Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

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Benjamin Marchiori

Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Zale Nagler
Date of Interview - 12-14-1979

Ben Marchiori
Parents - Luigi Marchiori and Letizia Batattori
Paternal grandfather - Antonio Marchiori
Family origin - Tyrol, Austria
Date of family arrival in County - his Uncle Michael Marchiori came from Pennsylvania in 1889
Location of first family settlement - Bear Creek - Rouse
Photos and artifacts - has commision on Industrial Relations Hearings, 64th Congress, Volume VILL.
Note - His father owned a house at Rouse Camp and had to move during strike of 1913
Profession - Miner, rancher

SC: how do you pronounce your last name?

BM: Markiori

SC: And when did your family first come to this country?

BM: My dad come here in 1902.

SC: From where?

BM: From Tyrol, Austria. Southern Austria then.

SC: And where did they first settle?

BM: Rouse.

SC: So he was a miner?

BM: A miner, yes. Coal miner.

SC: And when were you born?

BM: I was born in 1899. I was born in Tyrol, Austria.

SC: Do you remember the trip at all?

BM: I do.

SC: What was that like, coming over?

BM: Oh, it was rugged. It was in November.

SC: How did you come?

BM: By sail, by boat.

SC: And where did you land?

BM: Landed in New York, with my mother, my sisters.

SC: And your father was already here?

BM: Yes, my father was here in 1902 and we came here in 1906.

SC: Uh -huh. So he sent for you.

BM: Sent for us, yes.

SC: So you got to New York. And how did you travel from New York?

BM: By train.

SC: And how many of you were on the trip?

BM: There was me and my mother and my two sisters. There was a party with us from the same country, but I don't recall the name of all of them.

SC: So how was it rugged, the trip?

BM: Well, later part of November, first of December, it was rather cold and I was sick most of the time on the ocean.

SC: How long were you on the ocean?

BM: Seven days.

SC: So what did you think when you got here?

BM: Well, I can't recall much. I was only 7 and a half years old, you know. But I recall that my dad met us at the depot here in Walsenburg and drove us in a dray or a wagon, spring wagon, team of horses, to Rouse, where we resided there for 6 months or seven and then my dad and my uncle who was there, we moved on to Bear Creek Ranch which is now owned by the Andreatta brothers. And we lived, I lived there, with my uncle and my dad moved back to Rouse to work in the coal mine, but he worked in the coal mine going back and forth to the farm. And so I stayed with my uncle until 1915, and in 1915 I moved at the present site where my brothers owns a ranch out here South on Bear Creek. And I stood there until 1936. Meanwhile I was married and had two daughters and I moved here in 1936 and I'm still here.

SC: It's a lovely place here, with a view of Greenhorn and Pike's Peak.

BM: Well, I did ranching while I was there. I moved here. I operated a dairy here for 11 years, Mountain View Dairy. And after that in 1946 in December had an auction sale and sold my cattle and then I went into the cattle business, me and three other partners here. Did that about 5 or 6 years. I went out of the cattle business. I started working. In 1953 I worked for two years for Fenne grocery store as a butcher. From 1951 to 53. I was still raising cattle. I quit there and stayed off awhile on account of my health. Then I went back to work for the same outfit a few years after. I worked there for about 18 months. I quit, doing odd jobs here and there. And in 1959, 58, I think, I worked as a butcher right there at the Star Grocery. I worked there off and on about 10 years. I worked steady there about 2 1/2 years. Then part time off and on for about 10 years. After that I was in the Sheriff department for 2 years. That's 1967 to 69. In 1969 I retired and I haven't done much of anything from then on, I don't know what else to tell you.

SC: Well, that's sure a good start. What was your wife's maiden name?

BM: Bergamo. Josephine Bergamo.

SC: And was her family from here?

BM: Yes, her family was from here but her dad was born in Europe. Her mother right here in Starkville, Colorado. That's south of Trinidad.

SC: And you had two daughters?

BM: Two daughters.

SC: And where are they now?

BM: One of them is in Pueblo and one of them is in Denver. One is a counselor at the Denver Public Schools and the one in Pueblo is married and her husband is district manager of Prudential Life Insurance Company.

SC: So how old were you when you moved to Bear Creek?

BM: I was 8 years old.

SC: Where exactly is Bear Creek?

