4. Colorado farming and the peculiarities of Colorado soil.
Farming in Colorado can by no means be compared to farming in other States or regions. While farmers in Hungary or Germany depend upon rain to water the thirsty fields, the farmer who undertakes the task to break up Colorado’s soil cannot put too much trust in the natural rainfalls, but is as a rule compelled to do without it. He catches the bubbling waters of the many springs that run through the virgin soil and uses it to water his land with. In other words, he irrigates, and irrigation is no easy task. While in some parts of the west, as Dr Julius Goldman correctly remarks, farming on virgin soil requires no previous knowledge or experience, being mainly a question of observation and imitation, accompanied by such advice as is easily obtained; farming in Colorado requires knowledge of irrigation, which, however, can easily be learned, but not so easily carried out, as irrigation requires great patience, tireless attention, and a great deal of hand work – qualities which I proud to say I have found in our colonists.This clearly shows us that by October, Schwarz had learned about irrigation and the importance of it to a successful farm. The officials at HEAS would not have understood it, thus he needs to take time to explain it in detail.
It is a general saying in Colorado, that the test of a good farmer is his way of irrigation, and our refugees have irrigated well. They irrigated with so much success, that they had the water readily at their disposal, not as it pleased the ditch but as it pleased the irrigator. In other words, our colonist created his rain but curbed it also. It rained when it pleased him. He opened and shut his ditches just as it suited him. He led the water from one end of his farm to any part of it; he caused it to branch out in many little streams, and to bring refreshment, new life and the conditions of thrift and growth to the sun-burnt and thirsty fields.Schwarz explains this quite well. But he has not mentioned at this point that there needs to be a source of water. Springs in this part of Colorado are minimal and flow when there is runoff from the snow, but dry up quickly. They can not be counted as a viable source of water.
Colorado is a peculiar State, but the East has altogether an erroneous idea of its capabilities. There is hardly one person out of every five hundred 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.
One great bugbear that has gained great circulation is, that it never rains in Colorado, and agriculture cannot be made a success in a desert. There never was a more egregious error than this. The present season has amply verified the fact that it does rain in Colorado, but even if it did not rain, farming could be prosecuted successfully and profitably. The system of irrigation mentioned above commends itself to the farmers as the means of promoting the growth of agriculture products, and there is no tiller of the soil but who will say that the prefers irrigation to natural rainfalls. The system of irrigation enables the farmer to get just as much water as he needs and no more, and to put it just 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 so as long as the means for irrigation can be so easily taken advantage of.He is buttering up HEAS as he is about to ask for money for irrigation?
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. There are under cultivation in Fremont County, at the present time, about 15,000 acres of land, and 100,000 acres additional can be made productive with an effective system of irrigation, for which purpose there is an abundant supply of water in the Arkansas River.15,000 acres in Canon City? Close to the Arkansas River? Where ditches had already been dug to carry water to farms? He cannot be discussing the land where the Colonists lived as water from the Arkansas would need to be pumped uphill 2000'.
The principal crops are corn and vegetables. With good cultivation, fifty bushels of corn per acre is an average yield. In the production of vegetables the capacity of the soil seems boundless. One gardener raised 140,000 pounds of cabbages on nine acres the last year, all of which sold for two cents per pound. Another gardener reports 45 tons of carrot from a single acre. Orchards are growing on about 75 acres in Fremont County, the oldest being but ten years old, and that has produced its fourth crop.The only known orchards at this time were located in Canon City - a much lower altitude, a much longer growing season, with flat, tillable land.
A gentleman named Jesse Frazer has the largest orchard in the county.Jesse Frazer lived in Florence, east of Canon City. Perhaps an even more fertile location than Canon?
It is beyond me how Schwarz can compare farming in Florence to farming 8 miles south of Cotopaxi.
He was an Argonaut of 1859, one of the many who failed to find fortune in the golden sands of Cherry Creek, and in 1860, he wended his way south, halting at the spot where he has since lived. He manufactured a plow of cotton-wood, and with that crude implement broke the ground for his first crop. He now owns about 100 acres on the banks of the Arkansas River, eight miles from Canon City, two-fifths of which is in fruit – apples, pears, peaches, grapes, cherries, plums, strawberries, raspberries, black-berries, etc. Altogether, twenty acres of his trees are now producing, and from their spreading branches he can gather golden fruit, yielding him an income of $5,000 per year. The apple crop finds also a ready market at Colorado at six cent per pound, in other words as much for ten or fifteen pounds as the New York fruit growers received for a barrel of that healthful fruit a year ago.Of note - Frazer's farm was located right on the Arkansas river making irrigation quite easy.
Around our farms there are wild cherries and grapes growing in abundance, and in five years our refugees will be able to offer to the market the finest specimens of grapes and cherries.This was most likely in Cotopaxi. Probably not at the 8000' plots.
