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Towns that drowned, part 3

 In part 2, Joe Terry and Frank Cordova reminisced about growing up in Sopris, before residents were bought out and moved out to make way for the dam and reservoir.

Sam Incitti grew up near Sopris High. “My dad figured if he bought a house near the school we wouldn’t have far to go.” It was originally a two- room house. “By the time my parents were done having us seven kids, it had three bedrooms.” Sam had a paper route before school. “The newspaper guy would give me a ride down to Piedmont, about a mile and a half away, and I’d come up through Jerriville, then Saint Thomas, finish in Sopris then go to school.” People worked together. “Two, three families would go in on a hog, kill it, and we’d all have meat. My dad made wine. A lot of people did. My mother had the best outdoor oven. You could smell the bread up to the school. Everybody had rabbits. We had a cow for milk and cheese, a goat, and chickens. “I lived in Sopris until 1968, in my early 30s. Then we moved to Trinidad, San Juan Street. My mother was gone by then, 59. My dad lived to 91. We called it Sopris Camp, because of the mines.” Incitti reminisced about the big city. “I’d ride my bike to the pharmacy in Trinidad, for my aunt and uncle.” About the mines, he said,

“I never worked there. When I came back from the Army, I applied, but they never hired me. That’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me. My dad did. It was hard work.” “I worked for the county and in the office of the Allen Mine, then I owned Saber’s Bar, where Mantelli’s is on Main Street now. I finished up at the Department of Social Services and retired.” When Cunico’s Groceries was mentioned, Sam said, “Binda was my brother-in-law.” Loretta Archuleta was also raised in Sopris and is a member of Friends of Historical Trinidad. “Doc Leonetti grew up near my grandparents, behind their house,” she said. She remembered fall activities when the men made wine and the women canned food. Her family had some coal history. “My grandfathers, Pete Archuleta and Andrew DeAngelis, were miners. My father taught at Saint Thomas Catholic School. My mother did housework for the doctor that lived in Sopris, Doctor Espy.” About her family’s departure, she said, “We were one of the last to leave, in 1964. We couldn’t come to an agreement with the government. You couldn’t buy a house in Trinidad for what they were offering, but we ended up on 8th Street.” She explained, “Sopris and those other towns weren’t incorporated. We had no mayor or say in our affairs, and there was debate and politics about what the dam should be called. People and politicians in Trinidad wanted the Donnelly Dam, after Doctor James Donnelly. I liked him, but I wanted it named the Sopris Dam.” She recalled, “There was one black family, in Jerriville. The daughter became a physician.” About leaving, “I didn’t want to go. I’m a Trinidad/Sopris girl.” Overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, the area was leased to Colorado Parks and Wildlife in 1977 and recreation at the reservoir began in 1980. It was settled and done. Flooding was brought under control. The towns that dug and grunted the coal gave way to the dam that ended the savage waters that had, for over a century, ravaged the river valley. Residents have had reunions every five years since, and there is the website sopriscolorado.com, but the heart and soul of Piedmont, Jerriville, Saint Thomas, Sopris, Sopris Plaza, and Viola, are mostly remembered in photos, scrapbooks, and the stories of those who grew up there.