Tag Archives: Leadville Jews

Latest News – July 1

Fire Safety Urged Over Holiday Weekend

As the cool morning air is still settled in the mountain valleys, Leadville skies will appear hazy and perhaps even a bit smoky, at first. But things will clear, and blue skies will usher in a prefect summer day in Leadville Today.

Fire_Durango AreaAs of the first day of July the only active wildfire in Colorado is the Lightner Creek Fire which is in La Plata County near Durango in the southwest part of the state. However, five other western states are also contending with active wildfires, and shifting and gusting winds could bring some smoke into local skies even at 10,200 feet!

But smoky skies could be just the reminder residents, and especially visitors, need to use extra precautions as the long July 4th weekend comes into focus. Residents should be wary of lighting fireworks this Fourth of July weekend, emergency officials are urging, warning that pyrotechnics could ignite more fires if not used properly.

The weather while perfect for outdoor recreation, however there is not any rain in the forecast for days, only afternoon thunderstorms which always come with lightening putting forests at risk just as easily.

Yesterday, the Lake County Office of Emergency Management (LCOEM) reported a errant campfire from a non-approved fire ring had created a small blaze (see story below) along County Road 48 or what is more commonly known as the road which runs out to below the Sugar Loafin’ Dam, behind the golf course. Fortunately local crews were quickly able to extinguish the fire, thanks to solid training and reports from other people in the area.

It will be a busy weekend. There will be lots of people in town. Please use extra caution and report any emergency situations immediately to authorities.

Campfire from Non-Approved Ring Sets Blaze

The following report was submitted by Lake County Public Information Officer Betty Benson

Fire Ring

Fire coming from a non-approved ring created a small blaze off County Road 82 in Lake County On June 30, 2017. Photo: LCOEM

June 30, 2017 – A fire started in the woods in a non-approved fire ring just west of Hwy 48 today as a result of a camp fire not being fully extinguished.   Several nearby campers saw the fire and called 911.  Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue arrived on scene to find the fire had spread to about 10’ x 50’ and they were quickly able to apply a wet line all around it and then extinguish it with additional water. 

 The mop-up efforts included shoveling the area to ensure there were no remaining flames or embers before the fire crew left.  The Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue crew were assisted by Lake County Sheriff Deputies and Forest Service personnel.  The US Forest Service has deployed 2 crews to patrol the Lake County US Forest Service area over the next several weeks due to the high fire danger.  The Office of Emergency Management and all fire responders ask that everyone are diligent when in the forest.    Never leave a fire unattended; be sure it is 100% out before leaving a fire,   If you start a fire in a fire pit be sure you have water and shovels handy.  Everything is very dry. 

Leadville Cemetery Restoration Work Continues

Last weekend, June 24 & 25, Rabbi Sara Gilbert of Greeley’s Beth Israel Congregation led Shabbat service as well as the clean up efforts at the Jewish Cemetery at the Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville. Every year, the group which includes the volunteers from across Colorado gathers to share their faith, learn local Jewish history and provide a great community service with the Annual Leadville Jewish Cemetery Clean Up.

Jewish Cemetery Clean Up 2017_12

People from across the state came together in Leadville last weekend to share their faith and look after the dearly departed at the Hebrew Cemetery in Leadville during the 21st Annual Jewish Cemetery Clean up on June 24 & 25. Photo: Leadville Today.

“The discovery of silver caused Leadville’s population to grow to approximately 30,000 residents about 300 of which were Jews,” stated the historic handout distributed at the event. In 1880, the Hebrew benevolent society established the Hebrew cemetery adjacent to the newly established Evergreen Cemetery. Then in 1884, the land for the Temple Israel sold for $1 to the Congregation Israel by Horace Tabor and was built ten years later in 1894.

An electrical fire in 2006 prompted the synagogue’s full restoration and the project was completed two years later.

The eager volunteers for the 21st Annual Leadville Jewish Cemetery Clean Up come from all across the state and the region, some from as far away as Arizona. The do-gooders of all ages, socialized and worked together resulting in an outstanding community effort as more and more people showed up throughout the weekend.

Jewish Cemetery Clean Up 2017_2

“Many hands make light work,” was the case at the 21st Annual Jewish Cemetery Clean Up in Leadville. Photo: Leadville Today

A little more about the cemetery, according to organizers the Jewish community first required space for the dedicated Jewish Cemetery with the passing of Gustave “Fred” Jelenko in June 1879. He was settled into the southwest corner of the newly established Evergreen Cemetery.

At the end of the day, reflecting on the group’s improvements everyone agreed how awesome it was to bring so many people from different parts of the Colorado, sharing in one goal: to give back to the people that no longer can and to respect the history.

Leadville is such a rich town filled with endless history, to learn more about its Jewish heritage connect at the Temple Israel website. or visit the synagogue at the corner of W. 4th Street and Pine. Thanks to all the volunteers who gave their time to make Leadville a better place to live and visit!


Latest News – September 25

A new obituary has been posted: 


Synagogue Stands as a Testament to Jewish Faith

Anyone who’s read about Leadville’s past can recount the hundreds of stories of lawlessness, revelry, and blatant debauchery. It was an old west mining town in the “worst” way, at times. So on the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people – Yom Kippur begins at sunset today – one can understand the need for recompense. And for the hundreds of Leadville pioneer Jews, that atonement was often met at the local synagogue.

