Cotopaxi, Colorado: Russian Jewish Colony



The Cotopaxi Colony

by Flora Jane Satt


I. The Place

II. The People

III. The Events

IV. Conclusions

V. Essay on Sources

VI. Bibliography

Sketch of Cotopaxi in 1883

Genealogical Chart






        Cotopaxi, a small, unincorporated village on the banks of the Arkansas River, has been the scene of an unusual chapter in Colorado history.  This oddly-named town, today just a “whistle-stop” on the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, Thirty-three miles west of Canon City in Fremont County, is mentioned in many encyclopedias and books on American agricultural colonies.1  Environmental factors are always important in analyzing an historical episode, but particularly in the case of the colony founded here because its failure has been attributed solely to these factors.  The naming founding and description of its physical features are necessary for an appreciation of Cotopaxi’s role in this history. 


        The man responsible for the strange name was Henry Thomas, known to contemporaries as “Gold Tom”.  He was an itinerant prospector who left the Central City gold camp in 1867, 2 and crossed the Divide to investigate the Upper Arkansas Valley around California Gulch.  There he conceived the idea that some of the heavier gold might have washed downstream 3 so he continued south along the river, reaching


the forks near the present site of Salida about 1870.  At the same time, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad began its survey of a proposed transcontinental route through the Arkansas Valley.4  By October 31, 1872 track had been laid as far west on this route as Labran, seven miles east of Canon City, and Henry Thomas had taken a job with the railroad to augment his meager prospecting income. His duties included procuring timber for ties and this meant he had to scout not only the region the being graded but neighboring alleys and mountains.  Particularly struck by one of these valleys as closely resembling an area he had once prospected in northern Ecuador, he named the Colorado counterpart after the dominant Andean geographic feature, a volcano called “Cotopaxi”.5  At the juncture of the small tributary streams which flow into the Arkansas River at Cotopaxi, Colorado, looking westward through the narrow canyon of the river, one can see a conical-shaped peak, part of the Sangre de Cristo Range, framed by the steep walls of the canyon,  Old residents of the area who knew Henry (Gold Tom) Thomas say that it is this unusual view which recalled to his mind the Andean volcano and caused him to call the little valley by the odd-sounding Spanish name.  In 1873 he built a cabin there as a base for his prospecting in the surrounding hills.  In 1874 he had filed several mining claims at Canon City and is credited with the discovery of the Cotopaxi Lode, one of the richest deposits of silver with zinc in Fremont County.


        The small streams mentioned above are ephemeral, becoming quite dry in summer and fall, although they have been destructive during the spring flood stage.  The northern one is known as Bernard Creek and the southern one, which flows out of the tip of (the) Wet Mountain valley, is called Oak Grove Creek.  They join the Arkansas where a bend in the latter’s course widens the valley floor to about one mile in width.  This confluence of streams has cut an oval-shaped, flat-floored valley almost completely encircled by steep, rocky cliffs.  So narrow is the canyon cut by the Arkansas immediately beyond Cotopaxi that the Denver and Rio Grande tracks run along a man-made ledge cut out of the rock walls.  The town itself lies at an elevation of 6,718 feet above sea level, while the elevation of the transecting valleys rises in a steep gradient to 8,000 feet within four miles.6


        There are several such valleys along the Arkansas River between Canon City and Salida and these wire first utilized by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad as sites for warehouses and for water, wood and coal storage.  Henry (Gold Tom) Thomas built a shed to house his ties at Cotopaxi in 1874.  It was not until late in 1878 that some of these storage sites became depots, post offices and townsites, due to the four-year delay caused by the famous “Royal Gorge War”.  Bitter legal battles in the courts and violent physical struggles along the right-of-way itself between the Denver and Rio Grande and the Santa Fe railroads divided the people of the region into warring camps.  This controversy was held responsible for the retarded economic development of western Fremont County.7


Mineral resources did not attract population to Fremont County, at least in a manner experienced by other counties.  It never became a center of refining or smelting as did Pueblo County, although early in the 1880’s Canon City was vying with Pueblo for the title of “Pittsburgh of the West”.8  The best source of gold and silver was in the southern half of the county, which was separated for the northern half in April of 1877.  This new section was named Custer County and as the scene several years later of several spectacular mining booms.9 


The only comparable gold and silver mines in Fremont County were the Gem and the Cotopaxi Lodes but considerable deposits of coal, oil and iron were found and developed elsewhere in the county.  Also, unusual metals such as nickel, molybdenum and pure zinc blende were mined.  In general, mining laws in Fremont Count conformed to those and were patterned after the laws of other Colorado mining counties, except where coal and oil development required different provisions.


        There was no placer gold to attract large “rushes” of “Panners” and “Fly-by-nighters” as in Clear Creek or Gilpin Counties.  No one except Carl Wulsten prospected for silver in Fremont County before 1872. 10   When silver was discovered in large quantities in the region, it proved to be vary difficult to mine (with the exception of the horn silver at Silver Cliff), requiring skilled labor, considerable capital investment, as well as metallurgical experience to handle the ore in reduction works.  The coal and oil deposits were mostly accidental discoveries, made while surveying for farms or digging artesian wells or irrigation ditches.11


        Despite the altitude and aridity of the Fremont County section of the Arkansas Valley, it was early considered to be favorable for agriculture.  The arable valleys were settled early in Colorado Territory’s history and the abundance of water was looked upon as a decided advantage over the lower, but drier, sections downstream.  Nevertheless, these other regions soon surpassed Fremont County in agricultural production.  Historians have offered many reasons for this situation.  Hubert Howe Bancroft cited the delay in rail connection caused by the “royal Gorge War” as the main deterent.12   Alvin Steinel, professor at Colorado Agricultural College, pointed to the engineering difficulties of getting the water, admittedly most abundant, up on the plateaus where it was needed.  These difficulties prevented cultivation.13   B.F. Rockafellow, an early settler in the county, remarks on the lack of mills and other processing facilities as the cause of Fremont Count’s slow development.14


        During the 1860’s corn and wheat were planted in Fremont County, but weather and soil conditions were found to be unfavorable to them.  Then fruit-raising, particularly apples and pears, was attempted and soon supplanted all else in the region.  The pioneer in horticulture was Jesse

Frazer, known throughout the United States as the developer of the “Colorado orange apple”. 15


        However, it was not until later that fruit-raising was recognized as the proper agricultural pursuit for Fremont County, after group attempts in the early 1870’s with grain crops had failed.  These groups had felt that the collective method of the “agricultural colony” would aid them in solving those larger problems of irrigation and finance that the individual farmer could not surmount.  The first of these was the German Colony at Colfax in [the] Wet Mountain Valley. 16  The second was the Mormon Colony which located near Ula in 1871. 17  Then a group of English people settled near Westcliffe in 1872. 18  Some ten years later still another agricultural colony was established in Fremont County, the Russian Jewish one, which came to the Cotopaxi area and farmed lands along Oak Grove and Bernard Creeks controlled by Emanuel H. Saltiel.


        Saltiel was a Portuguese Jew from New York City who had come to Colorado in 1867. 19  By 1876 the Cotopaxi area had begun to attract a few settlers and many mining prospectors.  Several shafts had been opened and sluices put in operation at the site of Gold Tom’s first strikes.  Saltiel became interested in the Cotopaxi Lode, particularly when he learned that the discoverer, Henry Thomas, did not have the capital or experience to work it.  Saltiels's business and political contacts in Denver were well-know in Fremont County and his influence with officials of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was sufficient to have that company designate his newly-acquired property around Cotopaxi as a major stop on their run to South Arkansas (Salida), build there a large depot and call the stop "Saltiels". 20


        Saltiel had filed on 2,000 acres of Government land and made token payments at the county clerk's office in Canon City by 1878.  This acreage was a long, narrow strip running north and south Oak Grove Creek and Bernard Creek.  Within his "property", which he defined as a "town and land company" development, Saltiel also filed at least seven separate mining claims.  These claims were quite clear and indisputable, for shortly after registering them at the County Clerk's office in Canon City, he had his workers construct shafts and tunnels and other improvements on the vein outcrops and had spent well over the minimum of $500 required by the Law of 1872, 21 thus acquiring a clear patent to the mineral lands thereon.  These seven claims, all located within the broader boundaries of his proposed town-site, were along the streams, using their scant water for sluicing and other mining operations.


        The appellation "Cotopaxi" clung to the area despite the honor bestowed on its leading citizen by the railroad when it built the depot and warehouses and named the stop "Saltiels".  By 1879 eight permanent buildings had been constructed and more were in the offing.  Several large residences were built.  Elaborate plans for a plaza or public park were drawn up and commerce got under way with a hotel, blacksmith shop, general store and a saw-mill.  Efforts to establish a saloon and gambling hall were thwarted by the virtuous townspeople, but a meeting house which served as school and church were built that year.  At the same time, the government established a post office in the town, but changed the name back to Cotopaxi.  By 1880 the town ranked sixth in population in Fremont County.22  Saltiel had his assay office, mine and milling headquarters in a small building adjacent to the hotel which he owned in connection with one of his partners, A. S. Hart. 23


         Saltiel was generally credited with the discovery and exploitation of most of the important mineral veins in the region, particularly the famous Cotopaxi Lode and the Enterprise Mine.24  But since Henry (Gold Tom) Thomas had been prospecting the area since 1873 and had filed mining claims thereon with the County Clerk in 1874, there seems to be sound basis for a claim controversy.  It is recorded that Saltiel bought out Thomas' rights for insignificant amounts, in relation to what was taken out.  However, there was little alternative for the independent, small-time miner, owing to the nature of the ores involved, all of which required much capital equipment and complicated processes to refine.  Saltiel's experience business connections and vast wealth put him in a superior position in this respect.


        However he soon ran into other difficulties.  With the discovery of much richer lodes in southern Fremont County (Custer County now) labor supply became practically nonexistent in the Cotopaxi area.  Saltiel had always been reluctant to pay adequate wages, in relation to neighboring mine owners.  "Help-wanted ads" began appearing in the Denver and eastern papers, but even his eloquence there could not buck the competition of the simultaneous strikes in Leadville, Rosita, and Western Slope camps.  In addition, those who did not care for a miner's life could take jobs with the railroads which were then also expanding at a prodigious rate.  Saltiel's ingenious solution to this seemingly insurmountable problem was to import his own labor supply from Europe.







        The people (see accompanying list page 31) who comprised the Cotopaxi Colony in the spring of 1882 were Russian Jews from the provinces of Volhynia, Kiev and Ekaterinoslav.  Sixty-three persons in all, there were twenty-two "heads of family", each of whom were eligible to file on 160 acres of government land.1  Actually, most of the sixty-three were members of only three main family clans, consisting of several generations and relatives by marriage.  Among these three families, too, there was much intermarriage and nearly every colonist at Cotopaxi was related to the others by ties of blood or marriage, the only exception being close friends who had attached themselves to one "patriarch" and were considered as "adopted".  This aggregation had been well solidified in Europe, and the experiences of the pogroms, the emigration and the events at Cotopaxi served to weld it even more firmly together.

        The traceable nucleus of the group begins in the early 19th century with a movement among the inhabitants of the Pale 2 known as "Haskalah" 3 or "Enlightenment", which sought

a middle road between the "fathers and sons",4  between the extremes of fanaticism espoused on the one hand by the "Hasidim",5  and on the other hand by those who denied Judaism or cultural assimilation.  The disciples of modernation were known as the "Maskilim",6  and were despised by both extremes among their own people and certainly not given much encouragement by the Czarist government.  This, in spite of its program for gradual "Russification", for establishment of Crown Schools,7  and for urging cooperation with the government.  By mid-century the Maskilim concentrated their energy on combating the "Tzaddicks",8  the superstition-ridden, mystical obscurantists, chiefly by means of satire.  Even so, the Maskilim themselves were dismissed by the more violent, modern young "assimilationists" as too slow and conserveative to be considered progressive!            

