at the 17 family trees I have created for the Colonists, who might have been pregnant in the fall/winter of 1882?  It would be children born in 1883.

We know that Solomon Shuteran had a child born in 1882 and that died in 1882.
Fanny Snyder married Max Shuteran in August 1882 and their first son, Samuel, was born in 9/22/1883, so it was probably not here.

Reina Snyder Newman gave birth to her daughter, Tillie in March 1883.

Riva Schradsky Toplitsky gave birth to her daughter, Fannie Toplitsky in July 1883.

There are others who might have been pregnant at the writing of this report as well.

Notice that E. H. Saltiel's name was never mentioned one time in this report.

George H. Kohn was an attorney in Denver.  Listed in numerous city directories
no records for Louis Wirkowski or Werkowski.  There is an L. Witkowski living at 376 Lawrence St in the 1881 Colorado business directory.  I found Louis Wiktowski living at the same address in the 1885 directory.  He made boots and shoes.  Is this the same person as Louis Wirkowski in this report?

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