Letter from H.S HenryDated 15 February 1883 Published in American Israelite, 2 March 1883New York, February 15, 1883
Messrs. H. Silver and George H. Kohn,Who is H. Silver? This is a new name. I was able to locate an "H. Silver" in Denver in 1887 who was a member of the Bimetallism committee. In 1912, an "H. Silver" attended the wedding anniversary of Mr. & Mrs. I. Rosenberg. Also attending were the Markelwitz's.
It is interesting that he identifies Cotopaxi as belonging to HEAS. Even after they can no longer provide financial support to them.
Committee, Denver, Col.:
I am in receipt of your favor of 5th inst., covering the report of the special committee appointed by the Jews of your city to visit our colony at Cotopaxi.
This report has had the immediate attention of the Colonization Committee of our society, with a result which I will endeavor to set forth in this communication.
It is evident, that while Mr. Julius Schwarz’s report has taken too rosy-colored a view of the prospects of the Cotopaxi people, your committee has erred on the other side.Julius Schwarz's report starts here, and the 2 posts following that.
The Kohn/Witkowski report is here.
Julius Schwarz was an employee of HEAS.
He derived his experience during the summer and a five months’ residence there,Julius arrived in May with the initial group and left 5 months later, in October - which we have previously established.
your committee took the depth of winter, and a very few hours (not twelve, we are informed,) to arrive at their conclusions – and probably because of this very hurried investigation – they have reported as facts many things that we know to be erroneous, and which upset completely the entire faith we should desire to give to so very well written and forcible a literary production.And so the "argument" continues. Perhaps the perspective of a local such as myself. If you were to visit the area on a very "bad" weather day in the depth of winter - you would walk away feeling like Kohn and Witkowski did. When it is 30 below zero in the middle of the afternoon, one has to ask how anyone could survive such weather. Yet Schwarz, who left in October, and did not experience any harsh winter weather thought that a baby could survive year round in a tent.
The colony at Cotopaxi was established by us at the instigation of Mr. E. H. Saltiel,OK. Verification from HEAS that Saltiel did establish the colony.
who represented that for a limited number of families the parks near to Cotopaxi furnished abundant land for the production of potatoes and other garden vegetables, which were always in demand in that section of the State, while the mines and town near by would enable able-bodied men to procure work when the season of farm labor was ended.HEAS is stating that Saltiel told them that the land was suitable for farming. (Yet Saltiel had never been a farmer). And that the mines would be a back-up employer in the winter. Verification that Saltiel's plan was to get them to work in his mines. Saltiel has already said that Cotopaxi was "one of the wildest parts of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado,"
An agreement was entered into with him for the erection of houses, etc., and the management of the colony was given into his hands.Sad that we do not have a date of this agreement. But we know Saltiel did not contract to start building the houses until the day before they arrived in Cotopaxi. And we know that he did not survey the land for the farms until 3 weeks after they arrived. He did not do anything to prepare for the arrival of the Colonists. One can only assume that he wanted them to fail at farming and thus have to turn to his mines for employment.
It is quite true, as your committee reports, that the society has suffered pecuniarily from this arrangement, indeed, we are certain that an economy of perhaps $2000 could have been effected by a more prudent investigation of cost, etc., and as Mr. Salteil did not carry out with the expedition he promised the builiding of the houses for which he had already received the money, we are induced to change the management. Mr. Schwarz, at first only clerk, became manager, and left the colony only when the houses contracted for were certain to be completed, and when he judged the colonists could get along without extraneous aid.Confirmation of what we have already learned. Saltiel did not perform the duties of his agreement with HEAS and Schwarz was made manager of the Colony. If you remember, Saltiel wrote a lengthy letter to the newspaper complaining about this action.
The colonists themselves were selected generally with a view for their fitness to their new surroundings – they were not forced to go, but were told that pioneer life in this country was generally a life of hardship – that to become independent industry, perseverance and courage were necessary. It was explained to them that thousands of German and Irish immigrants, without the fostering care of a society such as they were fortunate enough to secure, went out in all directions westward, procured work, and out of the surplus of their earnings became in due time land-owners and independent farmers.The fact that they came to Cotopaxi shows us clearly how bad their lives had been in Russia. They were willing to go anywhere. It certainly doesn't mean that Cotopaxi was the appropriate place to place an agricultural colony. But then, it might be difficult for HEAS to admit they had been swindled by Saltiel.