Leadville’s Temple Israel Synagogue restored to its former glory.

Today, the Temple Israel building has been dedicated to those early residents and now stands fully restored as a testament to this unique part of Leadville history. Last Sunday, September 23, the Temple Israel Foundation hosted an open house to present the synagogue in all its former (and present) glory.

Thanks to the foundation and personal dedication of local resident Bill Korn, the site now adds to Leadville’s reputation as having the most museums per capita than any other city in the United States. 

Temple Israel Synagogue and Museum is located at 201 W. 4th Street and provides visitors with a view of what life was like for Leadville’s pioneer Jews. According to the group’s brochure, in the early 1880s, people from all social strata flocked to Leadville in search of their fortunes. Among the town’s approximately 30,000 inhabitants in the 1880s, some 300 were Jews, including David May and the Guggenheims.

Jews were amongst the early settlers of the upper Arkansas Valley (ca. 1861) and while some worked in the mines, most worked as merchants. Wholesale liquor was an area of commerce that proved to be particularly lucrative. Leadville’s earliest Jewish settlers mainly had roots in Germany, held assimilationist attitudes, and practiced Reform Judaism. Later immigrants were more religiously rigorous.

Leadville’s Jewish population declined with the rest of the town when the U.S. silver standard was abandoned in 1893. Leadville’s current  population is about 3,000, with fewer than 100 Jews.

It was during Leadville’s first “boom” on September 19, 1884, that the Temple Israel was dedicated, during Rosh Hashanah, reflecting the size and strength of Leadville’s Jewish community.

Curator of Collections, Lori Hall-Araujo (l) and foundation member Bill Korn (r) are among those dedicated to preserving Leadville’s Jewish heritage.

Today, while regular services are no longer held in the synagogue, the building houses a small artifact collection that documents the experience of Leadville’s Jewish pioneers. This past June, Lori Hall-Araujo was hired by the foundation as Curator of Collections to catalogue and display nearly 150 artifacts. The collection includes objects supporting the historic record that Jews found prosperity as merchants, trades people, and even one brothel owner. Those interested in seeing the collection may schedule a tour through the group’s website at www.jewishleadville.org. 

While the Temple Israel Foundation was founded in 1987 to acquire, historically rehabilitate, and maintain the synagogue and cemetery, most locals will remember the tragic fire in 2006, that nearly brought the building to the ground when an electrical mishap had flames shooting high into the Leadville sky. But like a phoenix from the ashes, the tragedy gave added zeal to the restoration project, which was supported by private contributions and four grants from the Colorado State Historical Fund. Restoration was completed in 2008. 

Through the dedication of the Temple Israel Foundation, Leadville’s frontier synagogue was been restored.

The Temple Israel Foundation’s dedication to preserving and upholding Leadville’s Jewish history does not stop here. While the synagogue is a testament to the life of faith for Jewish pioneers, the Hebrew Cemetery has also been  restored to protect and honor the souls lovingly resting there.

According to their website, as Leadville grew explosively during the late 1870s, it quickly realized and satisfied a need for ample interment acreage.  The Jewish community first required space with the passing of Gustave “Fred” Jelenko during June of 1879.  He was settled into the southwest corner of the newly established Evergreen Cemetery by the following January, 1880, (he may first have been buried in and then moved from Kokomo on nearby Fremont Pass) at which time title to about 101,000 square feet of that southwest corner had been transferred to the Hebrew Benevolent Association to hold the mortal remains of the pioneer Jews of Leadville.

Leadville Hebrew Cemetery. Photo: Temple Israel Foundation

During the ensuing decades, the Hebrew Cemetery came to serve as the resting place for some 132 souls (now 138), including the last “old time” Jewish Leadville native-Minette Miller (born 1894, died 1981).  Only 59 original markers remain and the locations of 12 people have been lost.  This is the sad result of a long period of neglect which ended only in the late 1980s with the creation of the Temple Israel Foundation and its subsequent acquisition of the cemetery through a quiet title action during June, 1993.

Since taking control of the cemetery grounds very significant volunteer efforts, led by the Denver chapter of B’nai B’rith, have cleared much of the site from heavy overgrowth, constructed an encircling fence, contributed an entry arch and a monument, and culminated in the reconsecration of the cemetery in August, 1999.  The replacement of missing markers was completed in 2004.  The cemetery experienced its most recent interment during December, 2001, in an area devoted to renewed demand which now contains available plots.  Current endeavors include a computer mapping of cemetery (beware: long download) and the continuation of annual volunteer cleanups every June.

Leadville’s Lisa Dowdney celebrates the restoration of Temple Israel. Dowdney dedicated her talents by hand painting all of the stars which grace the building’s ceiling and walls as well as the altar backdrop.

So, on this holiest of days, this Yom Kippur, a heartfelt “Mazel Tov” to all of the dedicated volunteers and contributors who brought back The Temple Israel Synagogue and the Hebrew Cemetery to stand tall and proud.

To schedule a tour, reserve the synagogue for special events, make genealogical inquiries, or to make a contribution visit their website at www.jewishleadville.org.