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When COAL was King--In 1902, when Rockvale was a thriving mining camp, Mr. and Mrs. Owen Doran started a hotel. The old "Rockvale Hotel" soon became known far and wide for its hospitality and good food. Company officials, construction crews, ball teams, and travelers all made it their stopping place when in  the region. The old hotel was partially destroyed by fire on June 25, 1919. In 1932 the building was razed and hauled away to Penrose to be rebuilt into a private dwelling.

The Rockvale Town Hall was the recreation center for most of the miners. As late as 1918, the town hall was the meeting place for many lodges and organizations. Lodge meetings, moving pictures, dances, literary clubs, concerts, church plays, socials, teas and other forms of entertainment were held at regular intervals. On June 25, 1919 the Town Hall burned.

            The Rockvale Town Hall had dances, plays, and programs and a Mr. Ecker obtained a lease to show motion pictures, which were very popular. One particular evening in 1919 the hall, filled with men, women, and children, the film caught fire. The projection booth was right over the front door, the only place for entering or leaving the hall.

            Mr. Savant was running the projector, and instead of closing the burning film into the booth, he threw it out into the Town Hall. Soon the cry of "Fire," Fire!" reverberated throughout the hall and all was pandemonium. No one could escape through the door and the windows were tall and narrow. Quick-thinking men picked up chairs and swinging them against the windows broke the frames as well as the glass. While the pianist, Hazel Powell, played stirring marches the men at each window lowered the women and children to safety. The men also jumped to safety after the pianist was safely out. This is the back of the town hall after the fire.

Rockvale Town Hall--1919--photo furnished by Bev Harris

Sparks flew over the town
Town hall AFTER 1919 fire--photo furnished by Bev Harris 

     When the two-story hall collapsed, the sparks and flames ignited other buildings and on both sides of the block. All structures were soon on fire. Among those burned were the fire department, a barbershop, and several small candy and notion stores. Charred was Doran' s Hotel, across the street. However, it did not collapse. Amos Boarding House, several saloons, and the Colorado Supply Store's meat market still stood after being charred.

     After the 1919 fire, what is left of the now present town hall. There was a jail under the fire station, which is now the town hall;  the jail cells are still there.

     A new fire station occupied the block after citizens removed the debris. From then on, the Y. M. C. A. building became the recreation center. Several years later another fire in that vicinity finished what remained of the buildings in that block. There were never any structures built to replace those lost.


Rockvale was first protected from fires by the people of the community. Hose teams were established and in use in the early days of our history. There were three hose teams with a bell and a hand drawn hose cart. One of these having been preserved on what is known as School Hill. It has the hose cart with its tool box, hose and nozzles, its bell ringing with every turn of the wheel. The area of Stringtown, on Churchill Street, had one and one was where the town hall is now. In 1913 this one was replaced with the building that is in use today. This building was here during the fire of June 26, 1919 and received major damage to the roof and interior, but the frame of the building was of sand stone, and as you can see, it still stands today. The worse part of the history of this building all records were lost for the fire department and the town records.

In the Exporte, the town newspaper of July 3, 1906, each hose cart was manned with 18 people. If a fire broke out during the day, the ladies and business owners had to man the carts till the men could get out of the mine to take over. Most times it was too late and the building was destroyed.

Below: Marshall Walker, Jr., Jimmy Walker, mayor, Jesse Goodwin, Louis Tessadri, assistant chief Dave Evans, Delmer McKissack, and Marshall Walker, Sr.

furnished by Bev Harris

When the picture on the left was taken, Rockvale was part of the Florence Fire Protection District, and the town's 24 volunteers were eager to secure more and better fire fighting equipment through the district. They had carefully preserved the town's three hose carts used by the volunteers of the 1890s.

One was stored in the town garage, one loaned to the Florence Department for parades, and the third was stationed in a rebuilt hose-house on School  Hill shown in the photo. The hose cart was fully equipped with fire hose, nozzles, a tool box, and a clanging bell that sounded a warning at every turn of the wheel. (Only a few fireman could be present for this photo.)



MARCH 30, 1955

furnished by Judith Chiri-Mulkey
housing for fire hose #2--photo from Historical ClubOn March 18, 1921 the Rockvale Volunteer Firemen's Association was organized with 22 members. On March 25th ten more members joined. Dan Richards was appointed as fire chief and Tom Eason was president. The journals from March 1921 to present are in the hands of the present fire chief, Marty Walker.

