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with Adolph Unfug's Diary
Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Sherry Cook
Date of Interview - 11-28-1979
Interviewed by Rosalyn McCain
GS: Mother came in here in 1873, and she came from Wisconsin by train to Las Animas, I think it was, and then she came in a covered wagon to Walsenburg. And they lived down on the Cuchara Creek, and her dad built the first Catholic Church that was in Walsenburg. His name was Benjamin Arnold. First there were Indians here, and I remember mother saying that the Indians came. Mother had a younger sister that was a beautiful child and they wanted the child. Mother had a doll, the only doll she ever owned, and the Indians took the doll instead of the baby. Yes, she came in a covered wagon from; I believe it was Las Animas, to Walsenburg. You know, I didn't pay much attention but this Maude Coleman, that Blanche speaks of, and mother would get together and talk old times and I'd say “oh, go ahead and talk.” Dad came over here from Germany in 1881, and I believe he went to Aguilar, and I think he worked for Hiram Vasques down there on the ranch, and he was paid 25 cents a day, and keep, something like that. The Unfug brothers had a store. I can't tell you what year. It's all written in these things that I have here, but I can't read them. So, I can't go back over them.
RM: What was your father's name?
GS: Adolph Unfug.
RM: What part of Germany did he come from?
GS: Bielefed, I guess.
RM: I'm going to read from notes that Blanche took of stories that her mother told her.
This is Mother's early life as told by her.
“My family came to Colorado in November of the year 1873. As we traveled on the train we arrived in Granda, Colorado as that was the end of the railway at that time. I was a very small child so I do not remember much of our trip, except in seeing the buffalo and the plains as we passed by. We lived in Granada and Las Animas until March 1874, when we came to Walsenburg.
I remember a couple of incidents that took place when we were in Las Animas, and because I was so frightened may be the reason I remember them. One evening, my aunt, who was living with us, opened the back door to throw out the dishwater and there stood a large timber wolf. Then one day a band of Indians were passing by, and they came so near that we could plainly see them from our home. As this band of Indians passed through the county they cut out the tongues of all of the animals on the range…the cattle, sheep, and horses.
We came to Walsenburg in wagons. I cannot remember how long it took us to make the trip, but it was many, many days which I did not enjoy as I was always afraid of Indians. My mother, my uncle and we children were in one wagon, my father following in another with our furniture and supplies. One day as we were eating our dinners Mother and my uncle saw a great many moving objects in a distance coming over a hilltop. My uncle said to my mother “Load the gun, for I think those are Indians coming.” But, as they came near, and we were much relieved to discover, it was only a large herd of antelope. I have heard my mother tell. but I do not remember it, that one night on our way here we spent at Potter's Ranch where there was a stockade, and it was a stopping place for travelers. My mother was in the room alone when a group of men came in and were talking about, “A good job done that day,” and from what they said, she knew they had killed someone. She was frightened to death as she thought that they were a bunch of murderers and that we were all doomed, but after going to the kitchen where the people at the ranch were, she found out that the men had hung a horse thief, which was a good job done that day.
The road or trail that we followed from Las Animas was southeast of Pueblo coming up the Huerfano River, and we crossed it a few miles east of the present crossing. The day we arrived in Walsenburg the wind was blowing a gale, and though I was a small child, I have never forgotten how it did blow that day. My sister and my aunt and other uncle who had come here several weeks before we did, with Mrs. Charles Unfug and another lady were out to welcome us to our new home. They had gathered in front of the building which was our first home in Walsenburg. It was an adobe building, 86 ft. long and about 30 ft. wide with no windows excepting a few small holes in the back. And there was an outside door to each room. It was located where Krier's store is now, only stood more toward the center of the street. The same building was afterwards occupied by the Unfug Brothers, a general merchandise store, my husband being one of the Unfug brothers. My family made the fourth white family in Walsenburg. The others were the Fred G. Walsens, for whom the town was named, the Sporleders of which Mrs. Levi was a daughter and who owned the Sporleder Hotel, and the Charles Unfug family, a brother of my husband's. However, my husband did not come here for seven years after we did. The Unfugs lived next door to us; their home was an adobe and was located where the Fawks Drug Store is. The Sporleder's Hotel was located near the Cucharas, and I believe about the location of the Mosco Garage, at Tenth and Main Street. The hotel was surrounded by many beautiful trees. The Walsen home was located at the corner of what now is Main and Fifth Streets. Mr. Walsen owned a general Merchandise store at that time in the location of Valentia Filling Station at Seventh and Main. Late in 1874 or in the early part of 1875, a Mr. Canon and Mr. Brown opened a second general merchandise store, and at about this same time two brothers from Cincinnati by the name of Risch opened the first furniture store which was located about where Sears Garage is at present.
Several months after our arrival my mother and Mrs. Creesy, Clyde Pritchard's great aunt, who lived on a ranch on Bear Creek, were responsible for a part time school. Classes were held in one room of our home until the school building was built. This was a one room adobe building and was located on Sixth Street in the present location of the Chevrolet Garage. There were about seven American children and several Mexicans in that first school. One of the Mexican scholars still lives and probably is known by some of you. He is Luz Gonzales.
