Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Myer Hart's rebuttal to the Kohn/Wrtkowsky Report

This was a letter to the editor sent February 8, 1883, and published in the Denver Tribune February 13, 1883.  It was simply signed MH.

But from doing genealogy and knowing the names of every resident at Cotopaxi, I was the first to assign this as being written by Myer Hart, the son of E. S. Hart.  It is critical to understand who the author is in order to put this letter into the context of events at Cotopaxi.

We also know that Myer Hart would have been the 2nd cousin of E. H. Saltiel.  Therefore, we can anticipate that he will write in favor of E. H. Saltiel, and against the Kohn/Witkowski report.

A little background information on Myer.  He was born in NYC in 1864.  He spoke English, not Yiddish.  He was raised as an Ashkenazi Jew.  He was 19 years old when he wrote this letter.  He was the oldest child of E. S. Hart.  From Myer's descendants we have the Miriam R. Hart Radiation center in Boulder CO that I have previously written about.

Letter to Editor from Meyer HartSent 8 February 1883, Published in Denver Tribune, 13 February, 1883.
An Unknown Correspondent Accuses the Denver Relief Committee of Misrepresentation
To be Taken With a “Grain of Salt.”
The following communications concerning the Jewish refugees from Cotopaxi are given in denial of the reports of Messrs. Witkowski, Strauss and Kohn, of this city. They come from parties unknown to THE TRIBUNE. The gentlemen named are well known in Denver as above reproach as to veracity and business integrity. It is hardly probable that in the absence of even a selfish motive they should have misrepresented a case which applied so strongly to their sympathy and their generosity.
The newspaper just told us that this anonymous author is probably inaccurate.
COTOPAXI, February, 8, 1883.
To the Editor of THE TRIBUNE:
Having read in your issue of yesterday an article on the Cotopaxi colony of Russian refugees, given by Messrs. Witkowski and Kohn, I take the liberty of asking you to publish the following facts in regard to the colony, for the truth of which you are respectfully referred ‘to any citizen’ of this place. The report published is at great variance with the actual facts, and a great injustice to the people of Cotopaxi generally, especially Mr. Julius Schwarz, the late manager of the colony.
To begin with, the report gives the date of arrival of the colony, its number, etc., which is correct.
The Kohn Witkowsky Report  He is correct in that they arrived on May 9.  He is incorrect as Kohn states there were 50 and that matches up with everything else.
 It then says Mr. Schwarz was its clerk and subsequently its manager; this is true, but Mr. Schwarz was not appointed its manager until August 2, at which time most of the funds had been exhausted, and consequently Mr Schwarz is by no means responsible for the cost of houses, supplies, etc., as Mr. E. H. Saltiel had the sole charge and disbursement of all funds, Mr. Schwarz merely acting under his (Saltiel’s) orders. 
Not so sure that Kohn was blaming Schwarz for mismanaging colony funds.  But it is become obvious already that Hart is defending Schwarz.  Makes sense as they were about the same age and could have been good friends.
The houses are not composed of rough timber, but are built of inch plank, doubled with a layer of tar paper between the planks.
One inch plank is not very thick wood for the winter conditions at Cotopaxi.  This concurs with other reports.  2 planks with tar paper between them - not much to keep the elements out.
Each house is well built and furnished with a number eight cook stove with all the necessary cooking utensils; and is by far superior to the houses of other farmers in the vicinity.
No proof of this - just a 19 year old's word.
There are but six of the houses built in Cotopaxi (at the colonist’s request, owning their separate farms in Wet Mountain Valley) two of which leases have been given for forty-nine years, and the others may be had by the mere asking for them.
This is new information.  4 of the houses at Cotopaxi were built on land that they had no ownership to, and no lease rights.  Remember - none of these leases were ever recorded in Canon City.
In regard to the land, they are situated in one of the finest farming districts in the State (Wet Mountain Valley)
this really is not accurate.  The Wet Mountain Valley would be south of where we have plotted the land that the colonists declared.  Their location is north and with much less natural water.  One probably could not describe this land as part of the "wet" valley.
and needs but a ditch to make it the same as the rest of the farms surrounding it.
This ditch was never dug.  Again, young Hart has not lived there long enough to experience the harsh winters, hail in the summer, spring floods, etc.
This fact is told the New York committee by Mr Schwarz in his report wherein he says: “The colonists need help to build a three miles long ditch to irrigate their land.”
The Schwarz report was issued in October, 1882.  This is now Feb, 1883.  Failed crops and no income over the winter months - not sure where young Hart thinks the funds will come from to build this ditch or to buy the water rights to go into the ditch.
In regard to the cows of the colonists, the reason they do not give milk is that they are not properly fed and housed by the colonists.
