Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews
NOTICE All data and photos on this website are Copyrighted by Karen Mitchell. Duplication of this data or photos is strictly forbidden without legal written permission by the Copyright holder.
Frank M. and Theresa Fink

Scanned and edited by Dick Chenault
Interviewed by Rosalyn McCain
Date of interview - 1-9-1980
Language spoke - English

Frank M. Fink
Date of birth - 1-17-1908
Parents - Frank Fink and Johana Fink
Paternal grandfather - John Fink
Maternal Grandfather - Poah?
Ethnic group - Yugoslavian
Family origin - Yugoslavia
Date of family arrival in county - 1905
Location of first family settlement - Trinidad
Kinship ties - Brothers, John and Jack Fink; sisters, Johana Micek and Annie Ludvik
Miner 48 years

Theresa Krist Fink
Date of birth 9-8-1912
Parents - John Krist and Mary Krist
Maternal grandparents - Matt and Mary Mutz
Ethnic group - Yugoslavian
Family origin - Yugoslavia
Date of family arrival in county - 1897
Location of first family settlement - Pueblo
Kinship ties - sister, Josephine Muscelli; daughter, Diane Faris; brother Rudy Krist.

Frank: My dad came to this country in 1904 from Novo Mesto, Lubjana, Yugoslavia. He first worked in the coal mines in Pennsylvania. A coal strike was going on at the time so a bunch of the young fellows decided to come to Colorado because they heard there was work, and no strike. He first went to work at Primero in the Trinidad area. He then came to Huerfano County.

My mother came to the states in 1906. She married my father here after he sent for her. He came over first and made enough money to send for her. It took 21 days by boat for her to arrive in New York. She then came to Walsenburg by train. She couldn't speak a word of English, and she told us that she came over like a suitcase with a tag tied to her. She bought her wedding dress at the Krier Department Store, It was located where the Auto Parts store is now on main street. They were married February 1, 1906 at the Catholic Church. The church was an adobe building where the Rectory is now...

Thirteen children were born to my parents. My sister Mary is the eldest of the family. She was born in 1906 in Primero. I was born at Hezron in 1908. John and Tony were born at Cameron, Jack and Johanna in Ravenwood, four, Edward, George, Tommy and Agnes were born at the homestead. Anne is Walsenburg. Two died as small children.

During the 1913 strike our family lived in a tent colony called White City. It was located in the area where the Dissler, Dallifior and Tressel homes are now on East 6th St. I remember going to the Saint Mary School, and they made us lie down along the walls of the school when the shooting was going on.

In 1916, we started to homestead up on Silver Mountain at Red Hill. I had to walk 2½ — 3 miles to school at Yellowstone. There were 48 pupils and one teacher in the one room school house. When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my dad sent me to find the saw mill on a borrowed horse, because he wanted to build a barn on the homestead. I rode horseback all through that area and went to Gardner for the Gallo Day Celebration. That was the first rodeo I ever saw. It was held on the flats on the right just as you come in to Gardner.

The reason my folks decided to homestead was that they had a bunch of kids and we were always moving from one coal camp to another and my mother got tired of it. My dad had a batching outfit and worked at the mines during the week and would come home on weekends.

I started working in the mines with my dad in 1923. I was 15 years old. We batched together.

In the 1920'S there were a lot of coal mines in the county... The C.F. & I. mines in the Ideal Rouse canyon there were about 2,000 miners. The Victor American mine at RavenWood had about 100 miners. There were at least 15 mines out on the Loma Railroad Branch out on the 169 Highway West. There were 3 major mines up around the Cameron, Walsen Camp area. The last mine in the county closed in 1972.

All my brothers started to work in the mines as soon as they were old enough, except the two youngest. They went to school. We had 5 that graduated from high school in our family.

All together I worked close to 50 years in the mines. I operated a mine for 16 years.

During the IWW Strike. (I won't work) that started Oct. 27, 1927. They had a search light mounted up on the hog back. It would scan the whole area. The owners were afraid the miners would try to get to the mines to cause damage. The guards all carried guns. A lot of innocent people were killed. Everyone was frightened and wouldn't go out at night. I think the oil companies were behind that strike trying to push out the coal companies.

During the time of the 1927 strike, I worked as a hod carrier. The School Bus Garage, the United Church and the Church up on 6th St. were built during that time. I worked on all three. Some of the working conditions at the mines were bad. Some had high coal, some very low coal. Some had a lot of water, where you had to work in water all day long. Alamo Mine had good high coal but it also had a steep pitch. They had a bad explosion at that mine.

