Historic Cotopaxi Copper Mine

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A Little Background on the Cotopaxi Mine

(Author unknown)

1878 the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) gathered enough capital to attempt colonization in the West. At the same time, Emanuel H. Saltiel, a Jew of Portuguese extraction, and the owner of several mines in the Arkansas River canyon had filed a claim on 2,000 acres of public land with the intention of colonizing his region.

The mines at Cotopaxi needed miners and Saltiel saw a cheap labor force available in unsuspecting Jewish immigrants.

Saltiel found Jacob Milstein, interested in providing new homes or Russian Jews suffering increasing abuse under Czar Alexander II. Saltiel promised houses, barns, implements, rich fields, water, draft animals, wagons and seed.

He offered to move these Jewish immigrants to Cotopaxi for a mere $10,000, including land and buildings. HIAS appropriated the money, but just to make sure, they sent Julius Schwartz to investigate Saltiel's claims.

Before a report could be issued, the Russian immigrants were sent on to Cotopaxi in early 1882 where they arrived in May of that year. They were not greeted with warmth.

Residents of Cotopaxi met the group at the train station and were openly hostile. Nevertheless  the new colonists proceeded up Bernard Canyon where they found dry, barren slopes and twelve crude shanties measuring about eight-by-eight feet each. Saltiel, needless to say, was accused of fraud.

He explained that missing items like furniture and houses were delayed and would arrive soon. Saltiel's store at Cotopaxi cut off credit to the settlers just as their first crops failed. As winter approached desperate colonists went to work in Saltiel's mines for $1.50 per day.

However, when Saltiel was about to have his way, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad hired track layers at $3.00 per day and the immigrants at Cotopaxi not only survived that winter, but had money for the crops the next spring. But the next year was hardly better.

Some gave up, and by 1884 there were only six families left at Cotopaxi Colony.

In June of that year, the colony formally broke up, and these Jewish settlers scattered throughout Colorado. The Cotopaxi experience was a good example of how badly some colonies fared.