        One of the important leaders of this Haskalah movement within the Pale was an idealistic Volhynian, Isaac Baer Levinsohn, known as the "Moses Mendelsohn"9  of Russia.

Alexander II's program of social amalgamation.  Clearly, the children of Jacob and Malka Milstein inherited a view of the Jewish problem quite different from their neighbors in Brest, and it was these same children who, by the 1860's and 1870's led the Maskilim of the province who favored secular education, a moderate religious position and the "back-to-the-land" dream.11

        By 1874, with the failure of the Czar's agricultural colonies and the 'drift toward oppression' of the Jews, it became apparent that the Maskilim program would achieve very little.  The sudden change of Czar Alexander II's policies and open anti-Semitism began with the Law of 1874 which restored the unfair methods of juvenile conscription for the Jewish population.12  The attempts at cultural fusion through secular education were recognized as utter failures and by 1873 a ukase closed the two rabbinical schools at Vilna and Zhitomir.  13  Also the "melammeds"14 renewed their attacks on the "assimilationists".

        Jacob and Malka Milstein's youngest son, Isaac Leib, was forced to become an "only son" to a childless couple named Shames in order to escape the dreaded quarter-century of military service, a threat that had not menaced the Milstein family for many generations since they were of the exempt estate.15  Their eldest son, Saul Baer, had experienced during his lifetime the pendulum swing of government attitude toward Jews; first, liberalism, then, persecution intensified after the Polish Insurrection of 1863.  As a child Saul imbibed the ideas of Haskalah enthusiastically, and as a young man he prepared to become a "Crown Riabbi" himself by attending the seminary at Zhitomir.  He had encouraged his younger brother Benjamin to apply for the agricultural colony in Ekaterinoslav and had watched him, several cousins and friends go off in high spirits to farm--only to see most of them return discouraged and beaten in 1866 when the "last straw" had broken the backs of the 'camels'.16  By 1870 even those Jews who had farmed their lands since Czar Nicholas's reign were evicted and their lands distributed among the newly-emancipated serfs.17

        With the death of his father in 1861 Saul Baer Milstein became the spiritual leader and business advisor to many people in Brest Litovsk and in the small rural villages in the Pripet River Valley, the vicinity wherein various Jewish families lived and produced the supplies for his warehouses and commission business.  The Milstein family had been in this buisness for several generations since coming to Russia from Germany.  As the eldest son, Saul Baer inherited the management of the entire concern, as well as his father's role in the community of leader and teacher.  His was the controlling voice in matters not only relating to business but in family and social affairs as well.  Nearly all employed by the firm were relatives.  In addition to Saul Baer's duties as head of a large business with branches in Grodno, Kiev, and Brody, he also taught classes in those secular subjects which were not offered in the "yeshivahs"18 of Brest Litovsk.

        By 1871 his younger brother Benjamin had returned to Brest Litovsk from the colony in Ekaterinoslav with his wife Hannah and their son Jacob.  He was angry at the Russian Government's treatment of the Jewish colonists, but was still determined to prove that the Jews of the Pale could become successful farmers if afforded any sort of equality of opportunity.19  But Russia seemingly did not want Jews on the land, and it became increasingly difficult to produce the grain and other supplies needed in the commission house, since Christians were forbidden to sell their produce to Jewish wholesalers.  Saul Baer was much impressed with reports from America concerning the liberal Homestead Act, whose benefits could apply even to immigrants who had filed declaration of intention to become citizens.  Disappointed with the progress made by conciliation, cooperation and meekness advocated by Maskilism, he began to consider leaving Russia to begin a new life in America.  The sale of the commission business should provide enough to finance such a move for the entire family group.  Therefore, strengthened in his determination by the Repressive Acts of 1874, 1875, and 1876,20 Saul Baer encouraged his nephew Jacob, who had grown up on a farm, to leave Russia, where he was in danger of being drafted for twenty-five years' service in the Czar's Army, and travel to America to investigate the provisions of this Homestead Act and look over the possibilities for establishing the 'clan' in the United States.

        Thus it was that in 1878 Jacob Milstein left Brest Litovsk to seek out land for members of his family and those others who wished to emigrate with them.  He was to act as "advance scout" and to send back all the information on homesteading to his uncle, the leader of the proposed 'colony'.  Was the American government really as tolerant of Jews as they had been led to believe?  No special taxes?  Freedom of worship?  While he was learning these things, as well as the English language, his uncle Saul Baer would send him a monthly allowance to cover his living and travelling expenses.

        But within a year of his departure from Russia Jacob had incurred the wrath of his uncle.  He received no more money and for a time the gravity of his offense threatened the plans for the entire group's migration.  Jacob's "sin" had been to persuade Nettie Milstein, Saul Baer's eldest child, with whom he had been in love for some time, to run away and join him in America where they could be married.  Nettie was her father's favorite child, and he had lavished on her all his affection and material wealth.  He had educated her as thoroughly as any of his sons and had taken her with him on business trips throughout Europe.  By the time she was twenty years old, in 1878, a confirmed spinster by Jewish standards, she was able to relieve her father of many of his duties at the commission house, in order that he might devote more time to his studies and pupils, as she preferred a business career to marriage, having refused to accept any of the suitors offered her by the "shadchens".21  She was in love with Jacob, her first cousin, and since her father naturally opposed such a union, Nettie simply rejected marriage with anyone else, but when Jacob left Russia and the all-pervasive influence of his patriarchal uncle, Saul Baer, Nettie was impelled to flee and disregard convention, religion and social ostracism by going to Jacob in America.  Leaving Brest Litovsk in November of 1879, Nettie journeyed to the home of relatives in Hamburg, Germany, where she awaited passage money from her fiance.

        Cut off from his uncle's support, Jacob Milstein took a job in a tin factory in New York City.  He learned English rapidly and also earned enough to put some aside as 'capital' with which to prospect for a colony site as well as passage money for his bride-to-be from Germany.  But he had worked little more than a year when an industrial accident deprived him of the sight of one eye.  It is noteworthy for those days that the owner of the factory recognized his responsibility in the matter of the accident and made arrangements for a pension to be paid his young employee-victim.22  Jacob was thus able to afford proper medical care and rest without resorting to charity.  While recuperating, he became acquainted with the work being done by the well-know American Jew, Michael Heilprin.23

        The latter, in 1880, was already busy organizing the Jews of the United States into a relief society to aid in the temporary support of the rapidly increasing number of immigrants pouring into the country from Russia, caused by the increasing rigor of Czar Alexander II's policies against the Jewish population.24  Western Jews were beginning to realize the hopeless plight of their Russian correligionists, due particularly to their peculiar economic and political status in the Czar's Empire.  Historically sympathetic throughout the Diaspora, the more fortunate Western Jews had earlier formed aid societies, such as the "Alliance Israelite Universelle", 25 guided by Adolphe Cremieux and Moses Montefiore.  Michael Heilprin had kept in close touch with representatives of this organization, which had announced a plan at a meeting in Paris in the spring of 1880 to settle refugees in the new and undeveloped countries in South America, South Africa, Australia and especially in North America, where the United States offered even aliens the benefits of their liberal Homestead Act.  This plan appealed greatly to Michael Heilprin, who for years had been urging young immigrant Jews to leave the East and try farming, taking advantage of the Government's "free land".

        Prior to 1880, there had been few Jews in America who were able or eager to follow such advice.  Lack of money for land and equipment had not been the main deterent but rather the lack of any agricultural experience, coupled with the age-old fear of investing in land, a commodity not movable nor easily convertible in case of sudden persecution or expulsion.  Therefore, when twenty-year-old Jacob Milstein, his sightless eye covered by a black patch, came to Heilprin's office on State Street in New York City, it seemed an amazing coincidence.  Here was a representative of a Russian Jewish group, whose background seemed promising for the venture, who were determined to leave Europe permanently, who were most anxious to "return to the soil" and who best of all, included members who had been farmers in the short-lived agricultural colonies for Jews in Southern Russia and also, had adequate financial resources for the trip, land investment and living expenses.  Coupled with these qualifications and Heilprin's interest in establishing experimental Jewish colonies in the United States, was the receipt, in September of 1880, of a most unusual offer from a wealthy Jewish philanthropist, Emanuel H. Saltiel, who professed a desire to help in the work outlined by Heilprin in the latter's widely-read articles and settle a colony of Jewish farmers on his lands in Wet Mountain Valley near Cotopaxi, Fremont County, Colorado.

        Emanual H. Saltiel had gone to Colorado after the Civil War and had prospered in mining and milling enterpreises, as well as property investments.26  Although he maintained a home and an office in New York as well as in Colorado, he was not affiliated with any religious organization.  Nevertheless, he wrote several eloquent letters to Michael Heilprin, expressing his admiration for the latter's policy advocating agricultural colonies for Jewish immigrants.

        When Heilprin first spoke with Jacob Milstein it was with the idea of sending this particular group of which he was a representative to homestead on the 'donated' lands in Oregon, where soil, water and market facilities were known to be excellent.  However, Saltiel's letters were very persuasive and promised that he would undertake to constuct houses for each family, several large communal barns and sheds, provide necessary furniture and household equipment, farm implements, seed, cattle, horses and wagons and a year's supply of feed for the animals.  The offer was quite magnanimous, for Saltiel was to provide all this for a mere $8,750, the remaining $1,250 to be raised by the colonists to cover costs of rail transportation and living expenses en route to Colorado.  The entire cost was to be kept under $10,000 which meant an indebtedness for each family of less than $435. 27

        Within a few months after hearing these proposals, Jacob's father, mother, brother and bride-to-be arrived in New York and letters were dispatched immediately to the others still in Russia describing in great detail the generosity of this American Jew, Saltiel, and his plan to aid them in realizing their dreams of tilling the soil in a free country, to build their homes and equip their farms and help them adjust to life in America.  The group in Russia was enthusiastic and began to make preparations for leaving, but before they could complete their arrangements, an event occurred which changed their situation.  On March 1, 1881, Czar Alexander II was assassinated and his son and successor, Alexander III, immediately appointed Nicolas Pavlovich Ignatieff, a militant anti-Semite, as Minister of the Interior.  At once a series of pograms began which caused thousands of Jews to leave Russia forever in a mass exodus unparalleled in modern history.28  The promulgation of the May Laws of 1881 29 was the capstone in the long history of repressive acts directed against the Jews of the Czar's Empire.

        Consequently the tempo of Jewish immigration to the United States was tremendously changed that spring of 1881.  By June the waves of destitute refugees swamped the inadequate facilities of the Port of New York Receiving Station at Castle Garden.30  Up to that time, assistance to those Jews who needed it had been rendered by private charitable organizations such as B'nai B'rith or the various religious congregations in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore.

        But the scope of the 1881 migration was entirely too much for these private groups and the sudden realization of their inadequacy caused them to band together to try to provide emergency relief.  The protest meetings that were held all over Europe because of the pogroms raised considerable funds, most of which were sent to the United States, which country received the bulk of the refugees.  The Alliance Israelite Universelle mushroomed into a vast relief agency and was responsible for the establishment of depots, "escape hatches" and embarkation stations31 throughout Europe.