There was a Catholic Church here when we came. Services were held in a small adobe building near what is now Seventh and Main. I do not remember that this was a church building. I think it was just a house. A very short time after we came, my father built a Catholic Church across the creek in a very pretty spot among wild grapevines, plums and cherry trees and the wild grass was just like a lawn. The priest was Father Louis and divided his time between here and Gardner. The only Protestant services we had was when a minister came from Rye, and that was not very often. The first Protestant Church was not built until 1881 or 1882. It was built by all Protestants in the community that were interested and the money was raised by the women giving suppers and dances. It was a stone building, and I believe that it is still standing and is used by the Furphy Mortuary. Mrs. Creesy taught the Sunday School, played the organ and taught us to sing. We met at her home once a week in the evening to practice singing. She had Sunday school always, minister or no minister. The old stone church was afterwards a Presbyterian Church.
I remember the day the first train came into Walsenburg. It was a narrow gauge, Denver and Rio Grande. There was no celebration as I remember, but again the wind about blew the town away. The train was one passenger car, a baggage car and an engine, of course.
When my youngest sister was a baby, just a few months old, we were living across the creek, far away from the other part of town. So my mother and we children were alone most of the day. During the summer, a band of Indians were camped near our house. One day twelve Indian bucks came to the house and they saw the baby. She was pretty with jet black curly hair and gray eyes. The Indians wanted her. Of course, that frightened us all to death. My mother had a custom of signaling my father by hanging a white rag on a tree or bush. When father or my uncle saw it, they always came home. She did this, and when my father saw it, he came as quickly as possible. While we were waiting for him, the Indians kept passing the baby from one to another and making quite a fuss over her. We could not see how we were going to get her away from them. I had a china doll which was my first and only doll. My father told me to get the doll. He gave the doll to the Indians in exchange for the baby, and they went away satisfied and never bothered us again.”
RM: Now I am reading from an early history of Walsenburg. This again is written by Blanch.
“In 1859 Francisco Antonio, with his family came to what is now Walsenburg, the first home being nothing but a brush shelter. He homesteaded land east of Main Street. Then in 1860 several Mexican families came, among them being: Manual Sanchez, grandfather of Pont Leon and Miguel Leon, after whom the plaza was name, it being called Leon Plaza, Plaza de los Leones.
In 1862 Judge Valdez came here temporarily, locating here permanently a few years later. During the years following, the town was a Mexican Plaza only until 1866 when Mr. Jones, grandfather of S.J. Sporleder, came and homesteaded the land west of Main Street, his daughter Fanny, being the first white child born in Walsenburg. The home which he built and which is known as the old “Bourcy House” is still standing and is probably the oldest house in Walsenburg. A few years later Mr. Jones traded his land to a Mr. Bourcy who was a so-called Frenchman, but spoke German fluently. In the same year Captain Hendren, an army officer, came from Fort Garland, building his home, a two room adobe on Fifth, located at what would be between the bank and the courthouse.
At about this time old John Albert, another old character which I remember and who is said to have lived more than one hundred years. In the year 1870 Fred G. Walsen and his wife came also. Mr. Walsen going into a general merchandise business, he being the first merchant in Walsenburg.
Mr. Levi came in 1872. he went into business with Mr. Walsen, and the firm was know as Walsen and Levi and was located where the filling station is on Seventh and Main, the first post office being in the store.
In 1873 the town was incorporated and was surveyed and platted by a man by the name of Theodore Braun. The plaza was then named Walsenburg after Fred G. Walsen. Sometime during this year, probably by election, Walsenburg was made county seat. It was during this year that a great many early settlers came there, being the Sporleder family, father, brothers, and sisters of Mrs. Walsen, the sister of Mr. Levi, Charles A. Unfug, my father's oldest brother with his bride. He was county clerk and located in Badito, the old county seat. Also, my grandmother's brother, being Alex Campbell and her sister, Bell Campbell, with my aunt came here in 1873. A man by the name of Captain Thompson came this year and was the first town clerk. In March 1874 my grandmother and grandfather and grandfather's brother, Modest, with their family came, their first home being an adobe house on the corner of Main and Sixth, where Krier's Store is. My grandfather, with Uncle Alex and Uncle Modest were all carpenters and built the first substantial buildings in the town, one being the old Catholic Church, which I thought a grand building when I was a child. About the only building standing which they built are two houses on Eighth Street and the old Creesy House or what is now known as the old Pritchard House.
The first Catholic Church building was an adobe building located where Baxter Hardware now stands. In this building the first school was held and was taught by a Catholic priest. Mr. Standley, who came here in 1874 after a new church had been built across the Cucharas, started the first variety store here, carrying everything from pins to pumps.
In the year 1875 and 1876 the Creesy's, Mazzones, Louis Sporleder, and mother and several other families whose names I do not know settled here. In March 1876 the first Denver and Rio Grande train, a narrow gauge railroad came into town and ran as far as La Veta. The first hotel was built and owned by the Sporleder's in 1873 and was located where the Mosco Garage is now at 10th and Main. B.A. Arnold, my grandfather, had the first meat market, but sold meat just as they could get it which was not very often and not cut as it is now, but sold by chunks and quarters. The first furniture store was owned by Risch Brother's in 1876.
The first school building was an adobe building which I remember quite well and was located where Unfug's Garage still stands. The first courthouse was built in 1882, the plans being drawn up by my uncle, Dick Wells. Up to this time, the clerk and assessor's office were in the building in which my grandmother lived and the sheriff's office. Canon was treasurer and had his office in his store. It was on the street. Court was held in an old board building located where the Standard Motors Garage is. The building was also used as a Catholic Church after the church on the creek had been washed away.
