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ROCKVALE -- 1906

photo from Rockvale Historical Club


July 4, 1906

The Ex Parte Newspaper reported that nearly 500 people from Rockvale and surrounding area enjoyed the day with a baseball game between the home town team and Coal Creek. There was a ball game, a horse race, a burro race, an old man's race,  an egg race,  a three legged race, a potato race, and a 100 yard dash.  During the  expedition of a fire drill each fire team had to run 300 feet, lay 250 feet of fire hose, hook onto a fire plug, and run water through a nozzle. The article described the teams as "harnessed, crouched and waiting for the signal." Coal Creek won with 27 seconds and Rockvale's time was 32.6 seconds. Judges were Tom Shields for Coal Creek, Ex-Mayor Kite, Rockvale and Frank Moore, Florence.

In the evening

there was a grand ball

in the Opera House.

 

 


Fremont County History
 


FREMONT COUNTY
 

6The Rockvale Town Hall was commonly referred to as the Opera House. It was the center of all social life and community activities.

In 1886, Rockvale became a town.

At first, the settlement consisted of tents and hurriedly built shacks. However, when people became aware of the employment in the coa1 mine, both single men and families arrived. Duplex type houses built to accommodate the newcomers when the Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation acquired the property. **Also in  1881  James A. Garfield became the 20th president of the United States.** Twenty-six years later, in February of 1907 electricians began work of wiring the camp with electricity. Fourteen 32-candle power lamps were placed on different corners of the main part of the town.

Rockvale was never a "closed camp.” and many miners built their own houses and independent business houses were soon in operation. There soon was a thriving community with B. F. Rockefeller and Geo Baker's Emporium, Colonel May's drug store (which housed the post office), a barbershop, and four saloons composing the beginning of a main street.

On July 10, 1882, Wm. H. May and W. D. Thatcher filed with the Fremont County Clerk & Recorder for incorporation. Rockvale became an incorporated town in 1886. Thatcher was the secretary of the Canon City Coal Company. George A. Baker was mayor in 1888. Grover Cleveland--a Democrat--was the U. S. president from March 1885-March 1889.

Henry John and John P. Thomas worked in the Rockvale mine when the Santa Fe Railroad operated it. After the Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation acquired the mine, John P. Thomas became mine superintendent and Henry (Harry) John was fire boss. Later Harry John (father of Mrs. Joe Lynn) became the superintendent. E. B. Cribbs was superintendent until the Rockvale Mine closed in 1927, and Cribbs acquired the Nu Shaft Mine.

Rockvale was the largest of the Fremont County mines, employing an average of 300 men, producing 1200 tons a day, which required the Santa Fe Railroad to pull two trainloads a day.

 

photo furnished by Aice Thomas 

ROCKVALE (SANTA FE) DEPOT

photo from Royal Gorge Historical Museum photo taken by Sam Carlsson


     The above picture (above the guys at the Santa Fe Depot) is a view of the mine including the hoist, boiler house, tipple, and dump. In the center, the large building is the Santa Fe Depot. The smaller building is the Colorado Supply feed and grain building. In the background center is the Catholic Church, which is still in excellent condition. To the left of the church are the Tom Orecchio Saloon, the duplex type company houses, and the brick home of Tom Orecchio. In the left center are the Post Office and the company store with the folded awning. Only part of the W. H. May cabin is seen. In the old picture, on the left is the two story town hall and the John Kile Livery stable and the ice house.

     The railroad tussles, the mine buildings, the company houses, and the depot were removed years ago. Only the foundation marks the site of the large coalmine for many years. After the closing of the mine, the town lost 50% of the houses, some by fire and others were moved to all parts of the county.

