1874, however, when the gold miners from Oro City, discovered that the heavy sand that had hampered gold mining actually contained a high content of silver. They traced that sand back to its original source and found several silver lode deposits. The city of Leadville was founded near these deposits in 1877, which started the Colorado Silver Boom. By 1880, Leadville, which at an elevation of 10,152 feet is the highest incorporated city in the United States, had become one of the worlds largest silver camps, with a population of over 14,000 people.
The first Jews began arriving during the boom times of Oro City, in the early 1860's. While there may have been a few who came to mine, the majority are listed in the various census records as merchants, tailors and business owners. In fact, one of the most well known of these merchants was David May. May, who was born in Germany in 1849, arrived in Leadville in 1877, and got into business with Moses Shoenberg. He also became very involved in the Jewish community and in the City itself. He was one of the organizers of the Hebrew Benevolent Association and later was elected vice president of Temple Israel and was chairman of the building committee. He served Leadville as County Treasurer.
In 1877, he opened a new clothing store in Leadville. That first store would over time become The May Department Stores Company, which would go on to become a multi-billion dollar company. In 1880, he married Rosa Shoenberg, the sister of his business partner. They however left Leadville shortly before the turn of the century and moved to Denver. The 1900 United States Census (below), shows the couple with their three children. His occupation, listed as Clothing Manufacturer, is very understated for what he would become.
During the summer of 1884, the synagogue in Leadville was built. That synagogue, Temple Israel, took only two months to build and was dedicated on Rosh Hashanah on September 19th, 1884. That synagogue survives to this day, although it is mostly used as a museum reflection on the rich history of the Jewish community in this old frontier town.
The information from the markers was documented and will be a part of the Knowles Collection - Jews of North America after our next update.