During the pioneer days the first shoemaker was a Mexican by the name of Pablo Benevidez. The first doctor was Dr. Rocky and his practice was over a great many miles of territory including into other counties even. There were no dentists, excepting traveling dentists with the crudest of instruments. The first American school teacher was a Miss Williams who was afterwards a Mrs. Shanks. Then a Mrs. Shulz, who I know and think a great deal of, was the next school teacher. She now lives in California. The first lawyer was Robert Quillian, known to me as Uncle Robert, he came and started his practice in 1874. The first Protestant minister would come here from Rye and preach in the school house. The first Protestant Church was the old Presbyterian Church built in 1882. The building is now Furphy's Undertaking Parlors. Mr. Cowing and Mr. Canon had a store in the building where Unfug Peet Undertaking Parlors are now. Dolores Esquibel was the first sheriff.”
RM: This is in German and I'm not entirely sure what you call it. I think it is a passenger list. The boat sailed on May 15, 1881. The captain was R. Bussius, and I think the name of the company was “Kaiserlich Deutsch Post, Noddeutscherlloid”. Maybe the name of the ship was “Donau”. They sailed from Bremen to New York. So that was the boat he came over on. I am now reading from a typed manuscript of Adolph Unfug's.
I am now reading from a typed manuscript of Adolph Unfug's.
“Adolph Unfug came to the U.S. in 1881 at the age of 18 years. He kept a record of all happenings during the voyage and of his first experiences in Southern Colorado. Later he became a successful businessman of Walsenburg, well contented and remaining a citizen of that charming little town through the entire period of his life.” This previous note was written by the translator. This is the diary.
“Diary of the journey from Bielefeld, Germany to Walsenburg, Huerfano County, Colorado, North America. Otillie Unfug, August Unfug, Adolph Unfug, who is the writer of this diary, and Louise Unfug.
Thursday, May 12, 1881: Left Bielefeld at 1:15 p.m. Gathered at the depot were the following people: Uncle Quakernack, Heinrich Henke, Anna Henke, Mimi Henke, Emma Windel, Maria Zitlow, Julie Hammerschmidt, Emil Tieman, Ida and Emmy Windel Von Der Blieche, Mr. & Mrs. Mallor, Julius Hulsiep, Willhelm Flaskemper, Bertha Spengler, Mr. Tegtmeyer, Paula Hovener, Hedwig Koenemann, Louise Bratvogel, George Schwarting, Robert Krowl, Eccehard Schrader, Willhelm Bulme, Heinrich Unger, F. Coch, Carl Wiethucher, Esteban Palma, Meyer F. Reinecke, Albert Ulemann, Carl Helman, Willhelm Steinweg, and Robert Kratzschmar.
Arrived in Minden. Train stopped twenty five minutes. Wrote a card to Emma Windel with the following contents: “From Minden this card, not well nor ill; now on we go let come what will.” Arrived in Wunsdorf 5:39 p.m.. Then on to Breman, this time first class on account of second class being filled up to the last seat. We had tickets for an accommodation train but were compelled at Wenstroff to change to the fast express, which by the way added eight marks to our expense account. We had the rare opportunity to see the peat field on fire during this stretch of road. These fires are the cause of the haze which recently hung over the sky at home. Two stations before we reached Breman in a little place called Achim, we were greeted by our friend Aduard Bollbrinker, who accompanied us to the place of our immediate destination. There in Breman, he took us to Behren's Hotel and later through some of the principal streets and parks. Until 11:00 our friend Aduard remained with us, and then we all retired.
Friday, May 13, 1881:
Rose about eight o'clock and went with Aduard and brother August to Lloyd's to see about tickets. We were told that the ship “Braunschwieg” could not take us and that we had to make the journey to New York in a vessel called “Donau”. Thereupon we went to the Port of Bremen not Bremerhauffen and looked at the many ships. Among these, four aroused our attention. They were sailing vessels but plying only between Bremen and Norway. At 1:30 we ate our midday lunch and by chance we met Carl Langelutke, with whom we remained at the hotel till 5:00 p.m. Then Aduard joined us again and we walked to the city park, leaving Carl behind for he had business affairs on hand which required his attention. We observed many things of interest, among these a glimpse of the “Emmersee”. At 6:00 p.m. we returned to the hotel; later Otillie, Aduard and I made our way to the Tivoli Theater where we took in the Operetta “Fledermous” by Strauss. All of us enjoyed ourselves immensely. Leaving the theater we met an old friend, H. Plate, with whom I had worked in the firm of Carl Hendrick in Bielefeld. Plate is now a traveling man. Hardly had I left the Tivoli when I encountered Reinhold Spengler. Together we went to the dining room of our hotel and from there I called Otillie, Aduard and Louise to join us at the supper table. August was out on an errand from one H. Hunsfelt from Bielefeld, who wanted him to take charge of his grandchild bound for Michigan. Mr. Hunsfelt and another old gentleman, a Mr. Brink joined us later. The latter was on his way back to Bielefeld. We gave him plenty of messages, enough to fill the walls of the dining room. Spengler, Bollbrinker and I went sauntering over to the park for awhile before we went to bed. I must yet add that while we were at the theater August, Louise and Carl Langelutke spent a pleasant time in friendly conversation.