        To American Jews the situation that spring was particularly worrisome as their heretofore pleasant and undisturbed insulation had not prepared them for such shock--or problem.  Because the Jews came in such large numbers, so rapidly, to America, the government's immigration authorities were totally unprepared and available facilities completely inadequate.  Promp action was imperative lest this problem become large enough to trouble the tranquil Christian-Jewish atmosphere in the United States.  Therefore a relief committee composed of prominent American Jews was hastily organized under the chairmanship of a New York judge, Meyer Isaacs, in September of 1881.  Within a month this was replaced by a union of all Jewish charitable groups along the Eastern seaboard, religious and secular alike, into what was called the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society (HEAS).32  By the end of that year, $300,000 in temporary relief funds had been raised and headquarters of the society set up in Michael Heilprin's offices in New York city.  Heilprin was unanimously elected president and directed the affairs of the society until its dissolution in the fall of 1883.  He had to discard for a while his theories of careful relocation of Jews on farms, as clearly these could not be applied quickly enough to solve the pressing and immediate problems of emergency relief.  Whenever possible he urged the young men to leave the crowded urban centers and take up land in the West under the Homestead Act.

        Despite Heilprin's preoccupation with Receiving Station duties and housing, he found time to help establish and finance two "colonies" with HEAS funds earmarked for this type of "experiment".  The first of these was the Cotopaxi Colony in Colorado, the settlers, location and investment having been decided upon in 1881 as a result of the coincidence of Saltiel's offer and Jacob Milstein's application.  The second one was at Vineland, New Jersey.33

        Before the pogroms of 1881 had caused such precipitous migrations and had so drastically altered the situation of the Milstein group still in Brest Litovsk, Michael Heilprin had already decided to go ahead with this plans for an experimental colony located near Cotopaxi.  His first act, once he had accepted the offer of Saltiel, was to assign a young lawyer connected with the society, Julius Schwartz, to go to Colorado, make a thorough investigation of the locality, markets, soil, climate, etc., and return a report to the New York office.  Schwartz left New York in January of 1881, but HEAS never received any report from him or word concerning him.

        Within a few months of Schwartz's departure, however Heilprin was submerged in the more pressing problems of the Russian pogram victims, and could not spend any more money investigating this far-off colony site.  The $10,000 required for its establishment had already been approved and set aside by the society, the rest of the 'colony group' had arrived from Europe that winter and began to constitute a 'dependent immigrant classification', having been forced to flee Russia without waiting to sell property, etc.  The expenses of tenement living during the winter of 1881-82 had used up what little they had been able to bring with them and the conditions in New York, plus the disappointment of delay had eaten up much of their enthusiasm.  Heilprin had little choice but to permit the "colony" to go ahead without having received any report of Schwartz's investigation.34

        Thus it was that in April of 1882 the twenty "family

groups"35 began their long train journey via Kansas City, Pueblo and the Royal Gorge, to Cotopaxi, without many of the things they should have had.  First, they were without any first-hand knowledge of just what kind of country they were headed for--save for the descriptions of the eloquent Mr. Saltiel.  Secondly, they were without their beloved leader, Saul Baer Milstein.36  His younger brother, Benjamin, had taken over as Saul Baer was still angry over the matter of his daughter Nettie's unfortunate marriage with his first cousin.37  That couple was also missing from the group which left New York for Colorado, having preceded it by several months.  They were awaiting the arrival of the colony which they would join, in the meantime living in Blackhawk.  Thirdly, the group was no longer well-off financially; the fee of $50.00 per head-of-family,38 the high cost of living in New York the preceding winter, the cost of the journey, the loss of expected profit from the sale of their property and businesses in Russia, had greatly depleted its resources. Despite these handicaps, the group was confident and optimistic as they set out for the "promised lands" in the rich and fertile Wet Mountain Valley, described so eloquently in the letter from their benefactor, Emanuel H. Saltiel.






                The townspeople of Cotopaxi watched the tired and bewildered immigrants get off the train.  It was the eighth day of May, 1882.  They had gathered at the new Denver and Rio Grande depot, curious to see at first hand these "Jew Colonists" about whose arrival they had heard so much from Saltiel and his partners during the preceding months.  Some of them were openly scornful of the newcomers' clothes, language and appearance and made no effort to conceal their hostility.  Others felt sympathetic at their looks of terror and awe, caused, no doubt, by the trip through the Royal Gorge and the desolate vastness west of the chasm.  The terrain of this entire area is quite forbidding.  The land is bare, very rocky, with practically no timber or vegetation.  The unimpeded streams which flow into the Arkansas River have cut deep transverse gorges in the black rock formations.1

        Saltiel sent a wagon to transport the Jews and their baggage from the railroad depot to this hotel 2 across the public square.3  The twenty families were accommodated in rather crowded fashion in the hotel until they were ready to move to their farms, some of which were eight or ten miles south of the town itself.  Several of the men met with Saltiel and two of his many partners, A. S. Hart 4 and Julius Schwartz,5 to discuss plans for their colony, but little could be decided until the colonists could see the location.  Hart and Schwartz drove the men of the group up Oak Grove Creek to inspect their future homes.

        Saltiel had written to the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society in October, 1881 6 that the twenty houses were finished and that five large barns would be completed shortly.  He listed prices for farm implements and horses, implying that if these prices met with the approval of the Society, the articles would be purchased upon Saltiel's receipt of their reply.   Now, more than seven months later, the newcomers found only twelve small, poorly-constructed cabins approximately eight feet square, six feet high, with flat roofs and no chimneys.  They had no doors or windows, nor even the jambs or frames into which such might be easily fitted.  There was no furniture inside, and only four of the twelve structures possessed stoves for heating or cooking.7

        Hart pointed out the twenty divisions of land in the valley.  There was supposed to have been 160 acres in each parcel.  Twelve of these were located on either side of Oak Grove Creek, the remaining eight farms were marked out beyond a high ridge 8,000 feet above sea-level.  These last were in the Wet Mountain Valley itself, but despite the name, there was no water on the lands.  No fences or other boundaries separated the colonists' lands, and in the Wet Mountain Valley sections, the sparse grass which had just begun to grow was being grazed by neighboring ranchers' cattle.

        On the twelve parcels in Oak Grove Valley there was no sign of any other improvement save the tiny cabins.  No wells had been dug, no fences built and no road cleared.  Hart drove the wagon up the stream bed itself, not too steep under normal circumstances, but obviously impassable during spring flood stages or the sudden mountain cloudbursts which often transformed a dry arroyo into a roaring cataract for several hours.8  The materials for the twelve structures had been hauled up to the site before winter snows had melted above.  McCoy recalls that the stream bed, even in fall, was never too good a 'road' since large boulders and other debris had washed down therein, making rough going even for a single horse or mule.  Some years later a wagon road was built through this valley, connecting Wet Mountain Valley with Cotopaxi, but it required considerable labor to clear the alluvial deposits.9

        The terrain of the valley precluded the possibility of preparing extensive fields for crops.  Less than half a mile in width, there is a definite shoulder mid-way up the canyon walls, indicating the level of the younger steam in past geologic ages.  The soil on the lower half is easily eroded due to the angle of tip.  Some tough grass grows, as well as sage brush and other native plants, but almost no trees, except for scrub pines.  The valley is watered solely by the tiny seasonal creek and it would have required extensive irrigation works to deflect any of this water out onto the tilted shoulders of land designated as "farms" for the Jewish immigrants.  Ed Grimes, one of the colonists, stated to a reporter for the Denver Jewish News in April, 1925, "There (Cotopaxi) was the poorest place in the world for farming.  Poor land, lots of big rocks, no water, and the few crops we were able to raise, by a miracle, were mostly eaten by cattle belonging to neighboring settlers."10

        When the men returned to Cotopaxi following their tour of inspection, they sought out Saltiel for an explanation of the many deficiencies.  That gentleman was remembered as being profuse in his apologies and used the labor shortage as the primary excuse for non-fulfillment.  He explained that items such as window frames, proper furniture, much of the tools and equipment, even lumber, were impossible to procure in the vicinity and that he had sent to Denver for them.  They had been delayed.  He would be leaving for Denver soon and would try to expedite delivery.

        The immigrants had brought only the most personal of household equipment yet it was decided among them within the first week after their arrival that they must move into the available cabins and improve them as best they could themselves, for it was most imperative to begin the preparation of the soil for planting.  By the middle of May the Jews were able to borrow Hart's wagon and moved their baggage and families up to the colony, making the trip on foot themselves, carrying some of their belongings on their backs.

        A few days later, Saltiel left Cotopaxi for an extended business trip, leaving the problems of the colonists to be settled by his partners, Hart and Schwartz.  They gave what little help and advice they could, and permitted the Jews to borrow the necessary plows and horses, seed and other equipment.  Hart, as the proprietor of the General Store, extended credit to the colonists for food staples and other necessities.  Four additional stoves were obtained and carted up the valley.  The men themselves built mud chimneys for the four remaining stoveless cabins.

        There was much discontent and anxiety among the members of the colony, yet they had determined to remain at Cotopaxi.  They had no alternative, really, since the expenses of the previous winter in New York City and the trip west had consumed what little cash they had had, and there seemed to be no one to whom they could turn for advice or assistance in their efforts to secure the promised items from Saltiel.  The language barrier, also, proved quite a handicap in their attempts to correct what they believed to be an error on the part of Mr. Saltiel, since even that gentleman was quite limited in his knowledge of Hebrew and the immigrants were then barely intelligible in English.  When Saltiel left Cotopaxi, their only avenue of communication was the young partner, Julius Schwartz.  Later, the colonists met their German neighbors in Wet Mountain Valley.  These people proved quite helpful as most of the immigrants spoke German fluently and even those who spoke only Yiddish were able to communicate easily with the German farmers.  The latter were sympathetic concerning the plight of the Jewish colonists and assisted them wherever possible.  The women of the colony went regularly to visit them, obtaining milk and eggs for the children, and some meat and vegetables.  The men sought agricultural advice from the Germans and this was gladly given, even though it was already too late to remedy the delay and mistakes made that first spring sowing.  It had been the first of June before the Jews had gathered together the necessary supplies and implements and had cleared the few acres for crops.  They planted corn and potatoes and their methods proved a source of much amusement for the people of Cotopaxi.  The "greenhorns", as they were called, had much to learn about high altitude farming in arid country, where even with the most favorable weather, the growing season is less than four months for most crops.  They did not attempt any hay or grain crops the first year, since clear, level land was at a premium and they had no animals to feed.

        Despite the help of their German neighbors and the credit extended to them for food by Mr. Hart at Cotopaxi's General Store, two new-born babies died soon after coming and the young son of David Korpitsky died of blood poisoning incurred by stepping on a rusty nail with bare feet.  The babies were all buried in the village cemetery of Cotopaxi, in unmarked graves 11 separated from the rest by a small wooden fence.

        In mid-June Jacob and Nettie Millstein left Blackhawk where they had lived for six months and joined the colony, thus becoming the twenty-first "unit".  Although some of the family units had doubled up to share the shelter of the twelve cabins, two families set up canvas tents while the men prepared and constructed more houses.  One family made their own house from cut sod, while Mr. and Mrs. Herschel Toplitsky, assigned to one of the sections across the ridge in Wet Mountain Valley, found an abandoned Indian dugout cave which they used as a house for the first year.  The young Millstein couple were most welcome in the colony, despite their unorthodox marriage, for they both spoke English fluently and were able to teach the others.  Benjamin Zalman Milstein, Max Tobias,12 and David Korpitsky were the leaders of the colony.