 

 

photo furnished by Bev Harris 
 

 At its peak, Rockvale had a population of 1,500 people. The town had businesses such as the Colorado Supply Company store, Colonel May's drug store acquired by Joseph Powell after Colonel May's death, A. P. Easton's general store, and Vezzetti’s general store and bakery. There were several candy stores and small notions stores; several barber shops, two livery stables (Kile's and Goodhead's), two churches (Methodist and Catholic), Agard's blacksmith shop, 13 saloons, the Paradox newspaper, and a two-story town hall.
  Joseph Powell Family

picture from Powell ancestry page

   The first postmaster was Colonel May. Gertie, Joseph Powell's daughter, who, at his death, succeeded him. Anabelle Dewhurst Saindon held the job of Rockvale postmistress for a number of years. The original post office building is still standing and posts mail daily. The new fire station has a small room used as a meeting place for the town board of trustees, and a clubroom. Gertie Powell--photo from King Coal

Hazel Powell and her sister Gertie as Red Cross workers

photo from Royal Gorge Museum


Rockvale 81244--photo by Norma Del Ducs Colonel May had one a sister living with him.  Her name was Fanny, and according to papers found by Beverley Kissell Harris at the town hall. Fanny also donated land to the town of Rockvale. Greenwood Cemetery was Colonel May's last resting place. There he joined other Fremont County pioneers.

Soon miners and out-of-town persons with money to invest built small houses and business buildings as rental property. One Canon City family named Bowen owned the two business houses adjacent to the post office. Charles Vezzetti bought them and rented one building to the Paradox Newspaper and the other one to Dom Ottino's barbershop. Saloons occupied the remainder of the block to Savant's small store. Rockafellow & Baker's Emporium occupied the building on the other side of the post office. The Colorado Supply Company Store later occupied this.
 

Patrons infront of Colorado Supply Company--photo Bev Harris

 

Across the street was located the Colorado Supply Company's meat market, Amos boarding house, several saloons, and Mrs. Doran's Hotel. Opposite the hotel were Kile's and Goodhead's livery stables, the town hall, the firehouse, and Ed Agard's blacksmith shop behind the stables.

Next door to the fire station and town hall was Jessup's store. He soon moved to Florence and delivered to the coal camps with horse and wagon. Some years later in the same block were Ottino's Barber Shop and Joe Bailey's Barber Shop.

 

photo furnished by Bev Harris 

 

Extending down the street from the Big Hill was the two-story frame house belonging to Tom and Mary Payne. It was previously  Dr. MacDonald’s home and office. Later Dr. & Mrs. Williamson occupied it but moved farther up the street toward the town reservoir. Next to the two-story house was a smaller frame building which for a time was Dr. Williamson's office. Near this building was Champion's Shoe Store which sold and repaired shoes.  Adjacent to this was Mrs. Louis Camerlo's store which sold candy and notions. Across from these and serving the railroad was the depot with the telegraph office.

CHANDLER

 

COAL CREEK

  

 

Coal Creek Elementary School Class

photo furnished by Carolyn Mascitelli Lane

Coal Creek class 1954

photo furnished by Carolyn Mascetelli Lane

FHS 1960 Grads & their elementary school teachers--Mr. & Mrs. Holloway

photo furnished by Carolyn Mascitelli Lane 

 

photos furnished by Carolyn Mascitelli Lane 

 

Coal Creek School - 1897

 

WILLIAMSBURG

Photo furnished by Irene Scutti Gonzales

article furnished by Irene Scutti Gonzales

Article furnished by Irene Scutti Gonzales

Wilmont School students--year and names unknown

photo furnished by Irene Scutti Gonzales

 

THE CHESTERFIELD CLUB

Photo from cookbook by Oleta Giambalvo/lorraine veltri

 

Photo from cookbook by Oleta Giambalvo/lorraine veltri

 


The Vezzetti Legacy
 

photo furnished by Carole Lanoff THE VEZZETTI FAMILY

photo furnished by Joe Cresto

bk-Martin, Marian, Max

ft-Charles, Antoinette, Dolly, Mary, Bill, & Lucy

 

 

 

 

If Martin and Bill had a web site, it might have looked like this: Italian grocery

 

1896 Vezzetti's Store--photo from King Coal

Vezzetti's Bakery and Grocery store was originally located in Williamsburg in 1896. It was probably the oldest Fremont County business existing, moving to the Rockvale  location in 1915.