BM: South of Walsenburg. Where I moved then was about 12 miles from Walsenburg. Then where I was raised from 1915 to 1936, that's about 10 miles out of Walsenburg. It was the ranch that was operated by my brothers Fred and Art.

SC: Does he still live there?

BM: Yes. Fred does. Art lived here in town.

SC: What was it like at Bear Creek during that time?

BM: Rough.

SC: In what ways was it rough?

BM: It was pretty rough. There wasn't money available like there is now in those days. We did what we could. We hired out now and then a dollar a day. In my younger days, the 1930's I worked for WPA. In fact I was foreman for two years with the WPA administration, in 1934 and '35. I also worked in coal mines. In 1924 to 1929 for CF&I. In 1934, '35 I worked at the major out here. Coal mine.

SC: Was the Bear Creek area mostly homesteaders?

BM: Mostly Homesteaders. Well, it was homesteaded, the most of it, but some of it was purchased outright by homesteaders that homesteaded before. In fact, the place that we lived before was bought with warranty deed, my uncle and my dad, the one my dad, which my brothers are on now which I owned part of it at the time, was bought from my dad from homesteaders, a block at a time. It was figured up the other day, I think there was 13 different parties that owned part of the ranch my brothers own out there now. I sold my interest out during 1946 when my brother came back from the army. I was here with the dairy so I sold him the place, my share.

SC: Was your dad working in the mine while you...

BM: My dad worked in the mine until 1913. When the 1913 strike come out he came out on strike and about 12 or 14 months he was doing odd jobs here and there and staying up at the ranch with my uncle, helping my uncles farm. That was 1913, '14. In 1914 he bought his home place where the brothers live now and he never worked in the mines again.

SC: You were out there during the strike then?

BM: 1913 strike, yes, we were out there at what we called the Uncle's place. It's owned now by the Andreatta Brothers.

SC: Were you there before that?

BM: Yes.

SC: So you didn't have to move because of the strike.

BM: No. My father had to move from Rouse and he moved the family to Walsenburg, but I was staying with my uncle. Cause I stayed with my uncle three years after my dad sold out till I was 16 years old.

SC: What was your uncle's name?

BM: Name was Mike Marchiori.

SC: Had he come over with your father?

BM: No, he was here before. My uncle Mike came in 1889.

SC: Was he a miner also?

BM: Yes, he was a miner up until, let's see, 1907. He quit working on the mine and was up on the farm. He worked in the mine here off and on about 18, 20 years.

SC: What was it like before the strike for the miners here?

BM: It was rough. Just general living, you know, miners, lived in company houses, paid the rent, bought your coal and worked in the mine when the mine worked. There was times the mine worked fairly well and times it only worked 1 or 2 days a week, which was very bad. Fact, I was working in the mine in 1929 when I quit CF&I. I quit on account they were working 1 day a week. Man can't make a living one day a week. At that time was making 5 and a quarter but when my dad was working in the mine and my mother had boarders there in 1912—13. And up till 1919 my mother had boarders there and they were from 2 and a quarter, 2.15 and 2 and a quarter a day they were making wages there and course during the war, the First World War the wages come up to 7.75. At this time my mother run the boarding house In Rouse. And me and my elder sister and my dad stayed up at the ranch, where my brother Fred and Art lived and own now.

SC: How many boarders would she have at a time?

BM: She only had room for 8 of 'em.

SC: Did she have helpers then?

BM: No, she did all the work herself, her and my older sister. When the mine flooded out in 1919, the Rouse mine flooded out, she moved up on the ranch. My dad would stay up on the ranch with me and my younger sister and he'd go down on weekends, you know, Rouse was only about 10 or 12 miles away, and he'd be gone a couple of days and then he'd be back on the farm. Now and then he'd stay a week or so but he never did work in the mines since 1913. And if there was work to do at the ranch he'd come back at the ranch. These things are kind of hard for me to remember. I got to think it over twice, you know. My memory since I've been operated on last year, my memory really slipped.

SC: You're doing pretty good. You've got all these dates straight. A lot of people have trouble with dates.

BM: My memory ain't what it used to be. It used to be pretty good but right now. In fact I've improved a lot since I've been sick. I couldn't remember nothing there for awhile.

SC: Seems pretty good now. How did neighbors get along in those days?