In March 1926 the town purchased a fire truck from the Florence fire department. Today the department has two trucks. One belongs to the town of Rockvale and one the Florence Fire District.

The Rockvale Historical Club is working on a book to be kept at the town hall so visitors, families and friends can read on the history of the department. It will be a work in progress, as we want to collect pictures of the past, present and future firemen and firewomen.

Several years ago Mayor Fred Ardrey came across TWO bells. One was from the Old School Building, and Martin Kessler identified the other one as being from the Stringtown (Williamsburg) hose station, which he dismantled as a town employee.

Members of the Rockvale Historical Club raised money to have a memorial erected. With the help of Tom Shelnutt, Darrel Cool and Dave Barns, this bell has been erected here beside the fire station in Memory of all past, present and future firemen and women of Rockvale.

The bell and plaque were presented to the firemen and residents of Rockvale from the members of the Rockvale Historical Club.

Rockvale was the home of a prize-winning baseball team
Among the players of the team of that day were: Back row-- Ed Agard, manager; Ray Marco, Tom Easton, Frank Rocchio, Joe Brady, and Joe Dailey. Front row--Joe Harris, Bob Smilanich, John Cologne, Sam Bowan, Frank Papish, and Tom Payne, trainer. prize-winning baseball team--photo from King Coal 
To the right is the ball park that was in the town field. ball park in town field--furnished by Bev Harris
photo furnished by Alice Thomas




Joe Dailey was a pillar of old Rockvale. Loved baseball and loved Rockvale. He died at the age of 79.

Joe was born in Pennsylvania and was a cousin of Thomas & Margaret Payne. Joe was also the nephew of Susan Boyd who ran a boarding house in Rockvale.




Baseball team - 1918--furnished by Bev Harris





Watching and playing baseball, riding bicycles, playing marbles, riding donkeys, and watching movies were favorite forms of recreation in Rockvale. The old timers can recall baseball games which some claim were as good as professional ones. In the days of the silent movies, Rockvale had two places where shows were shown at regular intervals. (See top of page for details about fire.)


photo furnished by Gene Kochan   photo furnished by Gene Kochan

Baseball early in Rockvale's history


Written on back of picture.

photo furnished by Judi Chiri   

photo from Bev Harris 

 Baseball was a BIG. . .a great sport!

The team from 1920 included Shoe Champion, Bill Pritchard, Mark Rizek, manager,

Thomas Payne, Dan Price, John Cologne, Gabe Smilovich, Clarence Crosby, John Scookey Smith, Joe Dailey, and Carl Papish.


Members included (standing) Clarence Crosby,  John Scookey Smith , Kennick, Evans, Goodhead, Shoe Champion, Carl Papish, FrankPapish--(sitting) Max Rizek, Cy Cologne, Gus Marco, Frank Rocchio, Joe Dailey, Mark Rizek


Baseball is still BIG with Rockvale and Coal Creek residents.


furnished by Bev Harris 

Rockvale's baseball team with trophy in  2004

photo furnished by Lorraine Veltri

(bk row) - Timothy Guana, Marty Walker, Calvin Kessler, Lee Cook, Shanon & Delaney Calhoun and Michael Patterson

(ft row) - Michael Bufmack and son, Kirk Calhoun, Skyler Calhoun (holding trophy), and Brandon Walker


Gold Nugget Night ClubThe Gold Nugget Night Club once known all over Southern Colorado as an interesting spot of entertainment, now is merely a part of a foundation, some wild yellow rose bushes, and a few trees. Owned and operated by the Salardino Brothers it was a forerunner of the Club Paradise, owned, and operated in South Canon City by Gus and Doris Salardino. There was music and dancing and good food prepared by outstanding cooks. Actors and singers provided good entertainment.

In 1915, the town had begun to return to a normal coal town. The 1913-15 coal strike had ended and the mines were starting to work double shifts to supply the increased demand because of the war in Europe.

Rockvale had every right to be proud of the town band. Music was important to every CF&I mining camp and the Rockvale Band became known as the famous Italian band. James Chiri, Battista Noggio, and James Milano organized it in 1902. Those men worked in mines all day and practiced at night. They bought and paid for their own instruments.

At first, the band was not too good and the town bullies made fun of them shouting, "tra-ra-boom-de-ay,” but the heckling soon subsided as the musicians improved. The band headed street parades and played at all town functions and when practical, played a funeral march at funerals and led the procession to the town bridge.