The Vezzetti family used a similar Dutch Oven (as shown below) to bake that wonderful bread that was crusty on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. Martin and Bill would have your loaf all wrapped and tied with string, waiting for you if you were on their daily list. They only made 200 loaves a day, five days a week--never on Friday or Sunday. Bill would get up at 3 a.m. to start the dough and form the bread. Then they would fire up the oven with cedar wood. When the first 100 loves were baked, Martin and Mary would wrap them while the next 100 baked. By the time the bread was done, it was time for Martin to open the store and Mary would head up "school hill" to teach.

 

Vezzetti's used similar Dutch oven--photo from Historical Club

 

Dolly was a nurse in the local hospitals. The other siblings--Max, Marian, and Antoinette--were married. Bill would take a nap then be in the store while Martin delivered groceries to local homes and picked up fresh produce and supplies for the store.

Vezzetti’s Bakery, which sold wonderful Italian-style bread from its big, old ovens in Rockvale merchandised its bread throughout Fremont County and Pueblo County. Vezzetti’s bread was sold to many of the restaurants in the counties.

 

 

  furnished by Bev Harris

 

 

Bill Vezzetti is shown here preparing fresh bread for the ovens.

Pictured here are loves of bread being taken from one of the ovens.

Italian bread fresh from the oven--furnished by Bev Harris 

 

 

Martin Vezzetti is shown below by the back door of one of the Vezzetti buildings near the home where he and his brother, Bill, and sisters, Dolly and Mary, lived.

 

Martin Vezzetti--furnished by Judy Chiri 

 

Martin behind counter--furnished by Bev Harris 

 

 

 

 

In the photo, Martin (behind the counter) waits on a customer while Bill (right) shows items from the produce rack.

 

Vezzetti's Store--from Rockvale Historical Club 

Of the numerous business Rockvale once had, only Vezzetti's General Store remained open until the 1980's. It was operated by Martin and Bill, sons of the original founder, Charles Vezzetti. (Vezzetti's nephew, J. B. Scavarda operated the older store until the closing of the mines.) Charles' first wife, Mary Anne, died in 1902 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery. He returned to Italy for three months and married his wife's sister, Lucia. Charles and Mary had two children, Antoinette and Mary. He and Lucia had five children: Martin, Max, Marian, William, and Martha (better known as Dolly). Charles died in 1951 and Lucia in 1953.

Vezzetti's store still stands as a reminder to all of a cherished era gone by. Not only was it a place to buy groceries but it was a gathering place for the community. In the winter, it had  an inviting fire to stand beside and warm the body and soul. Also one could find a bulletin board which posted lists of jobs to do, something needed, something lost or something found. Before government regulations, Vezzetti's was a place to buy eggs just brought in from  neighboring hen house. Maybe someone needed a can of kerosene to keep warm or needed to catch up on news of the town. Vezzetti's was the place to do all this.

 

VEZZETTI'S STORE

A LANDMARK DAMAGED

On March 13, 2008, the building that was once Vezzetti's Grocery Store caught fire. The damage was significant.

photo furnished by Lorraine Veltri

photo furnished by Lorraine Veltri

Fire, smoke, and water damage destroyed the historic landmark. . . .

photo furnished by Lorraine Veltri

furnished by Gene Kochan

IN JOE CRESTO'S WORDS, “This is a picture of my mother and father's wedding day. My mother, *Antoinette, married Joseph Achille Cresto that day (April 26, 1924). Her bridesmaid was her sister Mary Vezzetti and the best man (on the left) was Marm Kochan (Mike).

The Kochans were a family who were born and raised in Rockvale but as with most people moved away after the mine closed (in 1927). Kochans were a family of Slovenian origin, I think. My father really didn't have a nickname but everyone called him Chille, a derivative of his middle name Achille.  

They married in St. Patrick's church there in Rockvale and in fact two doors from the Vezzetti house. (in this picture) They were standing in the front yard of the Vezzetti's looking toward the Charles Caldirola butcher shop in the background but it is hidden by the two men. The house on the left was the Ball residence, diagonally across from the church. They were a Slovenian family whose name had been changed but the sons were born about 1905 and both had Solvenian nicknames. Andy, who I knew quite well lived his whole life in Fremont County working as a guard at the state penitentiary. Everybody in Rockvale called him Draech.