BM: In the old days? A lot better than they do now. Yes, in olden times, say from since I can't remember or until the 1920's before television come along, in 1920, 1930, used to visit one another a lot. Didn't have no radio, stuff like that, they'd visit. Now, your next door neighbor you don't even know who they are.

SC: What would people quarrel about, if there would be quarrels?

BM: Oh, I don't know what they would quarrel about. I would say a little jealousy now and then, which exists among public.

SC: How would those things get settled?

BM: Well, usually they'd never go to court in those days. If somebody was wrong or something some of the neighbors would get together if there was difficulties and settle your troubles peacefully.

SC: What sort of law was there?

BM: Before the 1920's there wasn't no law. We had a sheriff here by the name of Jefferson B. Farr he was the law, rules and regulations. What he said was so and that was it. I think they got rid of him in 1917 or 1918. Yep.

SC: Do you remember him or any stories about him?

BM: I was pretty young then. Only hearsay, only hearsay. I could tell some stories that'd make your hair go straight up in the air, but I wasn't there, this is just second hand, you know.

SC: That's all right if you have a story.

BM: Years ago, whenever they had, in the early 1900's and before that my uncle was here, my dad wasn't here. Somebody liked you it was all right if they didn't like you they'd pick you up and put you in jail and didn't know when to turn you loose. Course I shouldn't go into that.

SC: Oh, that's all right.

BM: I don't know of any much more I'd have to say.

SC: Were there outlaws, stories of outlaws?

BM: Well, they are all stories that you heard. I never seen none of them, see, all stories that you hear. Some of them make your hair go straight up in the air.

SC: That's all right. Were there outlaws around here?

BM: (Laughs) You know, in the 1918, 1890 to 1905, 1910, It was pretty rugged, pretty rugged.

SC: In what way was it rugged?

BM: (Laughs) Oh, gosh, I tell, you I wasn't here. This was told to me by my uncle. He was one of the old timers here, you know. And stories he told me would make your hair go straight up in the air, and I don't like to repeat it.

SC: Uh-huh. Do you remember the holidays you celebrated when you were growing up?

BM: Oh, yes. We used to go horseback in those days, didn't have no automobiles when we were kids. Horses. Then we had a transportation, spring wagon, And we'd get together and play ball on Sundays. Around the neighbors, cause we lived in the country. Closest neighbor we had was a quarter of a mile. We'd get together and go to doings. We used to go to dances. All on horseback. Didn't care how cold it was. We'd put a big sheepskin on and a pair of overshoes and away we went.

SC: Where were the dances held?

BM: In the country schools.

SC: What kind of music was there?

BM: Violin and guitar. Two of them, in those days yes.

SC: Do you remember who played them?

BM: I remember a lot of them, yes. We used to go, after the First World War, 1919, 1920, we used to go to Spanish dances and there was a fellow by the name of Segino Salazar playing. And beside that we used to go to Bear Creek dances and Sunrise. Sunrise Is over at the foot of the Peaks, the brick schoolhouse was over that the Santa Clara and the Huajatolla was up at Huajatolla. Used to play there was a fellow by the name of Hard Yarker and a cousin of mine names Jerry Marchiori. Used to play fiddle and guitar and we'd dance till three or four o'clock in the morning and go home.

SC: You went all over the place to these dances? Hard trips.

BM: Yeah. If it wasn't one place it was the other. Every Saturday or every other Saturday for sure. Didn't come to town, it was 10 miles for me to come to Walsenburg but for others that lived further up the creek it was 14 and 15 and 16. That's quite a ways to go on a horse.

SC: How long would that take on a horse?

BM: Oh, about 2 hours and a half. It all depended on how far you went.

SC: How often would you come to town?

BM: Oh, about every Saturday. For the mail. You know, we'd have to come to town for mail. We'd come usually on Friday or Saturday for mail, provisions, whatever you need. They didn't run to the store every day like they do now. That was in the olden times, of course and now it's altogether different.

SC: What kinds of things would you have to buy at the store?

