Origins - The Jewish "1859ers"
Colorado was still an untamed wilderness when the discovery of gold near Pike's Peak in 1858 brought the area to the nation's attention. By the spring of 1859 fortune seekers, propelled in part by the economic panic of 1857 and deteriorating mining ventures in California, began to arrive in droves. They used the rival infant camps of Denver and Auraria as jumping-off points.
Jews also took part in the quest. Over the centuries, the Jewish people have suffered repeated exiles, often wandering and migrating from one country to another, frequently meeting with hostility and hardship. Wherever they found themselves, however, Jews managed to to establish viable communities, maintaining their heritage despite great obstacles. In America, where Jews met with a more receptive, tolerant climate, new opportunities for growth presented themselves. During the "big excitement," as the year of the gold discovery was called, at least twelve Jews of German descent migrated to Colorado to join in the hunt for freedom, new opportunities, and wealth. Disillusioned over the failure of democracy in Germany in 1848 and lack of economic opportunity, some of these Jews were part of a larger immigration to America in search of a more favorable environment.
The unpredictability of gold mining and a growing demand for supplies encouraged many of these Jewish "1859ers" to establish small businesses in new towns and mining camps throughout Colorado. Their arrival marked the beginning of Colorado's Jewish community. Over the next two decades Jews settled in places such as Leadville, Cripple Creek, Aspen, Trinidad, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Central City and Denver.
One of the first Jewish pioneers was Fred Zadek Salomon, who arrived in Auraria in June of 1859. In short order he became the manager of the first general mercantile company in Colorado. In partnership with J.B. Doyle, a non-Jew, the Prussian-born Salomon began his business with $30,000 worth of goods, and Fred's brother, Hyman, was instrumental in bringing supplies to the South Park mining district of Colorado near Fairplay. The two were later joined by a third brother, Adolph, who became a trustee of the early Greeley, Colorado colony.