The house on the right background was the Simione's. They had a lovely daughter, Annie, who in the early years was a sweetheart of my Uncle Martin (Vezzetti of Vezzetti's Grocery).

Chille and Antoinette Cresto left after they married to take over a bakery business in Helper, Utah. They had a successful business there until the depression closed many mines in that area. While there my brother and I were born (1926 and 1931). They returned in 1932 to operate a mine at Brookside. Later, a mine in the South Field and one up on Coal Creek. They lived at Brookside for the rest of their lives. Chille died in 1970 and Antoinette in 1990. They are buried in the cemetery in Canon City.”

*Antoinette Cresto is the author of King Coal--Coal Mining in Fremont County

 

The Y. M. C. A. building held many happy social activities.
 

old Y. M. C. A.--from Historical Club

 

 

The Y. M. C. A. served as a place for many social gatherings as well as a meeting place for various organizations

retired mine workers' banquet--circa 1920--fm Joe Cresto

 

According to Joe Cresto (now living in California), “This picture (to right) was from the early or mid twenties. The picture was one of the dinners given by the CF&I [Colorado Fuel and Iron Corp.] for the retired miners of their Rockvale mine. The YMCA is the building, I believe the white background is the stage. I cannot name any of the individuals, although my dad could name nearly everyone of them."

 

YMCA--patrons after movie--furnished by Bev Harris                                                    

Back in the prosperous days of the coal camps when time came for entertainment, dancing had always been part of their lives, and the young married couples from Northern Italy longed for such gaiety. Dances were often at the Rockvale Town Hall. The Italians did not feel welcome among the Welsh and English. Fights often erupted when the "uptown" and "downtown" gangs met after work.

Finally, they decided to have their own place. On level prairie ground, which they considered as belonging to one, they planted tall poles cut from cottonwood trees found along the bank of Oak Creek. Around the circular frame, they wound strands of barbed wire, then cedar boughs among the barbed wire strands. Using water from Oak Creek, they slopped it over the earthen floor and with rollers packed a hard dancing surface. Therefore, they had their own private "Barbed Wire Club.”

The Santa Fe Railroad had coal trains and freight trains going to Rockvale every day. There was even a passenger car with the freight car, which came from Pueblo to Florence, to Rockvale, and then Canon City, with a stopover at the Brookside Junction for passengers. The roads to the Coal Camps (Rockvale and Coal Creek) were oiled in August of 1950. The hot oil was trucked from Denver. The railroad trestle, the mine and the tipple, the depot, the mine office, the bathhouse, the company store, all have vanished, leaving only  the slag dump of an industry that once brought millions of dollars to the economy of Fremont County.

 

Y. M. C. A. today
The Zolar home currently owned and occupied by Dave Patterson.

 

photo furnished by Cheryl Chiri Martin

 

 

 

 

Mary Zolar Chiri was born (1916) and raised in this home which stands only a short distance from St. Patrick's Catholic Church and the Vezzetti grocery store. Mary's father bought the home in 1910. Mary lived here until her marriage to Anton Chiri in 1936. Mary died in November 2006 at age 90.

 

furnished by Bev Harris

 

 

YMCA
now 
private home

 


City officials of past years
 

Previous mayors include Floyd Williams, Phil Kessler, Jason Garner, Lonnie White, Daryl Bufmack, James Archletta, Delbert Trogden, John Lennox, Tom Easton, William Angel, Albert F. Fearheily,  Jimmy Walker, and Lawrence Sartoris.

Previous town council and trustee members included Lindo Faoro, William Smith, William Vezzetti, Tony Chiri, Mary Horvath, Mary Maher, Marion Thomas, John Sudo, James Trodgen, Dan Kuklinski, Fred Del Duca, Ralph Carestia. Earl Colgin, Joe Tamburello, Albert Bufmack, Marshall Walker, Jr., Dave Patterson, and Daryl Bufmack, Lawrence Faoro, William Slack, Charles Mallow, Dom Massaro, Margaret Lakey, Ed Ziolkowski, Frank Ziolkowski, Steve Horvath, Sue Genty, and Evelyn Hulick.