The question is now: If water is the principal condition of harvesting a plentiful crop, is there always water on hand when needed? To which the answer is: water is on hand in any quantity, but for some farms it is more easily reached than for others. While, for instance, on three of our farms, on those that are situated on Oak Grove Creek, the water supply is constant and abundant;only in a "wet" year. Not in a "dry" year. Oak Grove Creek will dry to a trickle.
in Wet Mountain Valley it must be led off from the mountains through a long ditch, the direction of which I have personally surveyed and pointed out.This ditch survey was never filed in the clerk's office.
But the soil in Wet Mountain Valley is so moist even without irrigation a crop could be raised. This year our farmers had to make shift with the natural rainfall, and it was found that the soil on the valley is so compressed that it keeps the precious rain drops for weeks, proving thereby that if it only rains a few times during the season a crop can be raised. The soil is black and feels like cool ointment. The main water supply of the country in which our farms are located is the Arkansas River.Again, 8 miles north of the Colonists farms.
Of course, farms having a water front enjoy the benefit of an abundant, so to say, ready-made water supply. Our farmers get their water partly from the creeks running through their lands, partly from the lake that flows on the boundaries of Fremont and Custer Counties. The irrigating canal of Canon City Hydraulic Company, receives also its supply from the Arkansas River at the mouth of the Royal Gorge,remember, this is 35 miles east of Cotopaxi. Really not relevant other than Schwarz is explaining irrigation?
and passes through the park north of that town, furnishing an abundance of water for irrigating all of the ground within the city limits and many thousand acres outside. From a point one and a half miles above the city to a point an equal distance below, the Arkansas River falls one hundred and seven and one half feet, and so great and constant is the volume of water, that the power yet to be utilized can scarcely be computed. Five turbine wheels having an aggregate of three hundred horse power are in use to furnish power for different purposes, and yet, competent judges estimate that not one-tenth of the power is utilized. It can be seen from this that water is always on hand, and that getting it is merely a question of more or less work.Cotopaxi did not get electricity until the 1940s or 50s.
As to the qualities of the soil, nothing illustrates more its productiveness than the fact that, despite of unusually unfavorable circumstances whereby our farmers did not get all the agricultural implements that were needed, and were obliged to break the ground with common shovels, the seed soon yielded precious fruits. Fine cabbage, large potatoes, peas, beans, and squashes, rewarded the persevering labor of our farmers, proving the surprising growing powers of soil, and testifying to the willingness earnestness and industry of our Russian co-religionists, who, I believe, will do almost anything, if they are rightly treated and rightly understood.Schwarz left Cotopaxi sometime in September 1882. He did not remain for the harvest. With the late start the he mentioned above, these crops had to remain in the ground longer to come to their full growth. Unfortunately, there was an early freeze and the crops were lost.
Because Schwarz did not remain a full year, he did not experience late and early freezes and did not mention them in this report. Yet they are a very common factor at 8000'. Consider that timberline in Colorado is at 11,000' and the "tree line" is about 10,000'. These farms were at a considerable altitude and weather would have been a huge factor.
In connection with the foregoing, I shall now take up the next point of enquiry:
5. The condition of the crop of the refugees - what they raise, their houses, the climate.
The season having been too far advanced to sow wheat or oats (we arrived on the 9th of Mayreconfirmation of the May 9th arrival date
expecting to find land already located, but as this was not the case,confirmation again that Saltiel had not surveyed the land before they arrived
we had to prospect for it, and it was not until the later part of May that we established the first settlement) the colonists planted mostly garden stuffs and vegetables. As the settlement was commenced too late, I limited myself to distributing the land amongst the settlers, giving each colonist 160 acres of land in one body, ordered, however, that a number of acres be cultivated in common, and the crop to be raised thereon apportioned according to the size of each family.This would make sense. If you look at the plot mat, most of them are in one location. Schwarz is stating that he took the best farm land and made it a communal farm. Most likely 5 acres per family.
Thus about forty acres have been cultivated and ploughed up with potatoes, cabbages, beets, beans, turnips, onions, cucumbers, melons, peas, corn and radish. We planted 14,000 pounds of potatoes. The potato crop is in quantity as well as quality an excellent one. It could have been larger had not such drawbacks interfered that would have discouraged every earnest and honest beginner.