Catherine and John Morello of Rockvale furnished this picture and history sketch. Mrs. Morello recalled that Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller who made infrequent trips to the area and watched the band perform on several occasions donated the band uniforms. Rockefeller was the multi-millionaire who was the major stockholder in the C F& I, which owned the Rockvale Mine.

Rockvale Town Band--photo  furnished by Judy Chiri

Pictured are, left to right, back row:

John Milano, Louis Sareno, bandleader; Mike Marmello, Barney Milano, Mike Scarvarda, James Chiri, Frank Chiri John Falgien, Lee Gugliuzzo, Tom Boggio, and James Milano.

Front row:

Camillo (Fatty) Salvi, Charles (Chinny) Salvi, the small boy; Achili Cresto, Louis (Shortly) Amarantus, Mike Fabrizio Jr., Canon City, Barney Milano, Pueblo; Mike Scarvada, Grand Junction; Charles (Chinny) Salvi, Salida; Louis Amarantus and James Sartoris of California.


parade marches down Main Street (fm Bev Harris)

The frame building  behind (right) the band was the Rockvale Town Hall and the building next door was the Fire House, built two years before this picture was taken. The Town Hall burned down in 1919; the Fire House is the Town Hall. Standing behind the band are several Rockvale citizens, including some ladies with fancy spring hats, who managed to get in the picture.

Music was important to the early day immigrants and the band organized in 1902 by James Chiri, Battista Boggio, and James Milano played an important part in all Rockvale festivities. Known as the Italian Band it became famous in Southern Colorado, heading all street parades, especially when celebrating the Fourth of July, Columbus Day, Armistice Day, and other festal occasions. On these days, they marched from the Rockvale Town Hall, through Stringtown to Williamsburg and back, with James Berta, riding a white horse and waving a sword, acting as marshal of the day. For important citizens they also played funeral marches, accompanying the funeral procession to the outskirts of the town.

Louis Serena, who had received training in the Italian Army Band of his native Italy, was the band director. James Chiri was manager. Musicians included John Milano, Mike Marmello, Barney Milano, Mike Scavarda, Frank Chiri, John Falgien, Lee Gugliuzzo, James Milano, and Tom Boggio. Front--(child: Camillo Fatty Salvi), Charles (Chinny) Salvi, J. A. (Keeley) Cresto, Louis Amaranths, Mike Fabrizio, Jr., and James Sartoris. Rockvale's noted orchestra was in great demand in Southern Colorado for dances and concerts. It was composed of Miss Grace Payne, Fred Dyer, J. A. Cresto, Mike Scavarda, and James Sartoris.

The jail was under the fire station.

This building is now the town hall.

The jail cells are still there.


Rockvale Mines Coal

Rockvale coal mines & business area--furnished by Bev Harris
Rockvale mine and business district

furnished by Bev Harris

Rockvale coal mine--Catholic church (white building) and YMCA (building  left of church) in background

photo furnished by Jacque Tessadri McDonnell

Mining towns have always been turbulent places

Rockvale Area Mines

photo from Marie Morello Handy

 According to Joe Cresto, who grew up in the area,  “The history of these events goes back to the labor strikes and turbulent history of the mines. By 1895 the United Mine Workers union was getting organized and after a major strike of all the mines in the Colorado fields the union got an eight hour day [10 hours underground before that and no portal to portal pay]. The strike in 1905 was big. Then the longest and most violent strike in America (of that era) lasted nearly two years [1913-1914]. Sometime, just before or after the turn of the century, the Rockafellers had bought much of the Southern Colorado coal fields, Rockvale included. They took such a public relations beating because of the 13-14 strike which included national press and Federal Government intervention [Wilson sent in Federal troops] after the Ludlow massacre. They knew they had to do something to improve their relationship with the men, so the corporation built the YMCA and gave an inaugural dinner and dance for all the miners and wives. John D., Jr. and wife attended and in fact John D., Jr. danced every dance, they said with every miner's wife. Rockvale had a good dance band which played, my dad on trumpet, Grace Payne on piano, Jim Sartoris [Lardy's older brother], Mike Scavarda [Micky's dad, from Lincoln Park] and Fred Dyer on drums. That was about 1917 and the retiree banquets followed.

"One of our cousins has the gold CF&I lapel pin awarded each retired miner with the entry year of service engraved on it, [1888, for Granddad Cresto]. Most of these old miners were Welsh, English, Scotch, and Irish since they were the oldest miners brought out to Colorado, recruited out of the mines in their countries of origin. The Italians came later but some of the Piemontese from Italy followed soon after.” The Vezzetti, Cresto, Picco, Chiri, Morello, Rocchio families and others were from this region of Italy (northern near the border of France).