Previous town marshals included Howard Agard, John Morello, Sam Bufmack, George Newcomb, Dan Lewis, and Glen Smith. Rockvale has since abolished the job of town marshal; however they do have a water superintendent.  Marshall Walker, Sr, was one of the first in this position. Martin Kessler Jr. is the current (2003) water superintendent.

The school bus was not the only bus that traveled to the coal camps. In 1922, Arthur Blackman and Carrie King bought a secondhand 1914 Buick, which hauled 20 passengers. Later Blackman sold his share on the stage line to King who then bought a 1926 Reo.

The depot for the Coal Camps Stage Line was the Chamber of Commerce at 117 North Fifth, Canon City. The Chamber of Commerce subsidized the Stage Line with $125.00 a month and the stage driver charged passengers 25 cents. It provided customers for Canon City business houses, professional men, and the courthouse. In 1928, Mr. King discontinued the Stage Line, which was a great detriment to Canon City.

 

Blackman and King Stage - fm King Coal

The stage left Canon City at 8 a.m. and stopped at Rockvale, Fremont, W1lliamsburg, Chandler, and Coal Creek, arriving in Coal Creek at 9:05 for the return trip to Canon City. The afternoon trip left Canon City at 2:30 p.m., and arrived back home at 5 p.m. They honked both at Canon City street corners and in the streets of each coal camp and passengers came running. Mrs. King, who was the former Charlotte Gerlach, was a Rockvale schoolteacher who rode the bus home to Canon City on Friday night.

Paydays were always welcome days, in not only the camps, but also in Florence and Canon City and many customers used the stage to travel to town to spend what little they did not owe the company store. Scrip good only at the company store once was the miners pay. When the independent merchants accepted scrip, their wives had to spend it in the company store, buying articles not found in family stores; otherwise, the company store would cash the scrip at a discount.

The company store office cashed the miners' checks. Their bills at the company store were first to be paid, and then they were given the remainder, if any, in gold. The remainder paid the independent merchants, if the men were not tempted on the way home, to stop at the saloons for drinking or gambling.

The stage transported gold from the Florence Bank to the camps. Two guards with shotguns accompanied the stage and stood guard at the Colorado Supply Store until all the miners were paid.

 

        dice for gambling

Gamblers from Canon City and Florence converged on the saloons on payday and soon wiped out those miners who still had gold after paying the company store and many a homemaker waited for her husband or son, on the company store porch to see that he went home with his pay.

The town marshal had little power to stop the gambling as too many men of the camps indulged in the pastime, so the Fremont County sheriff sometimes made surprise visits. At one such visit, he was shocked to see the town mayor holding cards while gold coins were on the table. There were no arrests that day.

Gambling was one of the causes of fights and one particular fight ended in the death of a miner named Bart Brown, who accused another miner of cheating. The accused pulled a gun and killed Brown. Someone ran for George Newcomb, the town marshal, who led the man to the town hall. The jail was in the basement. Finding that he had left the keys at his house, Sheriff Newcomb ordered the man to wait, which he obediently did. Since Brown had no friends or relatives, the miners took up a collection to pay for a funeral. Union Highlands Cemetery is the burial place of Brown. The killer pleaded self-defense was set free.

 

           

There were no cars, movies, or television, and people made their own amusement. Singing was a popular pastime with all the different nationalities. Many of the Welch sang in their church choir. Their singing societies were noteworthy.

The women of the camp, one being the A. G. C.’s, organized several social groups. No outsider ever learned the meaning of those three letters. Another club, "La Duzaine" met until the 80's.

The Drama Cub of St. Patrick's Church gave plays and operettas. Antoinette Vezzetti directed some plays. Grace Payne directed all musicals. She also directed the Literary Society's program given every two weeks in the Rockvale Town Hall. It was surprising the musical and dramatic talent found in the coa1 camps. When the Literary Society gave one of its programs free of charge, the hall played to a sold out crowd.