Saturday, May 14, 1881:
Whole swarms of emigrants, large and small, filled the streets. All of them, men, women, and children wore high boots, and I am wondering where they came from. At 10:00 Aduard brought a bouquet of lilies and forget-me-nots which his parents had forwarded to be delivered to us. August went to Lloyd's for information and was told that our quarters had been changed from second to first class. Aduard, Otillie, Louise and I called on a family by the name of Walenah, and from there went to see Aduard's boss, Mr. C. Guise, when I bought a stiefel. (This word cannot be easily translated, a stiefel is a sort of mug which has the shape of a boat) and dispatched the same to the stiefelreige of the Turn-Verein in Bielefeld. Upon the stiefel was inscribed the following verse: “Stiefel must die, stiefel so young, young..” At dinner we again met Carl Langelutke and later Bollbrinker and Spengler joined our crowd. In the afternoon, Otillie and Louise walked over to see Mrs. Watgen, where they enjoyed coffee and cake. At 6:00 we all went to the city theater where the Meininger Troup played Shakespeare's “The Winter's Tale.” I must confess that I never saw or heard anything like it. The decorations were beautiful and the actors played with such intensity of feeling that I forgot I was in a theater, thinking I witnessed reality. At 10:00 the play ended and immediately we adjourned to the hotel with the following friends: Langelutke, Kertoll, Hunerhoff, Spengler, Koenig, and Bollbrinker were assembled. In animated conversation we passed the evening and the greater part of the night, bidding each other then a last farewell.
Sunday, May 15, 1881:
We arose at 6:00 a.m. and at 7:50 a.m. rode on an extra train to Bermerhauffen. Bollbrinker and Carl Windel came and brought a letter from the dear occupants of the much appreciated Wiem or Roost, seat of so many pleasant recollections. Just before the train left, George Schwarting and Reinhold Spengler came to see us off. At exactly 12:00 and with the band playing lustily, we went to sea. The arrangement of the first class cabins is as follows: one goes right and left from the salon, direct into the cabins, which are arranged for four people. Two on the top and two higher up. We ate breakfast at 8:00 a.m., ate dinner at 12:00, drink coffee at about 4:00, and supper at sharp 7:00 p.m. Morning we have concert and again in the evening from 8:00 until 10:00 in the salon. The Steamship Donau, Captain Bussius Bremer Loyd is 270 ft long, 40 ft. high, 23 ft. in water, and 17 ft. above the water line, and costs $400,000. We have on this voyage 1,200 passengers and crew of 150 including the stewards.
Monday, May 16, 1881:
Bad weather in a stormy sea. In the afternoon many of the passengers become seasick. Among these are also Otillie, Louise and I. August so far has not been stricken. Numerous seagulls are following the ship.
Tuesday, May 17, 1881:
This morning between three and four we entered the port of Southampton. At four o'clock I joined a few other passengers to see what this place is like. It seems to be a city of some 70,000 inhabitants. The surroundings are beautiful and for the first time I see crowds of negroes but they look to me rather smeary. Half past five went back to the ship, wrote some postal cards and dispatched these and a copy of this diary to Bielefeld. Then I managed to get back to the town once more. A steamer full of soldiers going to some Dutch Colonies in India aroused my attention. At 12:00 we went to sea again with with music.
Wednesday, May 18,1881:
Unruly weather, a storm, rain and fog. About noon we entered the Atlantic Ocean. Everybody is sea sick except August, he seems to be immune to that sickness. Nobody at the dinner table. I can not even think of eating. No one can even imagine what seasickness is really like. One must have had a good dose of it before one knows how rotten one can feel. The seagulls are numerous again. Toward evening we saw about twenty porpoise or dolphins sporting around the ship. They seemed to be in a playful mood and often jumped out of the water. The captain was indignant and said that the appearance of these creatures indicated a storm. From noon yesterday to 12:00 today we traveled two hundred and twenty-two nautical miles.
from Bremerhauffen to Southampton, the distance is 420 miles.
Thursday, May 19,1881:
The weather is a little better. The predicted storm did not materialize. Distance traveled 278 miles. For the first time I partook of a few bites of food. Otillie and Louise are still in bed. August so far escaped even the least sign of seasickness. Several young passengers from steerage are going to give a play. All the people on the ship seem to feel better and I am beginning to get acquainted. There are plenty of young men and girls on board and they are now enjoying themselves.
Saturday, May 21, 1881:
Bad weather again, made 240 miles.
Sunday, May 22,1881:
A storm with rain and fog. Can't go on deck on account of very rough sea. The captain gave us to understand that this is the worst storm that he had encountered in the month of May. A ten day old baby died this morning and will be buried in the ocean tonight. We made 252 miles. I am fairly well over my seasickness. Food tastes better and we are beginning to take a few drinks occasionally.
Monday May 23, 1881:
The weather is improving and I am improving likewise. Was in the smoking room and played cards. Distance traveled 286 miles. The best weather we have had so far during the entire journey. At noon we past through a bank of fog. A young girl died in the steerage of typhoid fever. Her body too will be sewed up in canvas and given to the waves. For supper we had potatoes and pancakes, quite an event and a real treat for me. Afterwards we watched the strange illumination of the waves which is a beautiful natural phenomenon. Then we drank keg beer, refreshing ourselves thereby considerably. Distance traveled 308 miles.
Wednesday, May 25, 1881:
The morning started with beautiful weather but at 11:00 we entered fog banks again. We reduced speed and the fog horn blew incessantly. Everybody is in good health now and a lot of cutting up is in the order of the day. We shall have more keg beer today, a very pleasant prospect for me. Another person died of heart failure. Distance traveled 307 miles.
Thursday, May 26, 1881:
Calm and beautiful weather, two more dead on board. In the afternoon, I witnessed a gymnastic performance done by some of the passengers of the steerage. A trapeze was strung up between the masts upon which some good acting was performed. Then, a net was stretched upon which Pretty Boy Mayer, “Derschone Mayer” had to do a dance, very comical. Traveled 326 miles.