Our people desired to settle on land, to found homes for themselves and families, and knew all about what they had to contend with. It may read very well, therefore, to say:Sadly, 3 children died at Cotopaxi.
“Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why
Theirs but to do and die.”
But the quotation is not at all applicable to the case.
Furthermore, it seemed to us that the very nature of the land at Cotopaxi, and the kind of farming required there, was specially adapted to the Russian refugee, whose previous experience had been chiefly in the planting of vegetables, whose physique was less able to battle with the clearing of land, and all the hardships necessarily attending settlement in the West and Northwest.One has to wonder if Saltiel explained to HEAS just how much cacti would need to be cleared from the land before it was farmed. I feel certain these Jews did not experience that in Russia! Or did he explain that this was the "rocky mountains" and they would have to carry hundreds of rocks away from the land in order to farm? Odessa is at sea level. Kiev is 587'. Did anyone explain to these Jews, or to HEAS that this farm land was at 8000'? And that's just a bit higher than any other agricultural colony that was ever attempted. Painted Woods in North Dakota is only 1657'.
There was a certainty of occasional work near by, and, furthermore, some of our own people were in the place already, and could render them a moral assistance, if nothing else. In no respect, in any of these anticipations have we been disappointed.There is no indication of who Mr. Henry is talking about here. Was it Schwarz? There were no other HEAS colonies near Cotopaxi. Could he be referring to the Hart family? The Harts did not know Yiddish. Who else was at Cotopaxi from HEAS?
The possibility of the failure of the colony now is attributable to other causes.So Mr. Henry is predicting the colony will fail.
The Russian refugee, as a rule, prefers begging of his fellow-Hebrews to expending money that he has earned by his daily labor (however small that labor may be) for the supply of anything beyond the commonest necessaries of life. He likes to hoard his means against a rainy day, and will beg for clothes and help generally, even while he has much by him, wherewith to provide for his wants. Above all he has faith in the “rachmones” (compassion) of the Jewish race, which, experience tells him, is never appealed to in vain. There is nothing about him of that sturdy independence which has made great a less intellectual people – he whines and moans and appeals for alms, when his own right arm should procure by the sweat of his brow the means of subsistence for himself and family. How much he relies on this compassion is evidenced by the disregard he has of all prudence in his marital relations. He marries and gets a family while moaning that he has not bread to eat, and cannot earn it for himself, certain that in the end his extreme selfishness will be condoned by his wealthy brethren for the sake of the wife and children he has helped to make parties to his sad condition. This very compassion is answerable for much of the trouble involved in the settlement of these people. A little hardship, such as a German or Irish emigrant endures with equanimity – certain that with industry and perseverance he will overcome it – is magnified by the peculiar philanthropic ideas of our people into a condition of misery such as it ill befits the children of Israel to endure. Our views of comfort are altogether urban – we shrink from the idea of a snow-clad land and a log cabin, even with plenty of fuel at hand to make it habitable, and of all the discomforts inherent on the life of a pioneer – while we take little heed of the miserable city tenements, whole families crowded into a single room reeking with filth and malaria. These are to us the natural consequences of poverty, and, at all events, the sufferers are at our doors, and can be kept from starvation, if from nothing else.I find this rather interesting. Here is a Jew, the head of HEAS, wealthy, living comfortably in NYC. And we already know that all of the Jews living in NYC wanted the immigrants dispersed throughout the country. They were willing to front the money to establish farms....but they did not want the immigrants remaining in NYC. They did not want to have to feed and house them there.
So Mr. Henry now claims that the immigrants are lazy and would rather beg for money than earn it themselves. I would write this off to being a political commentary of the day. Henry "had" to say something like this. If the colonies failed and the Jews relocated to NYC, he would certainly lose his position and his status in the Jewish community there.
Instead of such a report as your committee has made, a committee sent by a German, Irish, or Norweigian Emigrant Society would probably have encouraged the colonists by pointing out that their present discomforts were only temporary; that with the return of spring and another harvest, things would improve;Yet Mr. Henry could not see that another spring would bring another flood. The summer would bring hail. The crop would be destroyed again. And he did not have the hindsight that we have that 134 years later, there are still no farmers on this land.
that perseverance after all the expenditure of money would certainly result in ultimate success; that they must try to get along with a trifle of money help to the least fortunate of the settlers, which they would recommend, and that they would take care that such implements and seed as they needed should be furnished along with somebody who could instruct them in the necessities of the soil, etc.Why did HEAS send a young Hungarian lawyer rather than a high altitude farmer? It doesn't appear they are willing to admit their own mistakes with this colony.