        The babies' deaths and other misfortunes and disappointments of the colony must have caused them to turn to religion for solace.  They had not been considered a particularly religious group, at least by European standards, but soon after the burial ceremonies, the group felt they must establish some sort of a "spiritual organization".  With the first letter they sent back to New York went a request for a "Torah".13  HEAS sent one immediately and by the 23rd of June, 1882, the Jews were able to dedicate their new synagogue, which they had converted from an abandoned cabin behind the General Store, the only building available.14  David Korpitsky served as rabbi and performed two weddings that first summer.  The first united Max Shuteran and Hannah Milstein and the other was the religious ceremony which finally, even in the eyes of the most orthodox, sanctioned the civil union of Jacob Millstein and his cousin Nettie.  The reminiscences of the colonists recall these events as rare occasions for joy and celebration.  Hannah Shames Quiat 15 can still remember the precious canned peaches, the fresh-caught trout and sugar cakes which were served at the wedding reception.

        Saltiel himself was absent from Cotopaxi most of the summer and fall but his young partner, Julius Schwartz,  a Hungarian Jew, joined with the Russian immigrants in their religious observances and was chosen Secretary of the Congregation.16  Schwartz had been educated in New York and served as Saltiel's lawyer.  It is obvious from letters and remarks of the colonists that they did not connect this young man with the lawyer Michael Heilprin had commissioned to investigate the original offer made by Emanuel Saltiel in September, 1880.  None of the group had been in New York, except Jacob Millstein, when Heilprin had sent Schwartz to Colorado for a report on the proposed colony location.

        The festivities that summer, Schwartz's help in the absence of Saltiel, and the agreeable summer climate were perhaps the last pleasant memories the Jews had of Cotopaxi, for with the arrival of autumn their position became most uncomfortable.  Saltiel returned and refused to fulfill any of the neglected obligations and even denied them further credit at the General Sore, in which he had a half-interest.  He expressed no regret or surprise at their inability to sow adequate crops on the stony hillsides, nor did he deem his failure to provide the necessary farm equipment as contributing to their difficulties.  In addition, this part of Colorado suffered an exceptionally early frost the autumn of 1882 and when the Jews attempted to harvest their potatoes, they found most of them frozen.

        The colonists were faced with the problem of providing, without money, fuel for heating their drafty shacks, and clothing for the bitter cold mountain winters.    They had few possessions they could sell for food, medicine and shoes.  The lack of fuel was dramatized by the menace of large bears which prowled about their cabins, looking for food before going into hibernation.  The immigrants were terrified and were forced to use what little wood they had been able to gather during the summer to build big bonfires each night to frighten the bears away.  As none of the cabins had had doors when they moved in, the men were able to make only  the rudest sort of covering with what few tools they possessed, and none of these doors had locks or bolts.  A hungry bear could easily push through the flimsy barrier which might bar his way into a cabin.17  Furthermore, the men were without protection in the way of firearms.  Only a few owned revolvers and none could afford ammunition, since they were of European make and required a bullet not available in the area.

        Again and again, delegations of men would tramp eight miles to town through the deep snow to appeal to Mr. Saltiel.  He had received altogether, by October of 1882, close to $10,000 which the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society sent from New York.  Part of this was payment for a bill of $5,600 he had tendered the Society the preceding year.  This sum was to “cover the cost of building twenty fine homes at $280.00 each.”18  Since the colonists found only twelve cabins which could not possibly have cost Saltiel even $150.00 apiece, they felt that on this one item alone they should receive some rebate.  Two saw-mills were in operation in the immediate vicinity at this time and “first-class lumber sold for $22.50 per thousand.”19  Now the Jews realized they had no means of forcing Saltiel to fulfill any of his neglected promises, as they themselves possessed no written agreement, no contract, no bill of sale and not even a title, deed or lease to the land they were then occupying.  That winter they petitioned HEAS for aid and counsel in how to regain their lost money, believing that organization had documents on file which could intimidate Saltiel.20

        The weather was unusually severe that year, with blizzards which isolated their farms for weeks at a time, below-freezing temperatures which froze their hands and feet, unprotected by boots or gloves, and caused much suffering.  To add to their misery, small bands of Ute Indians appeared from time to time, begging food and the frightened immigrants gave them what little food they had.21

        The only recourse open to the desperate Jews was to go to work as laborers in Saltiel’s mines.  His foremen were glad to hire even the inexperienced Jews as the supply of workers had dwindled even further during the winter months.  They promised the Jews $1.50 for the day shift and $2.50 for the night shift, the Cotopaxi and Enterprise Mines being worked constantly and producing well.  Despite this the colonists recall they received not a penny in cash for all the work done in the mines.  Instead, they received vouchers for credit at the General Store owned by Saltiel and Hart.  This system, however unfair, did enable them to buy a few sacks of flour and other necessities.

        Mining in deep underground shafts and tunnels is never pleasant work but in wintertime it is particularly disagreeable and hazardous.  Since the labor shortage extended to other fields as well, the Jews found they could have employment with the railroad instead of with Saltiel.  The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was then building its line west of Salida to connect the booming mining camps along the Continental Divide and Western Slope.22  the railroad was only too happy to employ the Jews as track laborers and even permitted them to take Saturday as their day off, instead of Sunday.  Nearly every man in the colony worked that winter for the Denver and Rio Grande, and received cash wages of as much as $3.00 per day, with which they managed to support the entire group of sixty-three persons.23

        The colony had another reason to be grateful to the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad that winter.  The women had been accustomed to scour and comb the tracks in the area for bits of coal or wood dropped by passing trains.  Sympathetic engineers and firemen, noticing them, learned of their plight and then would regularly toss down as much coal and wood as they could, thus enabling the women to obtain enough fuel to keep them alive that winter.24

        Word of the colony’s predicament reached Denver and they were visited by several interested groups.  First, the Jewish community of Denver sent as much help as they could, including warm winter clothing, food, medicine and other necessities.  Three prominent men from Denver came down to investigate at first hand.  On their return they framed still another appeal to the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society, explaining Saltiel’s actions and describing his reputation.25  Then, a number of reporters from the Denver newspapers appeared and interviewed the immigrants and the townspeople.  They had heard of this unusual agricultural experiment in Denver and had come down to check certain reports of mismanagement and illegalities.

        The Denver Republican played up the story, emphasizing Saltiel’s responsibility and the HEAS’s gullibility in investing such a large sum in so novel an experiment, without proper investigation before-hand.  They exposed Saltiel’s entire plan as a “vile atrocity” and described the colonists’ sufferings in minute detail.  This newspaper took the opportunity of divulging at the same time, other of Saltiel’s deals and schemes, as well as his unsavory personal reputation.26

        The Rocky Mountain News tended to play down the whole story, reminding its readers that all pioneers must endure some hardship and compared conditions in other outlying districts with those at Cotopaxi, making the lot of the Jews there seem ideal, even better than most.27

        The colony did manage to survive the first winter, but they faced the coming spring with determination not to make the same mistakes nor rely on Saltiel for any further assistance.  They observed their first Passover at Cotopaxi that April of 1883, and immediately after the rites were concluded, again borrowed seed and equipment and sowed their second crop.  But nature seemed to conspire against them, for scarcely were the seeds in the ground when a late spring blizzard ruined a large part of them.  These late storms are common in Colorado but to the struggling and discouraged colonists, it seemed a special punishment directed at them alone.

        Again they wrote to the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society for advice.  Up to this time, the directors of that agency in New York could do little but counsel patience and fortitude, but by the late summer of 1883, the pressure of immigration had subsided in New York, due to the Czar’s temporary retirement of Ignatieff,28 and the new director found time to write to the unhappy farmers in Colorado.  Michael Heilprin had been forced to retire that same summer, due to illness, and his successor was not as familiar with the whole story.  Also, the emergency funds had been exhausted and the great need for the Society’s existence not as apparent, so there were plans for its dissolution.  Late that summer, the colonists received a second letter from HEAS 29 recommending that they use the money that would be sent them to remove to another area; in Colorado, perhaps, but out of the Cotopaxi region, since the legal complications involved in land claims were too difficult to handle at long range.  In October, 1883, more than a year after their first appeal and the report made by the Denver investigators, the colonists received $2,000.

        As their harvest in 1883 was no better than the first, several families prepared to leave as soon as they received their share of the removal funds.  For the remaining families, help and encouragement during their second winter was again supplied by their friends from Denver.

        Those who stayed on that winter earned their living expenses by working in neighboring mines and on the railroad.  The colony celebrated its second Passover at Cotopaxi in 1884, shortly after which a number of families left for new locations.  Only six families decided to remain and plant a third crop, but when another late blizzard destroyed it, too, they at last recognized the futility of persevering in this spot and made plans to abandon the site.  Each head-of-family had paid a fee of $50.00 into a common fund back in New York for the filing of deeds.  When they prepared to depart the county, they checked with the county clerk in Canon City and could find there no record whatsoever of any such deed or conveyance.  They had simply been “squatters” or perhaps at best, “tenant farmers” on corporation town-site land.  They had wasted almost three years on Saltiel’s “colony” when they could have filed on public domain nearby as homesteaders.

        By June of 1884 the colony, as such, was formally dissolved and a final report submitted to Heilprin’s successors in New York.  The Cotopaxi Colony had been a failure.  But it had served to give its members valuable lessons in pioneering, and had taken them out of the crowded ghettos in the eastern cities and given them a glance at what was available on other farm lands in the West.

        Of the twenty-two families who lived through the bitter but edifying experience at Cotopaxi, only two failed to remain in the West.  These were Samuel Shradsky, and Sholem Shradsky, his eldest son, both widowers.  The elder Shradsky was a very old man and wanted to return to Europe to be buried alongside of his long-dead wife.  His son accompanied him and died there before he could return to the United States.  The rest used their hard-won knowledge to try farming on better lands in the West.

        Saul Baer Milstein had come to Denver in 1883 with is wife Miriam and the seven younger children.  He went into the cattle business with two partners.  As soon as he was able, he bought grazing lands near Denver and by the time his younger sons were grown, had built a stock-yard and packing house.  His brother Benjamin Zalman Milstein bought a farm near Derby, Colorado.  His youngest brother, Isaac Leib Shames, took his wife to Salt Lake City, where they lived for many years before moving back to Colorado.  Shames’ son Michael moved to Denver and joined his uncle in the cattle business and also bought a farm near Westminister, Colorado.  Shames’ daughter Hannah married Philip Quiat and another daughter, Rachel, married Henry Singer.  His eldest daughter, Yente, had been but a young bride when she and her husband, Joseph Washer, came as colonists to Cotopaxi.  They had no children.  Mr. Washer died soon after leaving Cotopaxi.  His widow remarried Moses Altman of Denver.

        Saul Baer Milstein’s eldest daughter Nettie, whose marriage to her first cousin Jacob had been so bitterly opposed by her father, eventually won his forgiveness.  She and her husband were the most enthusiastic and successful of all the new farmers.  Their first homestead was some four miles northeast of the city of Longmont in Boulder County.  They later moved to a larger farm near Broomfield, which latter productive acreage they sold in 1935, for $18,000 to the Savery Savory Mushroom Company.

        Jacob Milstein, Saul Baer’s eldest son, later moved to Seattle, Washington.  Both he and his cousin and brother-in-law, Jacob Millstein, had been Colorado Volunteers during an Indian disturbance in 1887. 30

        The Prezants, the Shuterans, David Korpitsky and his daughters, and the Toplitskys moved to Denver, where they entered various fields of business and soon prospered.  Several of the men served on the Denver Police Force and Fire Department.

        For some years the Tobias family lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where they ran a hardware store.

        The Schneider family, including the sons-in-law Morris and Newman, moved to a farm near Omaha, Nebraska, and the Needleman and Moscowitz families homesteaded in South Dakota.  The younger Shradskys moved to California from Cotopaxi.

        Soloman Shuteran participated in the Cripple Creek gold rush in 1892 and established a comfortable family fortune by profitable real estate investments in that region.