Friday, May 27, 1881:
Until 8:00 a.m. beautiful weather. Then we passed again through thick fog. In the afternoon it cleared up. Played a game of pawn in the evening, which I enjoyed greatly. Distance traveled 311 miles.
Saturday, May 28, 1881:
A gorgeous splendid day. Much joy on board because it is likely that we shall finish the journey by evening. At 3:00 p.m. Long Island came into sight, and towards evening we sailed into New York's harbor. We passed many splendid miles lying on both sides of the Sound. Sharp 9:00 the anchor was lowered and we became quarantined for the rest of the night. Distance 311 miles.
Sunday, May 29, 1881:
On this eventful day we had quite an experience. It seems there had been a case of smallpox on board of which we knew nothing. About 9:00 four doctors arrived from New York and the rumor spread that all of us would be compelled to undergo vaccination. We first class passengers were herded into the salon. There we waited several hours for the weird and disagreeable things that we expected to happen to us. Finally the information came the first class passengers had been exempted from the general rule, which of course, caused rejoicing among us. At 11:00 the anchor was raised and an hour later with the sound of music our good old ship rode into the dock. The entire family of Grieswelle met us, and after a half hours chatting we attended to our baggage, a task made easy for us by the very accommodating officials, who merely asked if we carried anything that required the payment of duties or custom house charges. Then we bade our fellow passenger's farewell and rode to the home of our friends. We should be and are grateful for possessing such good friends. They did everything possible to make our temporary stay in New York pleasant and agreeable. We are to remain with the Griesewelles 8 days. Otellie and Louise will sleep here. August and I have a room at the family home of the Schultens, where all of us in the evening had tea together.
Monday, May 30, 1881:
Here in New York it is terribly hot, almost unbearably so. I go around in my shirt sleeves, no more. We had 30 degrees. Half past five we arose and then went over to Grieswelles for breakfast. After dinner, Otillie, Louise, and August went over to Central Park. I, however, remained at home and went to bed for I felt tired and sick. This is what they call “Decoration Day.”
Tuesday, May 31, 1881:
Wrote a letter to Eugene. Expect answers from some of our friends very soon. Among these Flasskamper, Robert Krell, Rudolph Hoffner, C. A. Lahlenle, Julius Heilherp, F. Mueller, Eugene Brondt, Ludvig Bratvogel, (resp. Stiefelriege) and Richard Feige.
“The first three weeks in Walsenburg, Colorado was spent with my oldest brother, Charles. All of us needed rest, especially my two sisters who were completely fagged out.”
“The trip took us 5 days and we were compelled to travel over 6 different railroads. Niagara Falls are wonderful. We had two hours to take in the sights. The falls are several miles wide and 230 feet deep. The roaring of the water can be heard 15 miles away.”
“It will take a long time before I become a real American.” He writes. “What I miss more than anything else is German “Gemuthlichkeit;”
“My brother tells me however, that in a few years I shall like this country so well that I never want to go back to Germany.”
“If my plans work out successfully, I shall go back to Germany in five years. I know that opportunities will always be waiting for me there. Meanwhile, I am working on the ranches of Mr. Sporleder and Mr. Schulze. We are harvesting a hay crop. I earn out here in the wilderness just twice as much as I did in Germany and I have free board and a place to sleep. I believe I can save every penny of the wages I make for there is no chance to spend the money, except perhaps for necessities such as shoes and underwear. I have quit drinking beer. There was none to be had on the ranches anyway, and brother Charles supplies me with tobacco for my pipe. Luxuries are expensive in Walsenburg. Cigars which sell in Germany for 7 pennies cost 10 or 15 cents here. A glass of beer, rather small, costs 12-1/2 or 15 cents. I am told, however, that in the Eastern States beer is sold for 5 cents a glass.
The languages spoken here are English and Spanish mixed with a few Italian terms. Most of the inhabitants are Mexican. You must remember that Colorado belonged to Mexico formerly. Amongst which are a few “tame” Indians. Of real wild Indians, I have seen none so far, but Mr. Sporleder tells me that last year a large band camped three miles above here all summer long. The biggest task I have on hand right now is to learn both English and Spanish, and then I must think out plans for how to get ahead in the world.
Now I want to describe the country and give you an idea what it is like. This valley called Santa Clara Park by the Americans and know to the Indians as the Valley of the rising Sun contains about 40 square miles of territory and is inhabited by only three families and two bachelors. Stock raising is the only industry besides a little farming, just enough for the ranchman's own use. Wild animals abound. Among them are lions, bears, coyotes, wolves, and wild cats. There are also plenty of deer, elk, mountain sheep and goats. Of smaller animals we have turkeys, prairie chickens, ducks, geese, and snipes. We stumble upon rattlesnakes every day. I killed several of these dangerous reptiles.”
“Conditions are such that work cannot readily be found. One must not be too particular about jobs. In fact, the only kind of jobs to be had is ranch work. After we finish harvesting the hay crop here on the Sporleder and Schulze ranches, we shall go to La Veta, a small village up on the Cucharas River. A Mr. Willis wants us to help him putting up hay. I am not exactly in tip top shape. I feel bad from the effect of a boil on my neck. Perhaps I am not able to accept the job in La Veta.
