Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Feb 11, 1883, Denver Republican interview with Kohn, Witkowski, Strauss and Davidson on Cotopaxi

In this article, a reporter from the Denver Republican interviewed 4 people about the Colony:

George H. Kohn, a Denver attorney
L. Witkowski, owner of the Star boot and shoe store
Herman Strauss, listed as a farmer in the 1880 and 1885 census
Isaac Davidson,  past President of B'nai B'rith, Lodge 171, Denver

An attorney, a business owner, a farmer, and a religious leader.  A good cross-section of Denver Jews at that time.

Denver Republican11 Feb 1883
Russian Refugees
Deplorable Condition of Affairs in the Jewish Colony at Cotopaxi
The True Inwardness of the Trouble, Detailed by Four Reputable Denver Citizens
The Cotopaxi colony, composed of Jewish exiles from Russia, is again assuming and undue preminence, showing a most worthless management on the part of those who inaugurated the scheme.  The facts in the case seem to be as follows:  A man by the name of E. H. Saltiel, who has a mining property at Cotopaxi, went to New York city some time since for the purpose of bringing a colony west.  Being a Jew he engrafted himself into the confidence of the Jewish relief societies of that city,  who gave him from $8,000 to $10,000 for the purpose of colonizing sixty Russian Jewish exiles at Cotopaxi.  Mr. Saltiel obtained this large amount of money owing to false representation, stating that he had suitable and fertile lands in the Wet Mountain valley and that by the development of these the colony could soon realize a handsome income.  But as he possessed none of the rich ranch lands of the Wet Mountain valley, he could not keep the pledges made to the Jewish societies in New York, and located these poor families in the vicinity of Cotopaxi, where it has been utterly impossible for them to make a living, and the colonists are now in destitute circumstances.
This is verification of the fact that there are no land records by Saltiel.  We now know that he had the land surveyed after the Colonists arrived.  When he had the meetings in NYC - he did not even know for certain the location of where their farms would be.
Of late many reports have been received by the Jewish residents at Denver, that the colony was suffering, and that they had neither sufficient food nor clothing to protect them from the cold.  When the colonists sent word to this city of how they had been deceived, they at once enlisted the sympathy of the Jewish people of Denver.  Their appeal for help was not made in vain.  A committee, consisting of L. Witkowski, the well-known proprietor of the Star boot and shoe store, On Lawrence street, and George H. Kohn, an attorney of hight standing in Denver, was sent to look after the Cotopaxi colony.  They went as directed, and made a throrough investigation, and on returning last week, made a report to the Jewish Society of this city. 
I have posted that report here 
They found the colonists to be in great destitution and abject poverty, and without the means of gaining a livelihood.  The committee learned that, instead of locating the colony on the rich lands of that mountain valley, Saltiel had placed them on the productive and sterile lands in the vicinity of Cotopaxi, where it was impossible for them to make a living. 
Once again, the "good land" in the Wet Mountain valley and all of the water rights had previously been claimed by other pioneers.
Since the report of the investigating committee, Mr. Saltiel has made statement through the public press that the reports made by Messrs. Witkowski and Kohn were false, and that, on the contrary, the lands were fertile and the colony in good condition.  In these statements Mr. Saltiel has further declared that the colony is contented, and that he has paid them large sums of money for the development of his mining property.
The records show that Saltiel hired A. E. Gumaer to develop his mine and then he failed to pay Gumaer who took him to court.  I have not posted those documents yet - that will come later.  There is no evidence that Saltiel hired the Colonists to develop his mines.
Yesterday, a Republican reporter was sent to interview Mr. Witkowsky (could not read 3 words here) of the matter.  Mssrs. Kohn, Herman Strauss, and Isaac Davidson were then sent for and the statements which had been made by Saltiel were then and there denied by all of them.  They assert that Mr. Saltiel has no character, and that he has an unsavory record, and that he has no standing among the Jewish people here.
Mr. Davidson says that he has known Saltiel for seven or eight years, and that when he (Saltiel) first came to Denver he failed to provide for his wife, and laughed at the distress of his family. 
This is more new information.  It implies that Saltiel first came to Denver in 1874.  I think the problem is that Saltiel was in Denver numerous times - most likely associating with a different group of people each time.  It might account for Davidson thinking Saltiel first moved to Denver in 1874.

We know that Saltiel's wife and children were in Missouri and moved from there to Cotopaxi sometime in 1880.  Did she move to Denver in 1874?  There is no record if she did.

It is important to remember that as of the writing of this report, Saltiel and his wife were divorced, she was living in NYC with her 2 younger children.  The oldest son had stayed in Cotopaxi with his father.
The fact is now very apparent that the colony venture was simply a scheme of Saltiel’s to advance his own private and personal interests.  It seems that he attempted to build up a town at Cotopaxi, and hoped by the assistance of this colony to boom his property. 
Perhaps one of the most accurate statements to date.
He furnished them with miserable huts and charged them $280 for their erection, when the original cost could not have been over $100. 
I believe he charged HEAS, not the Colonists.  The point being that they were worth $100, not $280 as charged.  The word "hut" has been used a second time to describe the buildings.
He had promised them each a cow, two horses and a plow, but on these lands they could accomplish nothing with them. 
This is a very good point.  While we now know that they did not get the animals and plows in time for the 1882 planting/harvest, we also know this probably had little to do with their success/failure.  It as the location, lack of irrigation water, and weather that was the problem.
Only three men have been employed in the mines and the checks given Saltiel were dishonored by the Canon City bank. 
This is probably accurate based on the financial dealings of Saltiel, the amount of money he owed others at this time.  I will be posting evidence of this later on.
Messrs. Witkowski and Strauss recently made another visit to the colony, taking with them provisions to the value of $600.  The case has been laid before the Society in New York, and an attempt will be made to alleviate the distress of the colony, and place them in a more favorable locality.  A man named Schwartz who is a partner of Saltiel’s is now in New York, making an effort to get more money from the Jewish Societies….
there are 4 more lines that did not photocopy well.  when I get a better copy, I will edit this post.  While we do not know who actually wrote this report - it was someone who worked for the Denver Republican who interviewed these 4 men.

A couple of things are becoming evident:

1)  no one was able to get information out of HEAS (the Society) in NYC.
2)  no one in Denver had any confidence in Saltiel
3)  Saltiel was a businessman who used the "colony" as a means to further his own interests.
4)  the housing was sub-par by anyone's standards (except Saltiel)
5)  Saltiel did not provide the land that he had promised
6)  The colonists probably had very little provisions that first winter

Sometime back before 2005, a descendant of the colony said to me, "I heard that Saltiel tricked the Colonists into coming to Cotopaxi just to get them to work in his mine."  I believe we can now say that oral history is a valid one.

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