This committee would understand that to start life in a new country is not child’s play – that there are frequent disappointments and some misery, but that after all, success, when obtained, opens out a vista of happiness and independence to which a peddler or small artisan in a city can never reach, handicapped as he is by a large family and competition by more experienced hands.We also know that HEAS, located at sea level in NYC, had no understanding or comprehension of the geographical farming constraints at Cotopaxi.
Your committee dwells on the dreadful condition of the women about to become mothers in such an inhospitable clime, and amid such surroundings, and insist on removing them at once to the genial soil of Denver. Although the population at Cotopaxi is scant, children have been born there even among the colonists.2 babies had been born - one had died. So a 50% death record is not all that great!
There is a midwife there (the wife of Milchstein)This would be Hanna Milstein. She and her husband lived 8 miles south of Cotopaxi. Interesting how Mr. Henry thinks she could walk to provide assistance when and wherever needed. Again, evidence that he had no clue as to the logistics at Cotopaxi. No midwife is going to walk 8 miles in a winter blizzard - she wouldn't be able to.
who is represented to be a good person, and whose services have already been availed of. Why she should not be as competent now as heretofore, I am at a loss to understand, and I believe that the necessities of the case would have been fully covered without removal of these women to Denver as proposed, by the supply of a little money to provide them with some comforts, which their special condition required. The course pursued is a sure way to engender future trouble and make it impossible for these people ever to become satisfied without perpetual outside aid.Again, it is evident Mr. Henry simply did not grasp the logistics of the locations of the farms, the difference in altitude, the lack of transportation, etc. I don't think it had a thing to do with Hanna Milstein's ability to deliver a baby, but rather her ability to get where she was needed when she was needed. Babies just don't wait for the midwife to arrive!
There are undoubtedly a few families there who, from causes perhaps for which they are not entirely responsible, cannot make anything at Cotopaxi by outside work – these should be temporarily assisted, and if the new crop should demonstrate the impossibility of their continuance on the farm, so as to become self-supporting, some other provision should be made for them.
We know that the work at Salida would have been continuous for those that went there, had some of them been willing to submit to a differential scale of wages, but those that received $1.75 per day wanted $2.00, such as the more skillful hands obtained, and so the whole party got sacked.This is new information. Can we assume this was the railroad? Where else did they work in Salida?
In the mines we know that continuous work has been given to several of the men at $1.50 to $2.00 per day – we know, too, that many of these men have money, and do not pretend that they are needy – we know, too, that with the assistance proposed to be given to them for the spring work, they have expressed themselves in writing (so late as the 11th January last) as perfectly satisfied, predicting for themselves a hopeful future.I would agree that some of the families had sufficient funds. But others did not. I am also wondering why Saltiel only paid $1.50 to $2.00 per day to the Jews when he paid other workers $2.50 per day. In fact, from the records that we do have, he only paid the lower wages to Jews.
Your committee has, we believe, been imposed on to a certain extent, either by the Christian famers, whom they have seen, or some interested parties – as to the character of the land at Cotopaxi. It is not sterile, and may require in parts irrigation, which may render much labor necessary.Henry knows at this point at least that irrigation is needed. But he doesn't say that he will provide the funds to accomplish that. How does he propose a successful farming season if there is no means to irrigate?
The result of last year’s crop is no indication of the future. It was planted at least two months later than it should have been, and froze in the ground before, or at maturing. The early indications were for an abundant return of potatoes for the quantity sown and one farmer realized it. If only fifteen bags of potatoes resulted from fourteen sown in one instance, it was because the bulk of his crop got frozen, and not because the land was not rich enough to give a larger return.His "argument" is faulted. He does not understand the short growing season. Yes, you could plant potatoes and they will grow. But they will never get to harvest because of the short growing season. It can snow every month of the year. It can hail at any time in the summer. There can be a drought and with no irrigation ditches and no water rights, the future crops were doomed before they ever got into the ground.
At all events we know that other farmers in the neighborhood have succeeded without much of the help given to our people, and we certainly should await another season before arriving at so extreme a conclusion as that come to by your committee.I will do another blog post with maps to show that these other farms were to the south, in a much wetter, better irrigated place. And that's why they were successful.