Our brother Fred, who came to Colorado earlier than we, had some unpleasant experiences lately. He is employed in a so called “Tie Camp” as bookkeeper. Railroads are just beginning to be built around the country. It seems that a disgruntled laborer, a Mexican, used abusive language towards the contractor. Whereupon, an American, also employed in the camp told the fellow to shut up. The Mexican drew a revolver and threatened to kill the intruding American. A shot rang out, and a dead Mexican lay upon the ground. The white man had been quicker on the draw. The natives became excited, rushing forward, with the result that another one was shot down by the irate American. The crowd fell back and the white man made his escape. Brother Fred witnessed the whole affair. This custom of carrying a revolver appears very strange to me and I no longer wonder at the high rate of killing done here. Even young fellows of 16-18 years are armed.”
“We have 9 horses here, 3 for saddle use, and 6 for farm use. Besides August and myself there is a German by the name of Doeffler, and two Americans, Walter Champlin and Ran Jewett. Another young fellow comes up every other day with a load of post and poles which are going to be used next winter for building fences around the ranch. This last mentioned chap, Charlie Neal is 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. He carries himself well, though, and is as straight as an Indian. It's comical to see Walter and Charley together, for the former is a little over 5 feet tall. Both of these extraordinary chaps possess the peculiarity of shunning of bed. They prefer to sleep in the yard rolled in a blanket and a saddle for a pillow. When it rains, they go into the stable. These habits they say were acquired in Texas where both punched cows for several seasons.
We rise at 4 in the morning and one of us must make the rounds of the ranches to drive away cattle and horses, which sometimes do damage to the meadows. There are no fences in this country at this time. After this is done we eat breakfast and then go to work. Ran, who has heart trouble, is given the easiest work, running the mower and rake and the rest of us do the loading and stacking. The owner, Mr. Sporleder, assists in the work. These early morning rides are exhilarating and I enjoy them very much. Yesterday it was my turn and no sooner had I reached the top of the hill between the two ranches, when I saw a band of about 2 hundred wild horses heading for our valley. I called the dogs and galloped towards the herd heading them off in time to save the meadows. I wish you could have seen me racing over the prairie dressed only in overalls, shirt and big hat. More trouble came a few hours later. Another band of horses, about 50 head, I guess, came from the ranch of old Senor Trinidad Baca, a Spanish Don of the old school. These horses had beaten us in the game when we discovered them. For they were already grazing peacefully on the foot high grass of the upper ranch. Walter was called into action for he is an expert roper and rarely misses a throw. A roper is one who can handle the “lazo” and catch either horses or cattle. He roped a two year old colt, a fine little creature and placed it in the corral as security for damages done to the crop. Later in the day, Domingo, some of old Trinidad, came over and paid the cost of the damage done whereupon the colt was released. Domingo was very pleased. He seems to be a nice young fellow.
On my way home in the evening I killed another rattle snake, and now I am sitting in the front room, Meerschaum pipe upon my lips and sucking good coffee from a big tin cup. What a life, but I like it. It is just starting to rain, a steady drizzle, and this brings me to thinking. Yes, what a life. No postal connection with the world. We get mail only when someone goes to Walsenburg and none of the necessities to which we are accustomed. But, there is something else which makes up for the things we miss. It is the freedom in which one lives here, away from the restrictions of the civilized world. I feel extremely happy. My young sister is assisting Mr. Sporleder's mother who manages the household affairs. Otillie payed us a visit remaining with us two whole days. Thank God, for both girls are beginning to look like themselves again. They have red cheeks and look well. I am really proud of my two sisters.
Brother Fred writes that he, too, will soon pay us a visit to the ranch. We may expect him next week. We are making plans to meet him in Walsenburg. Conrad wrote recently and tells us that he has struck a fine vein of ore in his mine near Kokoma. Brother Conrad has been in the gold mining regions of Colorado for several years. I am informed by a letter that Herzfeld went into bankruptcy. I am sorry for they are fine people. They did us many favors. Herzfeld was the owner of a grain business in Bielefeld and August worked for this old firm.
You may tell all our friends that I am now a man of the soil. My intentions are as soon as I have the means to buy a little estate near Albrecht's farm and spend the rest of my days there, for you know how interested I have always been in agriculture.”
“I am quite sure that I shall have plenty of money some day for I can see all kinds of opportunities here for new enterprises, among these a tannery. I want you to learn English as fast as you can. Meanwhile, I shall give you a little advice regarding the things you need if you are determined to come to the United States. By no means should you travel on the steerage; it is simply impossible for a person of some refinement to mix in with that motley crowd (dasvolk).”
“I believe a tannery would become a paying investment within a very short time, for leather is much in demand, and of raw material there is no end of supply. By the way, can you tan sheep skins too? And do you know how to prepare leather for saddles? Do me a favor, dear Eugene, and write me if you can, if I can depend on you in this deal of a partnership between us. I can do much now already in preparing the way.”
“We were loading hay on the upper meadow when a saddled but riderless
horse appeared neighing loudly. “That's Toro, the meanest horse on the Cuchara River,” said Mr. Sporleder. “I wonder whom he has thrown.” Then he turned to Doerfler, telling him to saddle a horse immediately and follow Toro's tracks. There was considerable delay before all this had been done. But after some hours of suspense, Doerfler appeared leading his mount by the bridle and at the same time endeavoring to support the swaying body of a man who hung in the saddle. Imagine my horror when we recognized Brother Fred as the man and who seemed seriously hurt. He was unable to speak and half conscious only, but still able to walk to the house. A cut 5 inches long on the left side of his head and a fractured skull was the cause of Fred's serious condition.