Rockvale Miners
James Newell--great uncle of Beverly Kissell Harris 
Bridge at Cedar Canon Mine

The old bridge going to the Old Cedar Canon Mine-- John Giuliano and Dominic Carpine ran for many years.  The bridge crosses over Oak Creek.

Photo furnished by Yvette Beavers

photo furnished by Marie Morello Handy

Loading Loading Docks

In 1880 the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe railroad completed the broad gauge railroad from LaJunta into Rockvale. Many in Rockvale would wait until late evening to pick up coal along the tracks. The gunny sacks of coal would fuel fires to heat houses and cook food. After the mines closed and the tracks taken up, the "rollies" were used to ride bicycles across and even race cars across them. Today they can still be seen but are on private property.

Photo furnished by Yvette Beavers.

article from newspaper file-Bev Harris                      












Mrs. Susan Boyd established a boarding house in Rockvale in the  1880's




photo furnished by Bev HarrisMines in Fremont County weathered several hectic strikes, and survived to reopened mines and better conditions until the Wobbly Strike of 1927, caused by the Industrial Workers of the World competing against the United Mine Workers of America for control of miners' membership. The two organizations fought against each other by word and action, thus bringing on a strike. The C. F. & I. officials warned the miners that if the mine was closed they could never reopen it, as the workings were old and widespread. There would be cave-ins, which could never be cleared, and water pumps would not be able to keep out the water. The prophesy came true; the mine was never reopened.

After that, the once-prosperous town began to die. The company houses were, but as the miners left, many houses were suddenly destroyed by fire arson being suspected. Other houses sold and people moved out of town. Some left vacant soon lost doors, windows, plumbing, etc., and soon disappeared. Only a few of the old houses remain.  However, Rockvale is experiencing a “growth” like it has not seen since the early 1900’s. There are new houses under construction and old houses repaired and modernized. Other remodeled homes have owners who commute to work in near-by towns. Rockvale's taxes are low and water from wells piped into the town reservoir was good in the late 1970s.

The Shaft

mining shaft--furnished by Bev HarrisThe shaft (shown here) was begun in the fall of 1880. After reaching a depth of about 240 feet, it was idle for several months. In July 1881, sinking was resumed, and the coal was struck at a depth of 322 feet on

September 1, 1881. The shaft was 7 1/2 feet by 20 feet in the clear and divided into three compartments, two compartments to be used for hoisting, and the south compartment as an inlet for ventilation. After tapping the seam much CH4 was encountered transpiring from the coal through every fissure. This necessitated the use of safety lamps frequently and required a good deal of observation on the part of the management to avoid explosions and fires.

Rockvale mine being dismantled

Rockvale Mine being dismantled--furnished by Bev Harris

(The Rockvale No. 1 Mine was located on a branch line of the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in Fremont County, approximately three miles west of Florence, Colorado. The property was opened in 1880, by the Canon Coal Company and was acquired by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company in 1896.

 J. D. Cribbs was the last superintendent of the mine. He was appointed in 1920 and served until it was shut down in November, 1927. The plant has since been dismantled.)

Ocean Wave Miners

Williamsburg--Ocean Wave Miners--from King Coal1897--On the plain atop the hill in Williamsburg was the Ocean Wave Mine. Along the road opposite the mine were small houses and Massaro and Trabinos' stores. Since the mine belonged to the C.F. & I. there was also a company store. However, the stores and the Ocean Wave Mine did not last long. The mine was situated on a river which eventually broke through and flooded the mine forcing it to close.

ft row--Simon Smith, Ralph Smith. Victor Calmete (age 10), Henry Smith, Walt Sterling; Charlie Jones; Hippolite Calmette, George McMullen, John Daniels, "Reese", ?, "James", and Tandy brothers


The Radiant mine employed about 125 men in 1903

The Radiant Saloon was owned by Carlo and Batta Pinamonti


The second of the mines owned by the Victor-American Fuel Company was Radiant, later known as Pyrolite, and finally as Kenmore. This was the last of the company camps in Fremont County. A mining camp was defined as an unincorporated community; while a coal mine was a community which was incorporated.

Radiant mine was opened in 1903 three miles south of Coal Creek, Colorado. During its peak years the Radiant mine employed 125 miners and produced an average of 800 tons of coal daily. The Santa Fe Railroad extended its rails to Radiant and Rockvale. The train made daily trips to haul out the coal which was shipped to various states.