The Slovenians, Czechoslovakians, and Polish brought their musical instruments such as accordions, organs, violins, etc. They met in each other’s homes; sang and danced their national songs and dances. They even had a Tamburitza group. The Italians had mandolins, guitars, band instruments, and accordions. They sang their songs and danced, but individual homes were too small. Therefore, they built their own dance hall, referred to previously as the "Barbed Wire Club.” Years later, they rented a hall, which had been an abandoned saloon and remodeled it for their own club.

The non-Catholics became part of the Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star of Coal Creek. The others formed lodges for mutual help and life insurance. For the Ita1ians there were the Foresters of America, the Umberto Primo Lodge, and the Maria Isabella Lodge. The last two have become part of the Columbian Federation. The Slovenians, too, formed various lodges for mutual help and social activity. Among them were the Western Slovenian Association, Slovenian Women Union No. 66, American Federation Union No. 147, and the Slovenian N. P. J.

Baptisms and weddings were always occasions of great festivity. Thus, the drab lives of the coa1 miners had some joy and recreation. Christmas in the coa1 camps was often a sad and dismal affair, as most miners could not afford the dolls and toys received by the children of the mine supervisors and other men who held the better paying jobs.

There were Christmas programs at night in the schools and all children had parts in the singing of the carols, but many children did not have decent shoes or clothing and these stayed home that night. The mine officials' children always got parts in the plays and pageants. On one particular occasion, a beautiful blonde first grade girl said she was not coming to the Christmas program, as she did not have a dress. Two eighth-grade girls, Joan Telck and Shirley Massaro, saved their money and bought her a lovely pink dress, pale blue stockings, and pale blue slippers. After giving the little girl a bath, they washed and curled her hair and tied it with a pink ribbon. She looked like a lovely Christmas angel and even the boys admired her.

 

     

            

The mine owners sometimes gave school board members money for candy, nuts, and oranges. After the Christmas program by Santa Claus, the schoolteachers weighed, sacked, and handed these out. Wishing to make Santa Claus more generous, the school board members went from house to house asking for money for gifts. School board members asked what toy the family wished their children to receive. They kept a record of the family name and amount contributed. Many a miner could give nothing so his child did not receive a gift from Santa Claus, so there was much heartache and envy among the children; therefore, this custom was eventually discontinued.

The Florence Elks Lodge sent men from house to house on Christmas morning with bags of candy and nuts and an orange, and with a gift for each child. Usually a boy received a pocketknife or a bag of marbles. A small storybook or a tiny doll usually delighted the girls. These gifts were often all many children received at Christmas.

As the coal towns grew, the mine operators employed company doctors to care for miners' families and for miners injured in mine accidents. A check-off system paid company doctors. This meant payment by the company checking off $1.00 from each miner's monthly check. Thus if Rockvale had 400 miners and Bear Gulch 300, the doctor received $700. Coal Creek company doctor for many years was Dr. Eddy. Then there was Dr. T. A. Davis. Rockvale and Bear Gulch had Dr. Mac Dona1d, and later for many years Dr. W.A. Williamson. Brookside had Dr. Holmes. Chandler doctors were Dr. Hinshaw and Dr. Waroshill.

The miners often had large families, and for each baby delivered the doctor received $5.00, if the miner had the money. There were also midwives. Rockvale's Mrs. Thomas P. Lloyd often helped Dr. Williamson. Mrs. Matteo Chiono and Mrs. Joe Vidano were mid-wives, well trained in a program of the Italian government before they came to the United States. Many women preferred the midwife to the doctor, especially those who could not understand English.

The Minnequa Hospital in Pueblo (St. Mary Corwin Hospital) treated the men injured in Colorado Fuel & Iron mines. St. Mary Corwin Hospital honors Dr. Corwin who dedicated his life to establishing a good hospital for the Colorado Fuel & Iron steel workers and coal miners.

 

 

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