        Despite its failure, its remoteness, its impermanence and its long submergence in undocumented oblivion, the Cotopaxi Colony did have significance in the shaping of American-Jewish agricultural history.  In the immigrant Jew’s attempt to return to the soil, to return to his ancient national character of the agrarian, the colony experiment played a definite and important role.  This colony at Cotopaxi happened to be the first of more than sixteen similar Jewish colonies, located in Louisiana, Arkansas, the Dakotas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon and Michigan.1   Although individually Jews had long been active and successful in American agriculture, the colony plan, as demonstrated by successful groups during the 1870's, such as the Union and Chicago colonies in Colorado, seemed better suited for the conquest of the arid high plains and the distant  Mountain and Pacific Coast regions, especially for newly-arrived Jews.  Other national and religious groups had chosen the collective method as the best way to achieve security and a comfortable social milieu in unfriendly or desolate areas.

       Analyses of the histories of these other Jewish Colonies, many of which experienced even worse hardships and exploitation schemes than the one at Cotopaxi, show the same underlying causes for failure.  Most of them were conceived in haste, under great pressure, emotional and political, without adequate consideration of those factors upon which successful colonization or even profitable private farming, depend.  Geographical location, with relationship to markets, national and local economy, transportation, the character of the land, type of ownership, lease or title, the capital needs, availability of equipment and seed, the existence of any special problems such as the necessity for irrigation, drainage, erosion control, the economic and social condition of the neighboring farmers in comparison with the prospective colonists, the nature of work involved, the personality and integrity of sponsorship and leadership, and last, but not least, the homogeneity of purpose and temperament and physical fitness of the colony members themselves--none of these vital requirements had received sufficient consideration in the hectic and unhappy 1880's.

        It has never been charged that the Cotopaxi Colony failed because of the members' inability, or lack of inclination for hard, manual, menial labor, or weakness under privation and hardship.  It was dissolved when the foolhardiness of persevering on land which was definitely not adapted for agricultural purposes, an arid, stony valley almost 7,000 feet above sea-level, was realized.  Similar natural or environmental causes were found in the other Jewish colonies begun in the 1880's; flood destroyed the Louisiana colony, malaria was the villain in Arkansas, hail, drought and prairie fires combined to foil the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas attempts, while poor, swampy land, combined with a severe local depression, was the nemesis of the Michigan colony at Bad Axe.2  Though ill-fated and short-lived, these agricultural experiments were not bare of results, for these very failures focused attention on the great need for better guidance, more careful organization, thorough investigation of the site before settlement, and other factors attainable only by means of a definite, well-financed, well-staffed Jewish farm movement.  This awareness led to the foundation, in 1884, of first, the Montefiore Agricultural Aid Society, followed by the establishment of the famous Baron de Hirsch Fund, which set up the Jewish Colonization Association and the Industrial Removal Office.3  These last two merged in 1900 to become the Jewish Agricultural Society whose function it has been to encourage, counsel, educate, train, and settle groups of agriculturally-minded Jews on the land.  It has also been responsible for aiding in the adjustment of these groups to their new environment.

         That the return of the Jew to the land is a good thing for America as a whole is undisputed, for, looking beyond such factors as relieving congestion in urban centers, redistributing population and skills, combating anti-semitism, or even demonstrating Jewish ability to farm, there is a deeper and broader significance, historically and sociologically.  The gain, since 1890, in numbers of Jews on American farms, during a period when the trend of population was to further urbanization, is an important indication, not to be measured in quantity alone.4  These numbers represent a positive gain in normalization, and the Jewish farmers found for themselves and their descendants a precious lode of self-satisfaction and self-respect in rediscovering the advantages of life on the soil.

        Of the effect of the Cotopaxi Colony on Colorado, it will be noted that nearly all of the members remained in the State, or nearby, in farming, stock-raising and allied fields, or quickly became independent and prosperous in business and commerce.  They were not discouraged by their failure in Fremont County, but tried again, on an individual or family-group basis, in widely-scattered areas, on homestead land or purchased farms.  These 'pioneers' became the nucleus of small Jewish communities in such cities as Longmont, Pueblo, Rocky Ford, Montrose and Grand Junction and helped attract later Jewish immigration to these places.  Those who settled in Denver and nearby towns were quickly Americanized and assimilated in the business and political life and were in a position, a decade later, to help in adjusting and advising the vast numbers of Jews who flocked to Denver for their health.

        Too much blame for the Cotopaxi Colony's failure has been attributed to the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society's lack of foresight and careful investigation, but it must be remembered that the plans were undertaken just at the moment when Russian pogroms caused thousands of destitute refugees to crowd into New York, completely absorbing the time and funds available.  Too little attention has been paid to the unfortunate role played by the Society's erstwhile investigator, Julius Schwartz, whose complicity with the motives of Emanuel H. Saltiel prevented an adequate forewarning of the problems ahead.  More emphasis should be placed on the labor-procurement aspect of Saltiel's offer, for the nature and composition of a large part of Colorado's social development.  Lastly, the significance of their experience at Cotopaxi affected the colonists themselves, their children and grandchildren, in that it gave them a share, however small and unusual, in the history of their State and their nation.

The End.








1, Colorado Secretary of State, Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention Held in Denver, December 20,1875, Denver, Smith-Brooks Company 1907.

Consulted during preliminary research on Fremont County history. Useful for names of delegates, and to check story that Canon City was offered the State University but preferred to become the site of the State Penitentiary.

2. Colorado Territory, General Laws, Joint Resolutions, Memorials, Private Acts, of First Legislative Assembly, Denver, 1872

This document was consulted to verify the Law of 1872 which dealt with requirements for mine development.


1. Rocky Mountain News, February 23, 1865 April 12, 1896.

The files of this newspaper proved to be my most valuable source of material, other than personal reminiscence and family archives. Accounts of the Cotopaxi Colony and the personnel involved are less partial than family accounts and serve as a check on the authenticity of the latter.

2. Denver Jewish News, April 6 - April 25, 1925.

Today this newspaper is known as the Intermountain Jewish News, but the issues cited were in a special Anniversary Edition and included a two-page spread on the Cotopaxi Colony. The April 25th issue contains a feature article on the Colony, newsworthy then as a result of a 'Reminiscence Dinner' given for the surviving members of the group.

3. Intermountain Jewish News, September 15, 1944,

Another more recent re-telling of the "Cotopaxi Colony” story, written by Mosa Heller Hoffman of the News staff. It is a compilation of earlier features, occasioned by the death at this time of Ed Grimes, a prominent Denverite and one of the colonists.

4. Denver Republican, February 7-13, 1883. Clippings in the Dawson Scrap Book, Colorado State Historical Society, XXXIII.)

The reporter for this paper seemed sympathetic to the plight of the Jewish colonists and used sharp words to describe Saltiel’s motives and methods. He also took the opportunity to divulge information concerning Saltiel’s personal life, as well as other business ventures not at all connected with the management of the Colony. He interviewed residents of Fremont County hostile to Saltiel, quoting them at great length, and was responsible for the “atrocity expose” which was so scathingly deflated by his rival paper, the Rocky Mountain News. Senator Nathaniel Hill’s paper seemed about to ‘crusade’ in my ancestors’ behalf and was to be commended for its careful investigation of Saltiel’s activities.

5. Denver Post, March 31, 1931. (Sunday supplement, Rocky Mountain Empire Magazine). Clipping in possession of H. Mullins of Cotopaxi.

A feature article on this colony, using materials and pictures from the earlier Denver Jewish News accounts and statement from interviews granted by colonists then living in Denver.

6. Jewish Messenger, July 21, 1882. (Clipping in possession of Mrs. M. Milstein of Denver.)

This is main source of references to Julius Schwartz.


1. Colorado Business Directory and Annual Register for 1877, Denver, J. A. Blake, Publisher, 1877.

This, and the following business and mining directories, were consulted to check on the address and occupation of various of the people mentioned in the paper, particularly Saltiel, Thomas, Hart, Schwartz, Witkawski, Rudd, McCoy.

2. Colorado State Business Directory for 1880, Denver, J. A Blake, Publisher, 1880.

3. Corbett, Thomas B., Colorado Directory of Mines, Denver, Rocky Mountain Printing Company, 1879.

Most useful in presenting complete list of all Saltiel’s mine holdings, corporations, partnerships and smelting and reduction works.

4. Corregan, Robert A. and Lingane, D F., Colorado Mining Directory, Denver, Corregan Printers, 1883.

5. Hall, Frank, First Annual Report and Directory of the Denver Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade, Denver, Brooks Printers, 1884.

6. McKenney, E., Business Directory and Railroad Gazetteer, San Francisco, McKenney & Company, 1879.

Though not a Colorado publication, this gives many references to Saltiel, Wulsten and other Fremont County residents. Connects Saltiel with Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and cites property investments in Colorado Springs made by the latter.

7. Wallihan, S. S., The Rocky Mountain Directory and Colorado Gazetteer for 1871, Denver, Wallihan & Company, 1871.

8. Western Mining Directory, Denver, Western Mining Directory Company, Publishers, 1898.

This work was most useful in discussing various mining and reduction techniques and devoted some chapters to the special problems involved in silver and zincblende refining, as well as material on Fremont County resources such as coal, iron, oil, mica and nickel. This directory lists all mining companies by districts, date of discovery, discoverer, and amount of capital expended on development.

Personal Correspondence and Family Papers

1. Milstein Papers

The bulk of these are in the possession of Mrs. Ethel Radinsky of Denver, a sister of Saul Baer and Benjamin and Isaac Milstein. They include two letters, in Yiddish, from Jacob Millstein to his uncle, written about 1879, from New York City to Brest Litovsk, the naturalization papers for each of the three brothers, Saul, Benjamin and Isaac, as well as for their sons, Max, and Menashe, Mrs. Radinsky’s brothers. There are deeds to property in Denver held by the above-mentioned in her possession also. She has a large collection of pictures and a family bible which lists the marriages and births, helpful in making a genealogical chart and in checking names. (She is the writer’s great-aunt)

2. Tarkoff Papers

Listed as such, because they are now in the possession of Mrs. Harry Tarkoff, of Denver, but include papers belonging to both the Milstein family and the Grimes family. Mrs. Tarkoff’s father was Saul Baer’s third son and her mother was Ed Grimes’ sister. She has translated the letters which were written in Yiddish and Russian and has made a collection of verbal anecdotes, in English. She has her grandfather’s bible which shows the ancestry of the Milstein family back to the early 19th Century, when the family migrated from Germany to Russia.

3. Saltiel Letters

Two of these are known to exist today; one is located in a scarp book now belonging to the library of the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society of New York, which inherited this from the earlier HEAS. Other documents from this agency are in the private papers of Michael Heilprin and are not available, except as they are cited in the biography of Heilprin by Gustav Pollak. The other is a copy which appears in the Spivak Report to HEAS in 1882. This is located in the files of the Jewish Agricultural Society in New York. HSIAS was established in 1902.

4. Ornstein Papers

Private family collection in the possession of Mrs. S. Ornstein of Denver, Nettie Millstein’s daughter. They include Jacob Millstein’s naturalization papers, copies of deeds to property, a bill of sale for farm to Savery Savory, a clipping from the New York Tribune describing Jacob’s accident and subsequent pension, a clipping from the Central City Register (no date or title remaining) showing marriage license issued to Jacob Millstein of Blackhawk.

Secondary Materials (Used primarily as source material for Part I and for background research)

1. Anderson, George L., General William J. Palmer: a Decade of Colorado Railroad Building, 1870-1880, Colorado Springs, Colorado College Publication, 1936.