I do not have any indication that any of the colonists had a barn, a lean-to, or a shed to provide shelter for their cows.  They were struggling to feed their own families.  Not sure how Hart thought they would feed their cows.
It is with regard to the clothing, provisions and financial position of the colonists generally, wherein the report is the greatest at variance with actual facts. One instance it relates of Morris Minkonsky’s family is, to say the least of it, an untruth, the fact being that at the time he crossed the river he was coming home from his land and was at the time a single man, not being married until three months after his adventure in the river, which was not the great feat it is represented, but one which any of the residents would have undertaken under the circumstances; and moreover, he did not have to procure provisions, as he was at the time being provided for by the society.
This is the beginning, perhaps, of the confusion about Cotopaxi.  Who to believe?  We do not have a date as to when Menkowsky jumped into the river.  There was a flood in June and another one in September.  He WAS married by September.  If Hart is correct, then Menkowsky,  who married in August, swam the river in May.  They arrived May 9th and there is no record of a flood in May.
It also relates an incident of Zolle Prizrand, stating that his wife lay at home sick and the people of Cotopaxi refused to give him credit for a sack of flour. This is a pronounced falsehood, as many of the Russians have accounts in Cotopaxi, and have never been refused credit for a sack of flour.
Zolle Prizrand is Charles Prezant.  Again, who do you believe?  A 19 year old, or an attorney?  Kohn who wrote the report was an attorney from Denver.
It also says that at no time the colonists had work together. This is wrong, as they have had month’s work in Salida from the Denver & Rio Grande railroad, each man receiving a check from the pay-car, the average of which was $40, and some of the checks are still held by the colonists.
Since we have no records to date from the railroad, we do not know that ALL of the men were employed there.
They have also had work at various times in the zinc mines, the average number employed being six, and wages from $1.50 to $2 per day
And we now know that they were not paid for their work in the mines as there was a lien filed agains the mine for unpaid wages.  We also know that not ALL of the men worked in the mines.
– also, two of them have been earning $1.50 per day for the last four months carpentering.
This is interesting.  The last 4 months would have been January, December, November and October - rather cold to be doing any type of carpentering.  There is no evidence so it is hard to say if this is true or not.  Could he be referring to the men who cut logs and froze their fingers?
In regard to them being in actual need or in danger of starvation, it is absolutely untrue. They have at the least calculation $1,000 between them and the cost of living to the largest family is but $15 per month, and on this basis they have enough money to live on for six months.
Once again, the math is significantly insufficient here.  $15 per month x 17 families x 6 months would be $1530.  How did a 19 year old know that they had at least $1000?  How did he estimate that the largest family needed only $15 per months?  
They also have a society among themselves which possesses $60, to be used in case of need of any of the colonists, and as none of them have made any demand on the fund they surely could not have wanted very badly.
Again - on what basis did he know this?
There are several of them also who have money coming to them from storekeepers here, also from the mining company, for work performed in January. It was only day before yesterday (Tuesday) when there were paid about $800 for December work by the mining company.
Did you notice in the miner's lien how Saltiel paid the Colonists less than the others?  The Colonists were paid $1.50 or $2.00 per day while other men were paid $2.50.  There were 8 colonists who worked in the mines.  If you work 6 days per week, for 4 weeks, that's 24 days.  Multiply that times $2.00 per day times 8 men and you get $384.  There is no way the miner's were paid $800 for the month of December.
No doubt the committee sent from Denver meant well by their efforts, but they have actually done more harm than good. Their only source from which they obtained their information being from the colonists themselves, who are naturally inclined to accept alms, and when they saw the prospect of obtaining a few provisions without cost they naturally made their case look as bad as possible. When they heard the committee was coming from Denver they refused to work, claiming they were sick and unable to do so.
There is no evidence in any of the documents that any of the Meyer children ever worked while at Cotopaxi.  Most were of school age while there.  These children were all born in NYC and spoke fluent English and none of them that we know of knew any Yiddish.  So it is questionable how Meyre knew what he is stating in this letter.
I do not want to take up too much of your valuable space, so will not trouble you with anything further, and trust you will publish what I have already written.
In my findings,  this is the first of the rebuttals on the Kohn/Witkowsky report.

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