Your committee is correct in two of its strictures – that with regard to the leases of the town-lots on which six houses are built, not having been executed, but the delay arose from not having blanks at hand at first, and there is no question of their being executed on demand, and that with regard to a competent Colorado farmer being employed to teach these people the requirements of their agricultural work – and these suggestions have due weight – but we are grieved to say that beyond this there is little of value in their report, while the following matters can be proved to be the result of gross misrepresentations by some party or parties in Cotopaxi.
1st. The cost of a house such as is erected by the society fixed at $100.00 is absurd. It takes about 5,000 feet of lumber, worth in Cotopaxi $20.00 per thousand, to build it with, and this alone is $100.00, without labor, nails, tar paper, doors and windows or stoves; $230.00 would be nearer to the mark.But here's the problem - the houses did not have doors, windows, stoves. So we're back closer to the $100 mark?
2d. The episode so touchingly expressed as to Mitkowsky plunging into the Arkansas River to bring succor to his starving wife and children.
The facts are: Mitkowsky did plunge into and swim across the Arkansas River in July last, when he was a single man, and had no wife or child. It was a Friday evening – he was belated and desired to pass the Sabbath with his friends. A flood had carried away the bridge, he was a good swimmer and took the risk. All honor to him for what he did – there was pluck in the act, and it is not to be wondered at, that this man is said to be one of the best and most successful among the colonists at Cotopaxi.If this did happen in July, then Menkowsky was single at that time. Confirmation that a bridge was lost in a flood in July. Is this an additional flood to the one in June?
3d The two men who earned for a day’s work $1.39 in moving and sawing timber for the railroad.What's interesting here is the admission that the weather was so cold the man's ears froze. Yet Schwarz claimed a baby could live in a tent year round. Once again - confusion.
They did earn $1.39, but they worked only about three hours to earn it. The company offered them short work at $1.50 per day; but they preferred to do the job by the piece. The weather was so cold that they knocked off in three hours, one of the men getting his ears frozen, as your committee reports.
In conclusion, I fear that more harm than good has resulted from the kind intentions of our co-religionists of Denver; the morale of the colony is likely to be injured by their action, and our efforts to render these colonists independent are thwarted to an extent now that it will be difficult to re-establish it. We are not inclined to meet your demand for cash to help them beyond a very limited sum to Grupitsky and one or two others, and our experience teaches us that what one family gets the others, although not in want, will certainly demand.Why Grupitsky? Because he was the rabbi? He had land just the same as the others and he was about the same age as the others. He was a widower with children. But so were others.
I find the disagreement with Denver interesting. Not sure what the answer is, but I can see both sides. The Colonists reached out to Denver who sent men to investigate and these men reported back to Denver and to HEAS. Agree that they weren't in Cotopaxi very long, but it might not take long to see the situation as it was on that day.
On the other hand, this is the "project" of HEAS and it would be hard for them to admit mistakes, to admit failure. They were using the money received as donations for the most part from other NYC Jews. If this colony failed, it would not set well with the NYC Jewish community.
We are unable to determine for the present just what to do, but we would recommend to you that no steps, such as you propose, should be entertained, looking to the removal of these elsewhere, unless you are prepared to take all the responsibility and expense of such a movement.Quite harsh! But I can see where they are coming from. They did not understand the conditions at Cotopaxi.....nor could they admit it had been a bad idea. So the conclusion was to do nothing.
The publication of the report of the committee was a most unwise proceeding. The whole press of the country, especially the Jewish portion of it, will at once seize the opportunity of giving expressions and advice about a matter of which they have little actual knowledge and this Society will be forced against its will to publish some such statement as this I have made to put the matter in its true light.Even more evidence that HEAS doesn't want their name tarnished. If you can equate the newspapers of that period to Facebook today you might have a better idea of what was going on. You wouldn't want your failures publicized on Facebook!
Our Society has no interest to serve; it may have made many mistakes, and this at Cotopaxi may be one of them; but it was hardly courteous to publish such a document, the result of a few hours’ investigation, without waiting to hear from us, who have considered the matter for months, as to what we thought of the conclusions arrived at.At this point, perhaps HEAS was not aware of all the other letters that had been published about Cotopaxi? But I think the Denver Committee almost had to publish this. In order to validate the facts about Cotopaxi. Keep in mind that they had tried to obtain information from HEAS and had not been successful in getting it. At least by publishing the Kohn/Witkowski report - they got a response out of HEAS!
I am, gentlemen, yours faithfully,
[Signed.] H.S. HENRY, President H.E.A.S.
Stay tuned for even more responses to the Kohn/Witkowski report. It got "under the skin" of more than just HEAS and Myer Hart!
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