This work was read to provide background material for the preliminary history of Fremont County, especially the Royal Gorge War, as well as for dates of railroad expansion as checks against the dates when Thomas, Saltiel and the colonists were employed or connected with the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.

2. Anderson, J. W., The Prospector’s Handbook, London, Crosby, Lockwood & Sons, 1900.

Handy reference for mining and refining terms, laws and usages.

3. Baker, James H., and Hafen, LeRoy R., History of Colorado, II, Denver, Linderman, 1927.

Used as a general text of Colorado history, since the more recent Hafen work was not available in Detroit. (Cf. No. 15 below.)

4. Bancroft, Hubert Howe, Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming, 1540-1888, Vol. XXV of Bancroft’s Works, San Francisco, History Company, 1890.

Chapters XII and XIII of this volume are invaluable as contemporary sources of Colorado county history, and with Baskin, are practically the only source of collected data on Fremont and Custer Counties. Bancroft advances several interesting theories as to the reasons for uneven development in this region, which are cited in this paper.

5. Baskin, O. L., Publisher, History of the Arkansas Valley, Colorado, Chicago, O. L. Baskin & Company, 1881.

This work is the most frequently cited reference in the paper, particularly for general background in Part I. Written by prominent localities, the county histories are clear, detailed, and very informative. Anecdotes and vivid description enliven the statistics and pictures and illustrations alternate with maps and charts. Specific reference to the cited chapters by Irwin and Rockafellow will be found under ‘Articles’, below, (Cf. No. 6 and No. 14),

6. Binckley & Hartwell, Editors, Southern Colorado, Historical and Descriptive of Freemont and Custer Counties, Canon City, Binckley & Hartwell, 1879.

Rockafellow and Irwin, the contributors to Baskin, do the same for a local publication, with basically the same material.

7. Block, Benjamin, Colorado, Its Resources and Men, Denver, Kistler, 1901

An old book, biographical in nature, with interesting sidelights on well-known Colorado person-ages. Includes a chapter on A. Gumaer, of Florence, who bought Saltiel’s reduction and smelter works.

8. Brockett, L. P., Our Western Empire: The New West Beyond the Mississippi, Philadelphia, Bradley & Company, 1881, pp. 637-661.

Includes a handy break-down of mineral output of counties in Colorado by year and by metal, and was consulted for references to the British in Wet Mountain Valley.

9. Denver and Rio Grande Railway Company, Associate Enterprises, Pamphlets and Circulars, II, 1874-1878, Colorado Springs, Weistbrec Publishers, 1880.

Mentions development of station along the Arkansas River known as ‘Saltiels’. Connects the Mica and Porcelain Corporation of Saltiel with members of the railroad.

10. Farmer, E. J., Resources of the Rocky Mountains, Cleveland, Leader Press, 1883.

Provides contemporary material for mining and political background of Fremont County history and refers to early development of zinc and silver lodes around Cotopaxi.

11. Fossett, Frank, Colorado, New York, Crawford, 1879.

A well-known early account of mines and mining camps with vivid descriptions of Fremont and Custer strikes. Used in background chapters and basic research.

12. Frazier, S. M., Secrets of the Rocks, the Story of the Hills and Gulches, Denver, Hall & Williams, 1905.

A unique account of Colorado mining techniques and discovery methods from an experienced prospector’s viewpoint. Argues the theory of heavy metals washing downstream, which was believed by Henry Thomas, but later disproved by scientific investigation.

13. Gaynor, Lois M., “History of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, 1872-1933,” Boulder, M. A. Thesis, University of Colorado, 1933.

This thesis comprised the main source of information for sections on the development of the coal and iron deposits in the section on mining history of Fremont County.

14, Hafen, LeRoy R., Ed., Colorado and Its People, II, New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1948.

General work used while in residence in Boulder for broad background reading in such allied subjects as agriculture, stock raising, water rights and irrigation.

15. Heilprin, Angelo, and Heilprin, Louis, Pronouncing Gazetteer of the World, Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Company, 1931.

Standard work for unusual place names and their origins throughout the world. Supplied the description of the original Cotopaxi in Ecuador.

16. Hollister, Ovando J., The Mines of Colorado, Springfield, Mass., Samuel Bowles’ Company, 1867.

One of the earliest accounts of general Colorado mine developments, together with the Bowles descriptions, which set contemporary opinion on the richness and accessibility of the various camps and boom towns. Hollister seems confident that the ‘Arkansaw River Kanyon’ would prove a very rich area for gold prospecting. He believed the tremendous pressures generated in the narrow gorge would carry down the heavy metals and that the gorge’s mouth would become a fabulous placer and fluming center.

17. Holt, A. H., American Place Names, New York, Holt & Company, 1938.

Used to verify origin of the name Cotopaxi. This work does not refer to Henry Thomas by name, but does state that the Colorado town was named for its resemblance to a town near the volcano Cotopaxi in Ecuador.

18. Legard, A. B., Colorado, London, Chapman & Hall, 1872.

This Englishman’s diary of his experiences in Fremont County offered the most interesting contemporary account of the early 1870’s. His observations concerning the likelihood of this area’s becoming an agricultural center are most acute and accurate. He refers to many of the persons cited in this paper and Legard himself was a personal friend of Reginald Neave, the British gentleman who first considered the Wet Mountain Valley a proper spot for Englishmen.

19. Logan, Paul Stewart, “History of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway, 1871-1881,” Boulder, M. A. Thesis, University of Colorado, 1931.

This thesis was used, together with the Anderson (see No. 1 above) work on General Palmer, to verify statements concerning the railroad and the men who ran it, when track was laid, methods and amount of wage payment and problems of labor procurement.

20. Mathews, A. E., Canyon City, Colorado and Its Surroundings, New York, Classic Publishing Company, 1870.

A very valuable illustrated volume on Canon City, its political and social history, which contains a detailed description of the Royal Gorge and Grape Creek Canyon.

21. Morrison, R. S., Mining Rights in Colorado: Lode and Placer Claims, Possesory and Patented, Denver, Chain & Hardy, 1892.

A handy reference for mining terms, legal terms and rules, both Federal and State, and some discussion of local regulations in Fremont County.

22. Rudd, Anson Spencer, “Early Affairs in Canon City,” Bancroft Manuscripts, University of Colorado Historical Collection, Boulder.

A typewritten copy of the interview with Rudd by the Bancroft historian contains much information on early days in this area, with Rudd’s own opinion of colonizing attempts.

23. Rust, Collection of Clippings on Mineral Resources in Colorado, Boulder, University of Colorado Historical Collection.

These clippings from the Mining Graphic and the Central City Register are not as yet dated, but the writer judged them to be news of the years 1878 and 1879. They contain several references to Henry Thomas and Carl Wulsten.

24. Steinel, Alvin T., and Working, D. W., History of Agriculture in Colorado, 1858-1926, Fort Collins, Colorado Agricultural College, 1926.

One of the best histories of Colorado agriculture available anywhere, and certainly the most complete.

25. Wilcox, L., Irrigation Farming, New York, Judd Company, 1895.

An older work, but useful for description of special problems involved in this area and the techniques employed at the time.

26. Willard, J. F., and Goodykoontz, Colin B., Experiments in Colorado Colonization, 1869-1872, University of Colorado Historical Collections III, Colony Series II, Boulder, 1926.

This work contains the most complete history of the German Colony at Colfax, together with edited an annotated excerpts from contemporary accounts. It suggested various sources of regional newspapers for use in this paper.

27. Wulsten, Carl, The Silver Region of the Sierra Mojada and Rosita in Fremont County, Colorado: Its Geography, Topography, Geognosy, Oryktognosy, Natural and Argentiferous Resources, History, Development and Commerce, Its Mines and Works with Topographical Map of Same, Denver, Tribune Steam Printing House, 1876.

This is a very old and priceless pamphlet from the Western History Collection of the Denver Public Library, which is thought to be one of the very few copies in existence. Wulsten herein expounds his on original geologic theories on the region and defends his position.

Secondary Materials (Used as source material for Part II and III)

1. Bernheimer, Charles S., The Russian Jew in the United States, Philadelphia, John C. Winston Company, 1905.

A somewhat outdated work of a general nature, with brief reference to Jewish agricultural activities and the colony movement. A somewhat defensive, ‘nationalistic’ bias is apparent.

2. Davidson, Gabriel, Our Jewish Farmers and the Story of the Jewish Agricultural Society, New York, L. B. Fischer, 1943.

The best and most recent treatment of this subject, with a special supplement devoted to the 19th century colonies, complete with analyses of why they failed—or succeeded. Despite Dr. Davidson’s possession of the rare Spivak Report (see Supra, p. 36, ff.) there is very little mention of the Colorado colonies.

3. Dubnow, S. M., History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, 1825-1894, II, Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1918.

This volume has been most frequently consulted for general Russian history and Jewish background. There are other works in this field, but Dubnow is acknowledged to be the best in translation and the most complete authority.

4. Joseph, Samuel, History of the Baron de Hirsch Fund, Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1935.

This book contains the best history of HEAS and the situation confronting the charitable organizations in the 1870’s and 1880’s. It was also helpful in tracing further the progress of agricultural settlement for Jewish immigrants, and in ascertaining the extent to which these groups profitted from the experiences of earlier colonies. It was useful in verifying statements made in the paper concerning Heilprin, Gershal, Isaacs and Schwartz.

5. Levitats, Isaac, The Jewish Community in Russia, 1772-1844, New York, Columbia University Press, 1943.

A sociological study consulted for background of Jews in Russia. Explains motives for large migration to Western Russia following Napoleonic Wars. A recent, up-to-date, factual account which supplements the Dubnow works.

6. Nathanson, D. B., Ed., Beer Isaac, Letters of Isaac Baer Levinsohn, New York, Charles Scribner’s Son, 1902.

Collection of letters, well annotated, with special reference to philosophy and religion of this important figure in Jewish history. The title, explains the editor, is a play on words, since ‘Beer’ means ‘well’ in Hebrew, thus alluding to Biblical story of Isaac’s well.

7. Pollak, Gustav, Michael Heilprin and His Sons, New York, Dodd, Mead and Company, 1912.

An excellent biographical work, including reprints of important letters and documents. Contains references to early plans for Cotopaxi Colony and to Julius Schwartz. Gives complete history of founding and activities of HEAS and reasons for its dissolution in 1883. Consulted frequently for background material and cited often in Parts II and III of paper.

8. Russo-Jewish Committee, Persecution of the Jews in Russia, Wertheimer, Lea and Company, 1890.

Detailed explanation of the May Laws and their interpretation and execution. Contains good maps and graphs.

9. Stiles, W. C., Out of Kishineff, New York, G. W. Dillingham, 1903

A book dealing mainly with effects of May Laws and later pogroms. Some analysis of adjustment of refugees to life in America.

10. Wilkinson, Samuel, The Evangelization of the Jews of Russia, London, R. W. Simpson and Company, 1905.

A most unusual book concerning the little-known attempts on the part of Protestants to convert the unhappy Jews of the Russian Pale. Contains sections on the history of the various segments of Jewish religious and secular components.

11. Wischnitzer, Mark, To Dwell in Safety: One Hundred Fifty Years of Jewish Emigration, Philadelphia, Camden Press, 1949.

The most recent treatment of Jewish emigration with special reference to the United States. Dr. Wischnitzer is much interested in the colony experiments and has written several helpful letters to the writer. Someday the story of the Cotopaxi Colony will fit in the total picture of Jewish settlement in America.


1. Batchelder, George F., “Mining Industry of Colorado”, Magazine of Western History, XI, April, 1890, pp. 632-635.

This publication, used for background for both mining and farming, contained a different perspective in a contemporary style, as well as citations for the region desired.

