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