A rider was dispatched for a doctor who arrived at half past ten in the night and worked on the wound until 3:00 in the morning. The whole story is this: When Fred arrived in Walsenburg, he learned that aside of Otillie, all of us were on the ranch. He concluded to pay us a surprise visit. At the trading post of Walsen and Levi only one horse was available, and that proved to be Toro, an animal ridden only by expert horsemen. Fred possessed great confidence in himself and thought he could handle the spirited creature without any trouble. He had ridden three quarters of the distance and was leisurely cantering through the pine forest which extends for miles and miles north of the ranch when suddenly something frightened Toro. He began to pitch and plunge, throwing his rider. Fred does not remember further, but it appears that he either struck a broken limb with his head or that the horse kicked him after he was down. The wound shows a curve which well could have been made by the hoof of a horse. As I have already stated, Fred remembers nothing after the accident. But it appears to me that he must have laid unconscious in the forest for least five hours. Doerfler found him about 3 miles from the ranch. After many vain efforts he succeeded in getting Fred into the saddle of his own mount, a tame and well broken animal, holding him from toppling over, slowly and painfully making the journey through the forest from the place of the accident to the ranch. All of us were terribly upset, but now the danger is over, and the doctor says Fred will recover.”
“I have a craving for fruit, but there is no fruit to be had here, other than a species of small wild cherries, choke cherries and unripe plums. I am told that further down on the creek wild grapes grow in abundance and that these make a fine wine. I had a taste of it, but find it too tart. I miss the many varieties of fruit we had at home especially the pears and apples and grapes. It's still very warm and from the daily exposure of my face to the rays of the sun it is now the color of polished walnut.
I'm doing a lot of meditating, especially upon financial matters. I am really saving money for there is not the least chance for spending any. We are paid $1.25 a day and have all we can eat and a bed in which to sleep. Tobacco does not cost me anything and beer has ceased to exist, so far as I am concerned.
You want to know something of Walsenburg. It's named after a Mr. Walsen, the first white man who came here. The Sporleder family and my brother Charlie followed two or three years later. The so-called town of Walsenburg is really only a village. Twelve to fifteen white families there, I counted four girls in the town and they seemed too much in demand. Mexicans outnumber the Americans six to one.
There are prospects however that the town will grow. While so far the branding of cattle, sheep and horses is the only industry, some day in the future, coal mines will be opened. How soon it is hard to say. Coal strata are found all over the country. They crop out in the front of the foothills.
Social life is limited to the last degree. The chief diversion of the men seems to be gambling. Men will sit at tables all night through. In the morning their eyes are blood shot. They play cards only, and the game is called Poker. Mexicans play another kind of game, also with cards which are different from ours. It's called Monte. In the back yards which are palisade the natives assemble and have what they call a rooster fight. Two roosters are pitted against each other, and the betting stakes are frequently quite large. That is not in cash, but in products or sometimes personal property. I have seen a fellow gamble away his shirt and trousers. Every week or so there is a dance but as these usually end in brawls or fights. I do not care to attend any of them. The first hour or two everybody behaves, but afterwards whiskey begins to have it's effect and the natives become quarrelsome. Whiskey seems to be the popular beverage and it is awful stuff. The German drink bottled beer at a dollar a bottle.
There are now three places of business in the village of Walsenburg. The biggest and oldest firm is Walsen and Levi. Benton Canon owns a small store in which he sells general merchandise, and an old man by the name of Standley sells notions and dry goods. Mr. Standley washed gold in California over thirty years ago. He still has a supply on hand packed in buckskin pouches. He seems to be a very careful sort of gent.”
“Informed brother Charley of our plans in regards to the tannery, and he thinks such an undertaking should be started in Denver, this chief city of the state. He further thinks that in order to learn something of the methods of doing business in the United States, it would be better for you to get a job for a while with some concern in Denver.”
“Soon we shall go to the ranch of Mr. Willis who lives near La Veta and help put up his hay. After I return from there we shall likely remain in Walsenburg for the winter. August as well as I have some vague promises of more lucrative indoor work. At the present, I am not at liberty to say more. If I should remain in Walsenburg for the whole winter I intend to fix me up an apparatus for continuing my gymnastic enterprises (Turner) which I sadly miss. Meanwhile, my work here will end within a few days; then a change of scene.
Brother Fred is making a rapid recovery, but we received notice that brother Conrad who is mining in KoKomo was struck by lightening. How seriously we do not yet know. Fate has dealt roughly with the members of our family. But I trust that all will soon be well again. For a while I became real homesick for which I am not to be blamed. You realize when everything goes wrong it is bound to have an effect on the mind. I hope to see you again and talk to you personally in not too long a period of time.” The young man must have been in a sad mood when he penned the above lines.
The next draft of a letter written to a girlfriend is dated at La Veta and sounds rather discouraging. “Alas, our mode of living here is all together different from the pleasant days on the Santa Clara which we enjoyed so much. We live in a little boxcar on wheels, a sheep wagon which is our bedroom, dining room, and kitchen. Poor ventilation makes it rather stuffy. We miss the nice lunches which were always prepared for us on the Sporleder and Schulze Ranches and more than anything else the good coffee and cake we had every afternoon. Sundays are indescribably dull here in La Veta. We get only two meals; breakfast and a noon hour lunch, no supper. Courage, courage I need now. I hope things will soon become better. We go to bed in our little stuffy boxcar with only one thought in mind that of being awake and when it is still dark and sleep is sweetest. We work all day without intermission. At 8:00 p.m. we are so dog tired that we can hardly move. I am unable to do any letter writing here.”
In October Adolph writes a few words of congratulation to his uncle and aunt in Bielefeld, and then no letters written for some time.