2. Chauvenet, Regis, “Preliminary Notes on the Iron Resources of Colorado”, Annual Report, Golden, Colorado School of Mines, 1885, pp. 13-28.

Contemporary account of iron deposits with much information on Fremont County as a leading producer of this metal. Used in background chapters on mining history.

3. Davidson, Gabriel, “Agricultural Colonies”, Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, III, New York, 1941, pp. 294-295.

Davidson has headed the JAS for many years and is the foremost authority on Jews in U. S. agriculture. His material here is condensed but is generally similar to his book, Our Jewish Farmers.

4. Dunbar, Robert G., “Agricultural Adjustment in Colorado in the 1890’s”, Agricultural History, XXI, pp. 944-952.

Justifies the suppositions made earlier in certain areas that grain crops, etc., were not suited to high-altitude farming, that horticulture was better suited to the Fremont County area, etc., and gives statistics on types of crops and yield in the 1890’s, the period when the former Cotopaxi colonists were also adjusting to land conditions elsewhere in Colorado.

5. Ihlseng, Magnus C., “Report on the Oil Fields of Fremont County”, Annual Report, Golden, Colorado School of Mines, 1885, pp. 75-93.

Used together with Chauvenet’s article for material included in chapters on mining history of Fremont County. This is one of the rare listings for special articles on Fremont County.

6. Irwin, Richard, “History of Custer County”, in Baskin, History of the Arkansas Valley, Chicago, 1881, pp. 689-764.

Main reference for information on Custer County, particularly for material cited on the English Colony at Ula and Westcliffe.

7. Marshall, Thomas M., “Miners’ Laws of Colorado”, American Historical Review, XXV, April 1920, pp. 426-439.

Condensed and well-arranged for quick reference, but not as complete as Morrison and DeSoto. Used in chapter on mining history and to check Saltiel’s compliance with filing and development regulations.

8. McCoy, C., “Irrigation in the Arkansas Valley”, Irrigation Review, VI, Denver, 1895, pp. 47-51.

McCoy was an irrigation lawyer in Salida and wrote from personal experiences. The work discuses problems of engineering and finance as well as the peculiar topographical situation in this region.

9. Pearce, Richard, “Refining Gold and Silver in Colorado,” Magazine of Western History, XI, November 1889, pp. 67-73.

An article devoted solely to problems of refining, reduction and smelting, with some discussion of the leading refiners in the various regions of the State.

10. Philipson, D., “Max Lilienthal in Russia, “ Hebrew Union College Annual Report, 1938, pp. 825-839.

A description of the early efforts to spread ‘enlightenment’ and ideas of political assimilation among the Jews of Russia. It is mainly a biography of Lilienthal, but contains references to Baer and Shneor Zalman, as well as the movement known as “Haskalah”.

11. Reizenstein, Milton, “Agricultural Colonies in the United States”, Jewish Encyclopedia, I, pp. 256-262.

Brief history of Cotopaxi Colony is included in this volume, with the usual explanation of its failure attribute to aridity and poor land. Refers to Cotopaxi as “the only attempt in Colorado”, thus ignoring the other attempts in Atwood and Derby.

12. Richards, Clarice E., “Valley of the Second Sons”, Colorado Magazine, IX, July 1932, pp 140-144.

Unique account of the British ‘remittance men’ in the Wet Mountain Valley.

13. Roberts, Dorothy, “The Jewish Colony at Cotopaxi”, Colorado Magazine, XVIII, July 1941, pp. 124-131.

The article is somewhat incomplete, due to the inaccessibility of family materials, and the fact that much of this material was not then translated from the original Russian and Yiddish. The names, nativity and ages of the colonists are somewhat erroneous.

14. Robinson, L. G., “Agricultural Activities of Jews in America:, American Jewish Yearbook, 5673 (1912), PP 411-423.

This article contains statistics not given in other articles.

15. Rockafellow, B. F., “History of Fremont County”, in Baskin, History of the Arkansas Valley, Colorado, Chicago, 1881, pp. 543-687.

Chief source of background material for history of this county. Excellent contemporary account.







1. Reizenstein, M., "Agricultural Colonies in the U.S.", Jewish Encyclopedia, II, pp. 256-262.

2. Rocky Mountain News, April 16, 1867, p.4.

3. A popular, but fallacious, geological theory of the period. See Frazier, S.M., Secrets of the Rocks, Denver, 1905, p.24

4. Anderson, George L., General William J. Palmer: A Decade of Colorado Railroad Building, 1870-1880, Colorado Springs, 1936, p. 58

5. Holt, A. H., American Place Names, New York, 1938, p.54.

6. Heilprin, Angelo and Heilprin, Louis, ed. 3, Pronouncing Gazetteer of the World, (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1931), p. 472.

7. Bancroft, Hubert Howe, Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming, 1540-1888, XXV, San Francisco, 1890, p. 604

8. Rockafellow, B. F. , "History of Fremont County", in Baskin, publisher, History of the Arkansas Valley, Chicago, 1881, p.646.

9. Rosita, Silver Cliff, Westcliffe, etc. See Baskin, O. L., History of the Arkansas Valley, pp. 704-716.

10. Wulsten, Carl, Silver Region of theSierra Mojada, Rosita, 1876, p. 14.

11. Baskin, O.L., op. cit., p. 598.

12. Bancroft, Hubert Howe, op. cit., p. 604.

13. Steinel, Alvin, History of agriculture in Colorado, Ft. Collins, 1926, p. 398.

14. Rockafellow, B.F., in Baskin, O. L., (ed.), History of the Arkansas Valley, Chicago, 1881, p. 566.

15. A yellowish colored apple. See Hafen, LeRoy, R., Colorado and Its People, II, New York, 1948, p. 147.

16. Willard, J. F., and Goodykoontz, C. B., Experiments in Colorado Colonization, 1869-1872, Boulder, 1926, pp 29-133.

17. Irwin, Richard, "History of Custer County", in Baskin, History of the Arkansas Valley, Chicago, 1881, pp. 693-695.

18. Richards, Clarice F., "Valley of the Second Sons", Colorado Magazine, IX, No. 4, July, 1932, p. 140.

19. There are no biographical references available for Saltiel, except brief citations in the newspapers of his time. He had arrived in the United States prior to the Civil War and had apparently obtained his citizenship by serving in some capacity with the Union Army. Service lists in New York do not include Saltiel's name but an "E. Saleel" appears and his living descendants ascribe the misspelling to Saltiel's thick accent. He had been educated in Europe as an engineer and metallurgist. A brief notice in the New York Tribune for November 23, 1866 indicate he married, but does not give the bride's name or date of the wedding: "Mr. and Mrs. E. Saltiel have taken up residence in their new home on West 77th Street." This is the address given for him in the New York City Directory for that year. Saltiel went west the next year for all further references are in Colorado papers, beginning with these items in the Rock Mountain News fro April 16, 1867: "Mr. Emanuel Saltiel is negotiating for the right to manufacture concrete building stones and hopes to commence same soon." On May 11, 1867, this information appears as an advertisement, "Mr. Emanuel H. Saltiel, owner of the Saltiel and Company Map and Book Store, announces the arrival of many fine prints of the colored map of North America, together with military maps of Ireland. Denver's finest mapmakers;" On June 17, 1867, the News informed its readers that "Mr. Emanuel H. Saltiel left last evening on a business trip. His destination is Canon City." By 1875 Saltiel's business took him frequently to Fremont County, where he owned considerable property. Nevertheless he maintained a large suite of rooms at the Windsor Hotel in Denver during the years he traveled, and even during the period 1878-1887, when he is also listed as a resident of Fremont County. In 1877, Saltiel's name appears in the Denver City Directory as a miner; by 1879, as General Superintendent of the Saltiel Mica and Porcelain Company of Canon City, Colorado; in 1885, as E. H. Saltiel and Company, J. Hazard, Contractor; in 1889 as a civil and mining engineer; in 1892 as E. H. Saltiel and A. Rosenstein; in 1893 as E. H. Saltiel and J. T. Saltiel, Son. Saltiel was sued for divorce by his wife in 1880 on grounds of desertion and non-support. In 1896 he appeared in a court action against on Harry Robinson who had forged his name to a $34.00 check, but a torough search of Colorado court records indicate that no action was ever initiated against Saltiel by any of the Jewish colonists of interested agencies.

20. Rocky Mountain News, December 22, 1880, p. 2.

21. Colorado Territory, General Laws, Joint Resolution, Memorials, Private Acts of First Legislative Assembly, Denver, 1872, XVII, p. 91.

22. Rockafellow, B. F., op. cit., p. 618.

23. Rocky Mountain News, November 16, 1880, p. 2. Hart's association with Saltiel was described by Miss H. Mullins, now postmistress of Cotopaxi, in an interview, August 125, 1948.

24. Corbett, Thomas E., Colorado Directory of Mines, Denver, 1879, p. 438. See also, Rocky Mountain News, December 30, 1880, p.5





1. This number included boys of 18 who nonetheless were married and in some cases fathers of several children.

2. Area of tolerated Jewish Settlement within the Russian Empire.

3. Hebrew term meaning Enlightenment.

4. Reference to Turgenev's novel, Fathers and Sons, stressing difference of outlook in generations.

5. Hebrew term meaning "excessively religious and orhodox people".

6. Hebrew term for "moderates", a middle-of-the-road group.

7. Schools sponsored by Russian Government and open to Jews for purposes of "social assimilation".

8. Yiddish nickname for Hasidim, very orthodox.

9. German Jew, author of Nathan der Wiese, leader of 18th Century Enlightenment. Although more famous for his literary and educational ideas than for his social or political theories, Baer Levinsohn is considered the fount of the Russian Neo-Hebraic Renaissance and the figurehead of the 19th century Jewish enlightenment. One of his nieces, Esther Baer, married Menashe Milstein of Brest Litovsk and proved to be a great influence in her husband's home city, a center of Hasidism. In turn, their son Jacob married Malka, the daughter of Rabbi Zalman of Zhitomir,10 well-known as the proponent of the government's rabbinical schools and a preacher for cooperation with Czar

10. Prominent religious leader who helped found Crown Schools.

11. Fostered by Czar Nicholas's agricultural colonies for Jews in Southern Russia: Ekaterinoslav, Bessarabia and Kherson. See Dubnow, S. M., History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, II, Philadelphia, 1918, pp. 66-72.

12. Jewish Conscription Laws and Military Service were a collection of ninety-five clauses, plus sixty-two special clauses which differed from the general military conscription laws. Briefly, the chief difference lay in the fact that the Jewish consripts could be taken as young as twelve years, and that boys under eighteen could be educated in military establishments even if they were exempted from the regular draft. Enlistment of Jewish recruits was done by the "Kahals" and the latter were responsible to the Czar and subject to fine, imprisonment and torture if found remiss. No Jew could become an officer. Once released from service, the Jewish soldier had to return at once to the Pale. Privileges, immunities, benefits and pensions granted to soldiers were denied Jewish conscripts unless they foreswore their religion and were baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church. See Dubnow, S. M., op. cit., pp. 18-29.

13. Dubnow, S. M., op. cit., pp. 174-177.

14. Hebrew term for primary or "Keder" school teachers.

15. The following categories were exempt from the draft: merchants, artisans in a trade union, mechanics, agricultural colonists, rabbis, and those who had graduated from a Russian educational institution.

16. The colonies were doomed to fail from the outset due to the mountain of red tape, government bureaucracy and insurmountable obstacles placed in the way of the farmers. The "last straw" was the ukase of 1866 which limited the number of acres a Jew could farm and forbad bequeathing land to a Jewish heir.