BM: Most of the farmers in those days, what they called farmers, homesteaders, they all had milk, they all had butter. They used to raise beans. Mostly what you had to buy was flour and most of the fat was produced. Flour, coffee, sugar, and clothing. Mostly flour. My dad used to buy flour a half a ton at a time. Most of the farms did the same thing. Four, five hundred pounds, half a ton. Bigger family bought a ton. Come with a wagon. In those days. Took us fellows with a load, we used to haul hay to town about 3 hours and a half with a load of hay to come to town. We could go back at night in about 2 and a half-hours. But we only had to travel about 10 miles. Fellows up further took him longer and fellow down took him shorter.

SC: And what sorts of things would you have to eat on the farm?

BM: We always had eggs. We had all the meat we wanted. And all the fat, cause as a rule, people up in there, there were a lot of families from Southern Austria, what used to be then Tyrole, that's where I was born. And every year they used to fatten about 5 or 6 hogs for their lard and hams and baking and stuff like that and made salami and bologna and had that for all year round. In fact some of the families still do that now. The Andreatta Family. And as far as meat is concerned, you had all the meat you wanted. A hog, some had sheep, chickens. I remember my mother used to have hundred, hundred fifty, sometimes two hundred chickens there and sometimes visitors would come to visit, come with a wagon to visit and usually you'd have to feed them at noon, you know. She'd go out and kill two or three or four chickens. Bake them and serve them. I remember when we used to slaughter meat, you couldn't keep it in the summer time. We'd pull it up a tree, about 20-foot in the air, and put cheesecloth and it will hold a month, month and a half. A good month. But it's got to be about 25 foot from the ground. That's how they used to preserve the meat. Cause didn't have no freezers. And if you killed beef in the wintertime, yes, but otherwise it was a calf or a pork. Say about 200, 250 pounds, couldn't eat it all in one day. Mom'd have to cut it up, tell us if she wanted it quartered or in chunks and she'd wrap this cheesecloth around it and when she wanted it she'd go up and turn it down and cut off what she wanted and go up and cook it.

SC: Did you have a church at Bear Creek?

BM: We used to go to church at the Schoolhouse. About once a month. About once a month. Priest would come up and say mass at the schoolhouse.

SC: What year were you married?

BM: 1927.

SC: Where?

BM: In Walsenburg.

SC: Back to Bear Creek. What kind of medical care was there?

BM: There wasn't no medical care. Many times, we had sickness in the house, we couldn't take the sick person to town. Come down horseback, usually, could come faster, and have a doctor go to the house. Doctor had a buggy and a horse. Had to wait till he'd come. If you went for emergency it would take 3-1/2 to 4 hours, providing you found the doctor at home when you got there unless he was out on another call. And his horse in those days was known to the residents. Until about 1920, '22 had automobiles and he had a car and used to come in a car. In fact, in 1920, my uncle died in 1920, and when I come down and called the doctor for him I rode up with the doctor in an automobile and he took my uncle to town and he died and he had pneumonia and he died. That was in 1920. He had an open car, and old 4 seated car. Dr. Abner.

SC: Do you remember home remedies. Treatments you would get at home?

BM: Oh, had all kind of remedies, the old timers. In fact, they wouldn't call a doctor until necessary. In fact, I remember some of them but some I don't. I remember my mother when the younger kids used to have a chest cold, she used to take a pinks sheet of paper, this dark paper that fat wouldn't penetrate and she covered this with mustard of some sort and put this on our chest.

SC: Was this mustard like we get now?

BM: Yes, like we get now. And fat, some sort of a tallow, I don't know what it was. Greased and wrapped it up. Course in those times there was a lot of Spanish speaking people like they call Mexican now, Spanish speaking people, and they had different remedies. You'd go to them and tell them what was wrong and they'd tell you this grass or this here type of stuff or this. They was pretty good at that.

SC: Do you remember any of those?

BM: No, I don't.

SC: Were they like herbalists?

BM: Yes, herbs. I remember 1913 I was staying with my uncle and I had the mumps. My neck swolled up and I couldn't hardly breathe. My uncle sent for a neighbor and she was a Spanish woman, she lived a quarter of a mile from our house. She come down with some poultice and she put it on my neck and wrapped me up and I'll never forget that, about an hour, or hour and a half after she left it was altogether different. The swelling went down. They were pretty good for that.

SC: Do you remember her name?

BM: Yes, this was Luiga Lorenzi. She was a Spanish woman married to an Italian man. He had the farm adjoining my uncle's.