The next letter started but not finished. In it he says: “Christmas I intend to spend in Walsenburg in order to be with my sisters and brothers, perhaps at the Sporleder Hotel or the Walsen home. This great day will be celebrated in the German fashion. In a couple of years I shall celebrate Christmas in Germany again.”
In another letter without dated address, Adolph describes the architecture of the country in the following words: “I must say that the houses are warm and comfortable in winter and cool in summer. I am quartered in a mansion with walls two feet thick and a roof of dirt. It is simply impossible for you to form any kind of conception of the architecture out here. The material costs nothing. It is just plain ordinary mud. Dried by our hot, almost tropical sun, the wall become as hard as rock. Water only can damage such a structure.”
Correspondence beginning again in November from a Mexican plaza on the Apishapa. In a letter to his uncle and aunt he writes, “Hear I am now in the county of Las Animas. I work for Vasques, Schulze and Company, a firm dealing in merchandise and at the same time furnishing ties to the railroad. In German money I earn two hundred marks a month, about fifty dollars, besides room and board.
August has a job too. He is helping Mr. Canon in the store at the present and earns more than I do. My work here is not hard, but the eatings are the same each day. Bear meat or deer meat and biscuits. The latter of small round pieces of bread sometimes hot and other time's cold. Mr. Vasques is a great hunter, and the country is full of game so the cost of living is reduced to a minimum. Flour and coffee are the only commodities that must be bought. I miss the potatoes and vegetables and wish I had an apple core to chew.
The plaza where we have our establishment is situated about ten miles above the new Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The whole country is absolutely wild. Only the river bottoms are cultivated, miles and miles of beautiful pine forests (all destroyed now). And higher up on what the Mexicans call the jaroso, mixed with tall aspens and sturdy oaks, no sooner is one in this forest than all kinds of animals appear. I have even observed elk, a large species of deer, from the door of our camp or store. Our patron, as the natives call Mr. Vasques, spends most of his time hunting. Mr. Schulze, the other partner or member of the firm, is a very pleasant gentleman. He represents the brains of the firm.”
The draft or outline of one more letter remains, but the greater content of this epistle is of a personal nature or mere repetitions of certain incidents already mentioned or described. The casual reader will not care to persue this material. A few lines of importance are the following: Adolph's girlfriend upbraids him for a lack of feeling. She thinks he should have expressed more regret in his letters for having given up wholly his friends and country. Adolph protests and writes her to scan the pages of his letters more closely. Perhaps then she will discover that he was really homesick. After a few years all correspondence between Adolph and his friends in Germany ceased, either from indifference or the stress of business. Adolph had become a full fledged American.
RM: I now read from Adolph's life. Adolph Unfug's career as a businessman: Before preceding with young Adolph's experiences, it must be first stated that he was born on the 6th day of February 1862 in Bielefeld, Westphalia, Germany. His father was a grandson of King William the first of Prussia and held a responsible government position to the time of his death in 1881. His mother, born Mathilda Boeckelman, died in 1879.
Adolph Unfug had a practical turn of mind, although the first business project he entertained did not materialize. Instead of starting a tannery as he intended to after leaving his temporary job with the firm of Vasques, Schulze and Company he went to work for Walsen and Levi merchants, who at that time were also in the contracting business. I t must be remembered that Adolph was no novice in the ways of practical business management. He had already received a thorough training in the firm of Carl Heidsick, a large exporting firm in his home town. In 1882 he entered into a partnership with his two brothers, Charles and Fred. This mercantile business furnished most of the supplies to the coal mining camps which were just opening in Southeastern Colorado.
In 1897 Adolph purchased a ranch on the Santa Clara and for two years lived there with his growing family punching cows and incidentally becoming thoroughly familiar with the cattle business. These two years of ranching paid him a rich reward, if not in actual money, at least, in practical knowledge of one of the chief industries in the state of Colorado. It gave him an experience which later proved most valuable to him in all of his dealings. But Adolph was too valuable a man to be left alone in the obscurity of a ranch for any length of time. He was needed elsewhere. The Baxter and Kearns Hardware Company offered him the management of this business which he accepted. About the year 1915 Adolph bought out this firm, selling it again ten years later and starting Unfug Hardware and Implement Company in which concern he remained active in an advisory capacity to the time of his demise.
Adolph took much interest in public affairs. He was chosen President of the Mountain States Hardware and Implement Association. He also served as Mayor of Walsenburg and as a member of the City Council at various times. Early in his life he joined the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of which he was a past Exalted Ruler. At one time, the Elks of Colorado made him the president of the State Reunion Association and of the State Executive Board. He served Colorado as Senator from the Fourteenth Senatorial District in the 28th and 29th General Assemblies during 1932 through 1933.
Adolph Unfug was a practical business man, yet he found opportunity to keep in contact with nature. He loved the mountains and was happiest when he could devote a part of his valuable time to the study and observation of wild life, especially the flowers of Southern Colorado;
A comfortable cabin on the upper Cucharas River served him, his friends and his family as a resort from which many excursions were made into the adjacent area. The cabin was his pet hobby, and he never grew tired of praising the scenic beauties of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
In his political life he worked for reform. That is he endeavored to remove some of the crooked methods practiced by the old school of professional politicians, with results to some extent. A few more words must be added giving the reader an idea of Adolph Unfug's trait of character. He was natural without any affectations. He loved simplicity and had a clear vision of all real and true values. Bravely and ably he went through life fighting for what he deemed right and just. All and all Adolph Unfug was a man of whom the State of Colorado can justly be proud. Although not a citizen of the United States by the accident of birth, but rather through deliberate choice, he yet filled his place in the country of his adoption with honor, dignity and grace.
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