We had no wire fences, hence the thousands of cows grazing in Wet Mountain Valley ate up the plants;this would be true since Colorado is "open range".
our houses were not furnished (of the twelve to be built, only eight are built as yet),2 in Cotopaxi, 4 elsewhere from his prior statement in this report. Now 2 additional have been completed with 4 still to be built. Did Schwarz write this report over a length of time or was his prior statement incorrect?
hence the colonists could not live on their lands, could not watch and protect them, but had to walk home ten to twelve miles, or lie on the open field night after night;despicable conditions brought on by the fact that Saltiel did not accomplish what he had promised HEAS he would do.
and yet, and despite of all these drawbacks, to the indefatigable perseverance of the colonists, owing to the circumstances that the management of the colony never failed to remain in contact with the refugeeshere Schwarz is telling us that he was always in contact with the Colonists. This is opposite of what Saltiel claimed in his letter to the American Hebrew.
, never failed to show that it feels for them and with them, imbuing thereby in the desperate hearts of the lingering refugees the consoling consciousness that there is somebody that watches over them, knows them, and understands them.
Owing to the really gentlemanly conduct of the majority of the colonists, we have accomplished something. Our principal crop is the potato crop. It will suffice for the purpose of seed for the next spring and deducting some percentage will leave about 45,000 pounds for sale. As the price of potatoes in unusually low at present, I gave orders that the potatoes when picked up should be stored in underground cellars and kept until the early part of the spring, when it is expected that the market price will be considerably higher. I am glad to say that my recent reports from Cotopaxi announce a slow but constant rise of the price.Schwarz, at this point, did not know of the early freeze and that there were few potatoes actually harvested.
Our cabbage crop has been greatly damaged by cattle. It will, however, suffice for household requirements, as well as all the rest of the garden stuff and vegetables. The quantity of the latter is not satisfactory for reasons already detailed: the quality, however, is astonishing. The Colorado cabbages are, in comparison to cabbages that I saw in the Hudson Valley, perfect giants. A potato that I brought to show the Committee in New York weighs not less than two and one half pounds, and a beet about nine pounds.Not enough produce to sell to make a living. Only enough to feed the households. A 2 1/2 pound potato and a 9 pound beet - were these average or did he pick the largest to show?
The committee has ordered twelve houses to be built for the colonists. Eight of them are completed. The size of the house is 16 feet by 20. The houses are double boarded, with tar paper between them, and have a 1-3 pitch roof. They contain three rooms and a kitchen, with stove and cooking utensils. The height of the houses is 12 feet in the centre.Eight houses complete. Still only 4 stoves at this point? 2 boards with tar paper between them. Not much to keep out the elements of the winter fast approaching.
Before the houses were finished the colonists lived, and some of them still live, in Cotopaxi in a reception house. This is a building about 50 feet long by 28 feet wide, and is divided into three large light rooms, one good sized back room and two smaller rooms.Most likely, this is the boarding house that was built by the railroad workers when the tracks were being laid in 1880. Yet the men had to walk the 8 miles to get to their farms.
We had also two good sized warm log cabins at our disposal. The climate of Colorado, especially of that part where our colonists are located, is the healthiest in the Union. It is called, and with reason, the sanitarium of America. It is well known that as one ascends from the level of the sea, there is found a declension of temperature averaging one degree for every 300 feet of elevation, but this is true only when the ascent is made from the surface of the earth. At the base of the Rocky Mountains we have a more genial climate and higher winter temperature than will be found in the same latitude near the level of the sea. This statement is pre-eminently true of the County of Fremont.
As a winter resort for persons out of health, Fremont County has no equal. The altitude, the dry air, the rapid evaporation, and the direction of the winds, are the most efficient causes of all the peculiar characteristics of Colorado climate. The pure air, the dewless nights, the gorgeous scenery, and the mental relaxation so readily secured, are the advantages of Colorado climate. In Colorado, in a tent, the tenderest babe and the most delicate invalid can live and sleep all the year around and derive benefit therefrom.Again, Schwarz had not lived a winter in this area. I have. In January, 1981, I was living just NE of where the Colonists lived and we had a cold snap where the highest temperature of the day was minus 30 degrees - for a week. I do not think anyone could have survived that in a tent.
As a consequence of these facts our colonists enjoy the best of health. No serious case of sickness has occurred, the infant that died having been suffering with diabetes since its arrival at New York.Here is our first evidence of a death among the Colony.
In speaking of the climate of Colorado, I can justly refer to a very excellent observer and popular medical writer, Dr. W. W. Hall, who once remarked in relation to the beneficial results of Colorado climate: “I have seen the hollow chest expand, the sluggish step quickened into activity, the sunken eye grow bright, the weakened or undeveloped muscles gain wonderfully in strength, all within a few months.” Good climate requires also good food, and our colonists never lacked good food. Their chief food was bread, butter, fish, rice, coffee, beans, prunes, dried apples and potatoes. Since the beginning of August I furnished them also kosher meat from Denver, and since the 1st of October, they having their cows and calves, they have also milk.The first evidence of what they lived on. They went from May to October with no cattle, no milk? We know they went to Salida on the train to get flour. Fish from the Arkansas river?
Tomorrow will be the final section of this report.
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