In those days you had to learn how to do everything. My dad repaired our shoes. He would buy the shoe leather and had lots of different sizes, I think they're still around here somewhere. He would cut the leather, nailed it to the soles, and shape it and when he finished, the shoe was better than when it was bought. I learned to cut hair, so I was the family barber. Up on the Homestead, we had a vegetable garden. My mother had a green thumb. What we didn't eat, or can, we got out and sold in the coal camps out of a spring wagon. We did our own butchering and made our own sausage and smoked meats. My sister Mary made bread when she was 9 years old. My dad made the adobes to build the house here on 7th St. We learned carpentry, plumbing and everything. We also built my house. My brother John didn't know anything about the restaurant business but he started up with a small shop and worked hard and learned, and built up a good business at the Western Cafe. He is now retired. He built his own house also. We even ran a bar for awhile, also a shoe repair shop. We tried everything and learned a lot along the way. We all worked hard.

The Lodges were very important to the people that first came here. They were first started in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The Slovenians started them as insurance groups. They paid death benefits of $500.00 or $1,000.00. You paid $1.00 a month and got $1.00 a day sick benefits. This was before the union came into being and the mine companies had no benefits for the miners. It doesn't sound like much but $30.00 a month kept a man's family from starving if he was unable to work. The lodges were also a social thing where at the meetings they could get together and speak in their native language and enjoy themselves. The best dances were held at the pavilion, that has since burned down. It was up on West 8th St. I joined the Fraternal orders in 1924. I also belong to the Croation Fraternal Union, the American Fraternal Union and the Western Slovenic.

My maiden name was Theresa Krist. I was born in Leadville. My family first came to Pueblo. Then they moved to Utah, and then to Leadville. They moved here after I was born, and we have been here ever since. My parents had 14 children, 7 boys and 7 girls. My oldest brother was killed in a coal mine accident at Pictou. One brother was killed in a car accident. Two brothers died from heart conditions. One brother retired from the Navy and is in California. We always had a full house. Mother even ran a boarding house in addition to taking care of her big family. She had a boarding house both in Leadville and in Utah.

In those days they had little and you didn't expect too much. We had to do without things. Now kids have too much. Things were cheap, but they still couldn't afford them. My mom sewed a lot. She made shirts for the boys and dresses for the girls. The women all baked bread two or three times a week. My mother was always busy baking, cooking...She had a hard life.

I wouldn't want to go back to the good old days in one way. It was hard growing up and realizing that you couldn't have what you wanted. You had to take things as they came. It does seem like there was more togetherness. People cooperated and helped each other out. People cared more about each other in those days.

My family lived at Ravenwood, Ojo, Rouse, Gordon and Canon City. It was good growing up in the mining camps.

At Walsen Camp they had a WMCA. They had recreation there for the children. They had a swimming pool. It was better for the kids than it is now. The kids kept themselves occupied. They played softball. Then at night they would go to the Club house for basketball. The men would play cards, and the women played the piano and sang, and then everybody would dance. Now it seems like people just watch TV. Some of the men didn't work on Saturdays and everybody had Sunday off. We waited for the weekends and we went out visiting. Every night after supper someone would drop in. We always had company. On Sundays the house would be full. My mom always cooked and expected someone to come. She always had something prepared.

They used to have dances at the YMCA. They would just have a phonograph, and all the kids danced in the auditorium. They had a once—a—month gathering for the teenagers.

My family came from Novo Mesto Lubjana in Yugoslavia. We went back there six years ago on a tour. I have relatives still there and we saw them when we were there.

My Dad's nephews are in Argentina, one nephew in Argentina is a blacksmith. He went there after World War I. A lot of the people from Yugoslavia went to Argentina and Australia.

I have an aunt in Denver who is 96.

Franz Joseph was the King of Yugoslavia during World War I. There is a moat around his castle so that he couldn't be attacked very easily. We saw a high hill where they had guns posted to guard the country. We saw rock walls that had been built all along the coast on the Adriatic Sea. We also saw rock fences and corrals that were built many hundreds of years ago. We were told that the King made the people work building those fences with rocks that they had picked out of the fields. The climate is similar to here. We were there in July and August and the tomatoes, cherries and peaches were ripe. They had little markets all along the roads, and the farmers would bring their produce in wagons to sell there. We had peaches just off the trees and they were just wonderful. It took us about 21 hours to fly to Yugoslavia. It took my mother 21 days. We visited with my Mother's half sister. She has since passed away. I have some cousins there also. Some of them speak English.

Back to the Oral Interviews Main Page

Return to the Huerfano County Home Page
© Karen Mitchell