The Victor-American Fuel Company built around 80 houses, many of four-rooms to house the miners and their families. The houses had no modern accommodations, kerosene lamps and coal stoves were used. Water was obtained from a number of wells 50 to 60 feet deep. The water was pumped into the reservoir, It was then piped to the houses.

Besides the houses the company built several boarding houses, a company store which stocked everything a family might need for the house or a miner for the mine. Radiant also had a saloon and eight to room schoolhouse, and one boarding house for Italians (run by Mrs. Henry Menapace). She opened her boarding house in 1906. Then in 1918, Mrs. Watkins opened a boardinghouse, and Mrs. Maggie Murray opened another in 1921.

The mines superintendents included Ed Jones, 1911; Mr. Williams, 1913; Dave Bryson, 1922. The company doctors were Dr. Taxis, 1908, Dr. Mc Carl, 1913, Dr. Chesmore, 1919, and Dr. Paxton, 1920

The teachers included Cecilia Job Falgien, Minnie Giovanni Zenoni, Mrs. Campbell, Mrs. Baker, and Mrs. O’Connor, from 1919 to 1923.

Mr. John Battista Pinamonti, father of Charles Pinamonti and grandfather of Irene Pinamonti Witty, had the only saloon in the camp from 1908 to 1931.

The company store managers were Mr. Bent, Harry Scarvarda, and Henry Clinger, ranging from 1911 to 1923 when the store was closed. Joe Vegher worked there as a clerk.

In 1929, during the depression days the Radiant mine was closed but a number of houses were still standing. The U.S. Government was in the process of finding housing for the large number of transients roaming the country. The Radiant houses seemed a suitable; so the Federal emergency relief administration (F. E. R. A.) leased the camp. Various people were employed to handle the administration of the F. E. R. A. era at radiant. Among them was Jim (Spider) Kelly who was the athletic director.

The F.E.R.A. a camp served its purpose. In 1937, when economic conditions improved, residents drifted away. The staff was discharged and the camp closed. Kelly was the only staff member who remained in Fremont County. He married Minnie Moschetti and settled in Florence.

With the closing of the F.E.R.A. camp, the buildings were sold at auction and moved to other Fremont County towns. The company store was donated to the American legion and is now the American Legion hall of Florence.

So passed into history another of Colorado’s many mining camps……


Cedar Canon Miners - 1935

photo furnished by Pat Ziolkowski MurphyIn 1932, a very profitable mine for more than 50 years, the Cedar Canon Coal Mine, was opened by Dominic Carpine and John Giuliano. The Cedar Canon Mine, at its peak, worked two shifts (part of the day shift is pictured here) employed 110 miners and produced an average of 300 tons of coal daily. One fatal mishap occurred at this mine when a rock-fall killed a miner--Frank Chiri .

Among the miners were Pasqualo Palumba, (pictured front row l-r) Mike Giuliano, Joe Tamburello, Joe Carpine, Domenic Piccone, John Tanko, John Spera; (second row) Rocco Santarelli, Nardo Fazzino, John Reynolds, Joe Di Carlo, Joe Lombardi, John Procarione, John Falgien, John Giuliano, Ted Frew; (third row) Nick Natale, Steve Baudino, Joe Dighera, Albert Kaminsky, Augustine Velasquez, Mike Tamburello, Pete Gherna, Phillip Baccarella, Joe Fazzino, Joe Vitale, Tom Baccarella, Frank Ziolkowski, John Sckufca, Willard Banks, Lewis Del Duca, Joe Ziolkowski, Gregerio Huerta; (back row) Budgie Fazzino, Joe Ruffatti, unidentified, unidentified, Wilson Plummer, and Angelo Santilli

John G. Giuliano first started in the coal mining business in January 1921, when he opened the Bluff Springs mine on the bottom seam of the Rock vein. It was worked out in 1929.

Next, he and Domenic Carpine opened the Fremont mine on the Chandler seam in January 1930. They operated it until the fall of 1933. Giuliano and Carpine opened the Cedar Canon Mine on the Brookside seam in July 1932. Then the Biuliano family operated the mine until December 1959 when it was leased to Alex Beltramo until October 1965.

The Cedar Canon mine reached peak production during World Was II when 122 men produced 500 tons daily. The mine was leased to Casimiro Alvidrez and Sons. Coal production was greatly reduced as federal regulations became more stringent.


Coal Field History - Southern Colorado