SC: How many families lived in the Bear Creek area?

BM: From 1907 till about 1914—15 we used to go to the Bear Creek school and there was about 60 kids going to school there. About 60. I would say there was about 12 or 14 families living up there. All in that district 29, the Bear Creek school. One teacher alone, she couldn't get around to each kid but about once a week to explain things, you know. Between 55 and 60.

SC: Do you remember the teacher's name?

BM: Yes, Mary Bernelli. She was my first teacher for two years. Then there was a teacher by the name of Miss Eiber, and another by the name of Lewis. Can't recall his first name. Then there was a young fellow 20, 21 years old, Neil Schubert. Then there was Anna Roger, Henry Ungar, Rose Bernelli. That's all that I went to school with. I went to school, but what are you gonna learn with that many kids? And school was only about 4 months or 10 like they are doing now, you know. Four or five months.

SC: It was a one room school?

BM: Yes, one room.

SC: Did kids behave themselves in school?

BM: Yes, they were very, you know, the old time Spanish people which there were a lot of Spanish people and Tyrols like we were. The only Italian was this Lorenzi that I mentioned, who was married to a Spanish woman. The rest was all Southern Austrian, what they call Tyrols which is now Tyrole, Italy. And if you did something wrong and the teacher went home and told your folks you got a lickin and the next day you didn't dare do anything wrong, see. And they seemed to manage pretty good.

SC: What were the names of the families that lived there?

BM: Lived at Bear Crick?

SC: Yes.

BM: Marchiori, Lorenzi, Bernelli, Andreatta, Soliz, Vigil, Valdez, Lovato, Atencio, Martinez, Naranjo, Maes, Benson. I think I got 'em all.

SC: People had big families?

BM: Yes, yes. Our family had 5 and my uncle had 5. Bernelli's had 6. Lorenzi had 2, Valdez had 7. Vigil had 7. Oh, Manzanares, I forgot to mention. Three families of them. Anselmo, I forget to mention them. Didn't have no family. Andreatta's had 10. Soliz had 7. Vigil had 7. Maybe I skipped some. Navarro had 8. Benson's, they had 4, but they left, they left about 1909.

SC: Were there any other community events you'd get together for besides school, dances, and church.

BM: Well, there were communities. There used to be a lot of communities up around there. Used to be the Sunrise, at the foot of the Spanish Peaks. Then what they called the Arnold School. That was also in the Santa Clara school district. Then there was the John Dans school which is over there where the Micek's is living now. A lot of communities and all together different groups. I don't … I know some of the people there, but…

SC: Were there others, besides church, school, and dances, were there other things the community would get together for, like the Bear Creek people.

BM: No, not that I know of. Oh, a couple of times there they had parties. Go to one house and invite all the neighbors. And had parties. Then one thing I remember distinctly was a party that was given in 1917 or 1918 when they got rid of this Sheriff, Jefferson B. Farr. They beat him and then he took him to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court ruled that the man that was elected was Sheriff and not him, a dictatorship, you know. And all the bunch of them, the Bear Creek bunch and they had a lot of communities that I don't know much about but the Bear Creek bunch got together and had a dance. I'll never forget. It was the second day of December. Went up to the Bernelli home and had a hall I guess about the size, like this, and boy, that place was crowded. That's the only one I can remember.

SC: Those people weren't big Farr supporters.

BM: No, I'll tell you, it was something. He was quite a dictator. Yea Quite a dictator. Course lot of people here praise him, see, and were on his side. You ought to talk to some of the people that suffered under him, have them express their opinion. Totally different.

SC: Are there other people around I might speak to about Bear Creek especially about the old days.

BM: Up on Bear Creek there, there's my sister and brother and my nephew and my niece. Ain't nobody up there that could give you a good definition of how the old times went on. But I'll tell you, you ought to go see Mrs. Menigatti, Kay Menigatti, over on the Santa Clara. She stays with her son, Tilio. I went to school with her; she's the same age as I am. She's got two older sisters that live up there, name of Andreatta. She could give you pretty good information about a lot of things that went on.

SC: Where is Santa Clara?

BM: You can get there two ways. Go to Pryor and then go up the Santa Clara that way. Or you can go out here. Your best bet is to go to Pryor and go up the road and ask for the Menigetti Ranch.

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