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The strange story of Paul Frohlich

by Nancy Christofferson
WALSENBURG — It used to be one believed what he or she read in the newspaper. Unfortunately, not everything a reader wants to know appeared in those pages.
Back in the days before newspapers began to rely on celebrities and gossip, most of them carried informative items about their local business people, service organizations, churches and well, their well known citizens. Unpleasant subjects were often ignored, like why Fred Walsen paid a $15 fine in Pueblo back in his salad days as the state treasurer and city founder. What was that all about?
So it is with another of Walsenburg’s early promoters. He was Paul Frohlich, and he was a leading business man for many years in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Frohlich, we are told, was a native of Poland who made his way to the Town of Walsenburg in 1892 when he was about 23 years old. He was a blacksmith and opened a shop on West Seventh Street, probably in the 100 block. Just before Christmas in 1894, he married Hattie Rahn, 21, of the Gardner area.
Whether they were already partners, or if the partnership introduced Frohlich to his bride, he and Charles Rahn entered into an agreement in the blacksmith business. Charles’ brother John was manager of the shop. In 1899, Frohlich sold the shop to his partner (who in turn sold to the firm of Baxter and Kearns), and went into the hardware business, opening a store named Huerfano Hardware. For this enterprise, he had a partner named A.B. Jones, and they rented the “lower Mazzone hall”. This site was evidently on the west side of Main Street in the 700 block.
While he was minding his business, literally, Frohlich was elected to Walsenburg’s town council. He obviously took this position very seriously indeed, because when in 1897 the council agreed that a certain hide house was obnoxious to the delicate noses of those inhabiting nearby hotels and boardinghouses, not to mention the post office, Frohlich went straight to the source.
The source was one Sigmund Neumann, who dealt in hides, furs, pelts and tallow, as well as running a livery stable and even a clothing store for a while. Frohlich and Neumann exchanged hot words about the noxious business which ended in a stalemate.
The next day, Frohlich returned to Neumann’s office, produced a gun and shot him. A special railroad car rushed Neumann to the “Sisters’ Hospital” (now St. Mary Corwin) but he died the next day, and was buried in Trinidad. Frohlich escaped punishment, so there must be more to the story. Unfortunately, the newspaper did not share the juicy details.
Frohlich had returned to business as usual, and it was prospering. Besides selling hardware, he dealt in farm machinery and equipment, specializing in the John Deere line, and with his blacksmithing experience, no doubt could repair anything he sold.
In 1903 Frohlich launched an ambitious project. He announced he would build a two-story, 60 by 60 foot brick building to house an expanded hardware and farm equipment store. It was to be built at Fifth and Main streets, with a huge warehouse addition and corrals off the rear of the building on Fifth. This was especially ambitious since he paid $17,000 just for the lot. The building itself was said to cost $7,000. The store was opened in early 1904, and the next year he added furniture stock. In 1908, he sold out to the partnership of E.H. Neelley and G.R. Caldwell, brothers-in-law who had married daughters of W.H. Gould, early resort owner in what would become Cuchara Camps. Neelley and Caldwell sold to the Unfugs in 1925.
Paul Frohlich branched out to other sources of revenue in the spring of 1907 when he built on West Sixth Street. This was another two-story building, and it was to house a hotel. He leased out the first floor for a saloon. He sold the building within a few years.
Frohlich hit his stride in 1909. At that time he was said to be the “instigator” for the formation of the Slavonic Educational Club. This was aimed at teaching Slavs “the principles of the American government and inculcate in them a love of republican government and an understanding of the English language”.
The society was incorporated in October that year. Members must have been numerous because just two months later the Walsenburg Slavonian Band was organized with 20 musicians. By 1936, the two Slovenian (yes, they spelled it differently) lodges boasted some 400-500 members in Huerfano County.
Also in 1909, the new Walsenburg-Independent was launched. Frohlich was said to be one of its founders.
In about May 1909, the new Guaranty State Bank was opened at 506 Main. The location had formerly been that of Workman’s store. Founders of the bank were Frohlich, Charles Agnes, G.R. Moore and Tim Hudson. The next year the board of directors was expanded with the addition of Damaso Vigil, Paul Krier and H.M. Sammis. Later, the bank was moved to 603 Main, and later still, merged with the First National Bank to become the First State Bank of Walsenburg. First State went back to being First National in 1958.
Here’s where it starts to get interesting again. In 1910, Earl Harris became assistant bookkeeper for the bank. Earl married Hattie Frohlich’s sister Josephine Rahn the same year, with the ceremony being held in the Frohlich home.
Frohlich kicked the dust of Huerfano County off his shoes in 1913 and headed for California. Evidently, he went alone. In 1918 he married Josephine Rahn Harris there.
Paul Frohlich died in California in November 1947 at the age of 80. His obituary lists no survivors. He had become a father to a daughter way back in 1902, but her fate remains unchronicled.
Hattie lived until 1965, and is buried under her maiden name with her parents and siblings in the Gardner cemetery.
Josephine’s later history is unknown, but sometime after 1920, she married a Barcicki/Barciski, possibly the one who ran a second hand furniture store next to her ex-husband’s hotel on West Sixth Street back in 1911. His fate, too, is unknown, but in 1931 Josie married one Frank Bundy of Pueblo.
So Paul Frohlich was a mover and shaker of Walsenburg, possibly even a rather notorious one, for some 20 years. Today the Independent is a part of the Huerfano World Journal ancestry, Guaranty State Bank is but a memory since the sale of First National Bank in Walsenburg, the Polish societies of Huerfano County have folded, and his other achievements are forgotten. The only testament remaining of Frohlich’s influence is the 110-year-old building still standing at Fifth and Main Streets.