17. Dubnow, S. M., op. cit., p. 197.

18. Hebrew term meaning secondary school of a religious nature.

19. Stiles, W. E., Out of Kishineff, New York, 1903, pp.64-68.

20. Repressive Acts, 1874-1876: Special laws designed to abrogate concessions made to certain classes of Jews and to insure total mobilization for the Russo-Turkish War. Act of 1874 changed method of conscription. Act of 1875 lowered age of draftees in the case of Jews. Act of 1876 forbad exemptions of 2nd class and even 1st class--thus depriving parents of even "only sons".

21. Yiddish term for matchmaker or marriage broker. One of these unsuccessful suitors had been Ed Grimes, who joined the colony even after Nettie had run away, in the hopes that her father could annul the civil ceremony. Then, several years later, the breach was healed and Nettie and Jacob united in a religious ceremony at Cotopaxi in 1883, Ed Grimes gave up and left the colony, settling in Denver.

22. Jacob's total compensation from the tin factory in New York City amounted to about $600. (Interview with his daughter, Mrs. Rose Ornstein of Denver, August 14, 1949).

23. Michael Heilprin was a unique and romantic figure of American Jewry. Born in Poland, he was brought up in Hungary where his linguistic attainments and literary genius won him a place in the society of 'revolutionary liberalism'. In 1848 he became Louis Kossuth's personal secretary and Minister of the Interior. With the collapse of the revolution he fled to Paris, then to the United States. He became a chief contibutor and editor to Appleton's New American Cyclopedia, edited by Ripley and Dana, later an editorial writer on literary, historical and philosophical subjects for the New York papers and The Nation Magazine. He was completely Americanized and was not a professing Jew or member of any religious organization, until the persecution of his people by the Czar. Then he threw himself into the relief work with all the fervor he had once devoted to 1848 Revolution. See Pollack, Gustav, Michael Heilprin and His Sons, New York, 1912, pp. 105-220.

24. Pollak, Gustav, op. cit., pp. 205-220.

25. Alliance Israelite Universelle, or the "AIU": A world-wide Hebrew Aid Society, founded in 1860 with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and offices in Paris, London and Berlin.

26. Supra., p.7, ff.

27. Letter from E. H. Saltiel to Michael Heilprin, September 19, 1880. (Fragment in library of Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, New York City). Seen during interview with M. Dijour of HIAS, May 3, 1949.

28. Dubnow, S. M., op. cit., pp. 243-260.

29. These were the May Laws of 1881, not to be confused with the "Temporary Rules of May, 1882". The Laws were inaugurated by Minister of Interior Nicolas Pavlovich "extirpate sediton". Soldiers were to expel any Jew found outside the Pale, redress by legal action in the courts was denied, educational institutions were closed to Jews, and increased conscription demanded. No Jew could live outside of certain cities, sell or deal in real property or merchandise, or conduct any sort of business or trade on Sundays or Greek Orthodox holidays or Saint Days. See Dubnow, S. M., op. cit., pp. 259-265.

30. Joseph, S., op. cit., pp. 1-3.

31. One of the most important of these was the city of Brody, in Austrian Galicia.

32. Pollak, G., op. cit., p. 223.

33. Pollak, G., op. cit., pp. 223-225.

34. Pollak, G., op. cit., p. 223.


35. The list of the twenty-two 'heads of family' who were eligible to file on 160 acres each includes the following:

1. Benjamin Zalman Milstein, 40, with his wife Hannah, and younger son Henry. His eldest son

 Jacob was married and thus the head of his own family.

2. Jacob Millstein, 19, with his wife Nettie, 20. (The spelling of the name was changed on the

marriage license issued at Blackhawk, 1882).

3. Jacob Milstein, 18, eldest son of Saul Baer Milstein. He represented his father, the original

leader of the group.

4. Isaac Leib 'Shames' (Milstein), widower, with two young daughters, Hannah, Rachel, (Nettie,

 see 6)

5. Michael 'Shames' (Milstein), 23, eldest son of Isaac Shames, with his wife Frieda Raisie, and

two young daughters, Esther Mary and Sarah Bessie.

6. Joseph Washer, 22, son-in-law of Isaac Shames, with his wife Nettie.

7. Charles Prezant, 24, cousin-in-law, having married Keile Milstein in Europe. They had at this

 time one son, Isaac, 3 years old.

8. Max Shuteran, 19, having married Keile's sister Hannah Milstein, was also a cousin by

 marriage to the seven families listed above.

9. Solomon Shuteran, 21, brother of Max, with his wife Rachel and baby girl who died in

Cotopaxi and was buried there.

10. David Korpitsky, 37, widower with three daughters and one baby son which died in

 Cotopaxi and was buried there.

11. Samuel Schneider, 48, with his wife Alta.

12. Abrahan Newman, son-in-law of Schneider, with his wife Nechama.

13. Berel Morris, son-in-law of Schneider, with his wife Sarah and daughter Helen.

14. Samuel Shradsky, 65, widower.

15. Sholem Shradsky, eldest son of #14, with his wife Mindel, two young daughters, Asna and Sarah.

16. Hyram Shradsky, 19, eldest son of Sholem.

17. Max Shradsky, 18, son of Sholem.

18. Herschel Toplitsky, 23, son-in-law of Sholem (#15), having married Riva, his eldest daughter.

19. Charles Moscowitz, with his wife and four young daughters.

20. Morris 'Zedek' Needleman, with his wife Rivka, four daughters.

21. Max Tobias, with his wife Bessie.

22. Ed Grimes, 18.


36. Infra, p. 52, part III.

37. In Novembver, 1881, Jacob Milstein left New York to survey the prospects in Colorado, and to look up Julius Schwartz. He never found Schwartz. From Blackhawk, Jacob sent for Nettie, his fiancee. They were married at the Gilpin County Courthouse in January, 1882. Jacob was then engaged in the mule trade. Perhaps to conceal the fact that he and his bride were first cousins, Jacob changed the spelling of his name to Millstein on the marriage certificate. Their children later changed the spelling still further. (Muhlstein)

38. This fee was collected in New York by HEAS and sent to Saltiel at his request. It was supposedly the initial payment on each family's indebtedness.





1. The description of the Jews' arrival at Cotopaxi on May 8, 1882 was given the writer in a personal interview by Charles H. McCoy on August 15, 1948. McCoy was an eye-witness to the events recounted above. He was twenty-two years old at the time of the Jews' arrival and remembers vividly the unusual events surrounding the establishment of the "Colony". McCoy still lives in Cotopaxi, having come there as a small boy. He, and his father before him, first tried farming in the small valleys of the region, before giving up and turning to mining and railroading as more profitable vocations. McCoy knew Saltiel, Hart and Schwartz and had been a close friend of Henry (Gold Tom) Thomas. (Thomas was shot and killed on the steps of the Cotopaxi Hotel by A. Hart on May 23, 1883.) McCoy had transported a small load of lumber across the Arkansas River and up Oak Grove Creek to the site of the proposed colony and had helped with the construction of the twelve small cabins which Saltiel ordered built there.

2. Saltiel owned the Cotopaxi Hotel together with A. Hart, a partner.

3. A central plaza or park surrounding the flagpole, often referred to as "Saltiel Park". See Rocky Mountain News, December 2, 1880.

4. Hart, A. S., Rocky Mountain News, November 16, 1880, p. 2. (See also supra, p. 10.)

5. Schwartz, Julius, See supra, p. 30.

6. Saltiel's letter to Michael Heilprin, October, 1881. (Cited in Spivak Report, now in Jewish Agricultural Society files, New York, N. Y.) The Spivak Report is an account of the Cotopaxi Colony, together with what correspondence concerning it was assembled in the early 1920's. It was sent to the Jewish Agricultural Society at the request of its president, Dr. Gabriel Davidson. The report was drawn up by the Denver Jewish Council, which was then headed by Dr. Spivak.

7. Description from Mr. McCoy, interview, August 15, 1948, and from surviving members of colony, Mrs. Hannah Quiat and Mrs. Rachel Singer, interview, August 15, 1949. The writer saw two of these structures in August, 1948, while in the area.

8. Baskin, O. L., History of the Arkansas Valley, Colorado, Chicago, 1881, p. 700.

9. Mr. McCoy described the difficulty in building this road, completed in 1887. Interview August 15, 1948.

10. Denver Jewish News, April 6, 1925. (Reminiscences of Cotopaxi Pioneers)

11. A Jewish law prohibits erection of a headstone until one year after burial.

12. Mr. Tobias was the only colonist not recruited in Russia, having joined the group in New York during the winter of 1881. He and his wife had been in the U. S. since 1877 and spoke English better than most of the others.

14. Denver Jewish News, April 6, 1925.

15. Hannah Shames (Milstein) Quiat. Interview, August 6, 1949, Denver, Colorado.

16. Roberts, D., op. cit., p. 128, refers to citation from the Jewish Messenger, 1882. (The Jewish Messenger was a weekly newspaper, published in English, in New York City, beginning in 1857. Abraham Isaacs, brother of the founder and publisher, was the correspondent who 'covered' the story at Cotopaxi. The paper is no longer printed, having been sold in 1903.)

17. Denver Jewish News, now Intermountain Jewish News, April 6, 1925. (The pages on which the reminiscences were printed is missing from the files of the Jewish News.)

18. Saltiel’s letter to Michael Heilprin, September 19, 1880, see supra, p. 26.

19. Rocky Mountain News, December 2, 1880, p. 2.

20. Spivak Report (Letter to Jewish Agricultural Society) on file in JAS, New York City. See supra, p. 36.

21. Hoffman, Mosa Heller, “Story of Cotopaxi,” Intermountain Jewish News, September 15, 1944, pp. 16-17.

22. Logan, P. S., “History of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway”, M. A. Thesis, University of Colorado, 1931, pp. 99-112.

23. Reminiscences obtained from interviews with Mrs. R. Ornstein, Mrs. H. Quiat, August, 1949.

24. Charles McCoy’s Interview, August 15, 1948.

25. Contained in Spivak Report, (now on file at JAS) supra, p. 36. (The men who prepared the appeal were G.H. Kohn, A. Strauss and L. Witkowski.)

26. Denver Republican, February 13, 1883. (Clipping from Dawson Scrap Book, Colorado State Historical Museum, XXXIII, p. 464.)

27. Rocky Mountain News, February 13, 1883, p. 8, Col.4.

28. Pollack, G., op. cit., p. 210.

29. From family materials collected by Mrs. Harry Tarkoff. See also Roberts, D., “Jewish Colony at Cotopaxi”, Colorado Magazine, XVIII, p. 130.

30. Morris Kadish, of Boulder, has an old photograph of the Boulder County Volunteers and both Milsteins are in the group.





1.  Sicily Island, Louisiana; the New Odessa Colony near Little Rock, Arkansas; Cremieux Colony near Mitchell, South Dakota; the Montefiore, Hebron, Gilead, Touro, Leeser, Bearahaba, Laskar and Nahum Colonies in Kansas, the Cremieux colony in Nebraska, the Comte Colony in Douglas County, Oregon, and the Palestine Colony near Bad Axe, Michigan.  See Robinson, L.G. "Agricultural Activities of Jews in America."  American Jewish Yearbook, 5673 (1912) Page 411.

2.  Davidson, G., Our Jewish Farmers, New York, 1943, pp. 204-255.

3.  Davidson, G., op. cit., pp. 19-22.

4.  For example, 30,000 Jewish farm dwellers are listed in 1910.  See Davidson, G., op. cit., pp. 35-39.






Go back!

Copyright © 2001-2009 Nelson Moore. All Rights Reserved.