City officials of past years
Previous mayors include Floyd Williams, Phil Kessler, Jason Garner, Lonnie White, Daryl Bufmack, James Archletta, Delbert Trogdon, John Lennox, Tom Easton, William Angel, Albert F. Fearheiley, 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.
The stage left Canon City at 8 a.m. and stopped at Rockvale, Fremont, Williamsburg, 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 script 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.
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 Douzaine” 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 Italians 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. Macdonald, 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 Mrs. Thomas P. Lloyd often helped Dr. Williamson. Mrs. Matteo Chiono and Mrs. Joe Vidano were midwives, 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.