Keeping the Spirit AliveSopris, ColoradoBill Burnelli



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Submitted Comments

Alfred Laiminger

Developed in l887, Sopris, CO was a thriving community until the late 1960's, when the last residents moved out of the community because of the building of the Trinidad Dam. The "People of Sopris" accomplished much, even though there were many sacrifices. They courageously survived with a forward vision from the prospecting days, World War I, The Depression, Mine Explosions and Accidents, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and many labor strikes. With each of these time phases, the "People of Sopris" always joined together to help each other and did what was required to support and help each other. That was their way of life. With all of the hardships and obstacles many families had, they managed to be able to provide schools, activities, sports, teaching, church services, and values for their children so that they could enjoy a better life. This resulted in many of their children attending college, becoming teachers, nurses, doctors, business men and women, mechanics, engineers, truck drivers, miners, and pilots. Family life was important for the people of Sopris.

Even though the physical town of Sopris no longer exists, the memories of Sopris are still very much alive. Former residents have kept the spirit alive with reunions held in l970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2005 at the Trinidad Lake, the site of their former home. The next is planned for 2010.

Recently, the Trinidad State Nursing Home, Trinidad, Colorado, renamed the "South Wing" the "Sopris Wing". This renaming also honors the "People of Sopris". These two events are quite significant given "Sopris" no longer exists, but the memories and history continue to live. Copies of the book have been donated to the, Trinidad's Carnegie Library, Trinidad State Junior College Genealogy Department, the Trinidad History Museum and Denver Public Library.

Your Sopris Friend,

LoRetta Archuleta

Reunion Committee - Sopris Resident



I was trying to find any information on the John Albert Dahl family. My mother Bessie Mae Dahl (Martinez) was born in Sopris in October, 1919. Please let me know if someone remembers the family. They moved to Dawson after they left Sopris and then when Dawson closed they moved to Cimarron.

My grandmothers name was Addie Koelling Dahl. They had four children; Ida, Doris, Ed and Bessie.

Please let me know if anyone remembers them.

Thank you.

Kathy Orio


To all,

Turning 51 and my eyesight not being what it used to be, I had to make this type larger. I couldn't sleep tonight and started surfing the internet when I suddenly thought of Sopris. I don't think you can imagine my joy when I found your site. Sometimes I think it was my late grandmother that helped me find you.

My name is Kathleen Marie Hoffman and I reside in the state of Washington with my husband, five children and soon to be four grandchildren. The best parts of my life were my visits to Sopris when I was a little girl and later to Trinidad when Sopris was no more. If one were to think of safety, home and hearth one would think of my times in Sopris. The longest time I ever stayed in Sopris that I can remember was the very early 1960's when my father John got deployed to Germany and we couldn't go for a while so we came to live with Grandma Rachel Shablo Vecellio.

At this moment I can still see clearly her house. I loved Grandma's house! The house had a front porch, two bedrooms, a parlor, a kitchen with woodstove, a back porch where my grandfather Victor used to wash-up and shave with a beautiful mirror (that I still have) a cellar filled to the brim with canning jars, an outhouse, an attic that deer jerky hung to dry and a beautiful garden.

My grandfathers mother lived next door with her daughter Lynn and they had a bigger outhouse. When I was little I would go over there and they would give me coffee but I was always scared of Great Grandma because I couldn't understand her and she work a long black dress.
I was always more than curious and would walk around to the end of the road to a place where I believe they used to dump their trash...I would dig through it to see what I could find. While we lived there we went to church and for a short while I went to school there. I remember Grandma giving me money and telling me to go somewhere and get her some was great. I was devastated when Sopris went away and Grandma had to move to a place called Trinidad Manor. I loved exploring the history of Trinidad but it was not the same.

My grandmother Rachel had sisters and brothers but for some reason I had no idea if any of them are still living. When grandma died a piece of me died that day. At the service there were many people who I am sure were relatives of grandma's sisters but they never really talked to me. I know there are a lot of reasons why this might have happened but if any of you read this.....I would love to know you and reminisce about Sopris and the family. I do stay in contact with Bernie Morrison who is the daughter of grandma's sister and she lives in Idaho.
My e-mail address is and if you feel like making contact I would just love it. Take care and please keep the memories alive.


Kathy Hoffman
P.O. Box 104
Prosser Wa 99350


Dear Bill,

What a wonderful website you have to commemorate a town that couldn't be buried beneath the waters! The town is its people and you can feel the love and warmth of that community in these pages.

I happened across your website tonight while looking for information on the Piedmont Coal Camp. My husband's grandparents, as shown on the 1910 census, were Cristanzio (Castrenze) Ferara (Ferraro), Elizabeth (Vincenza Gallo), Mary, and Josiephine (Josephine, his grandmother), with occupation as coal miner living in the Sopris Piedmont Coal Camp. As with most families, the questions are not thought of until those who can answer are gone, so I do not know for sure when they arrived at Piedmont or when they left. I do know that when Vincenza and the girls came over in 1907, she had the person she was going to as "her husband Castrenze Ferrara Box 32 New Mexico." So, sometime between then and 1910, they would have moved to CO.

In 1920, I find the family on the census for Koehler, NM, as well as the sons-in-law, Guiseppe Luceli (Rosselli) and Ben Lorino (Loreno), and the first born children. They are all working in the coal camps there. I also know that the Loreno's first born child was in CO, in 1917, and their second (1919) through fourth (1924)were born in NM, and the fifth back in CO (1926). They are in California by the 1927 birth of their sixth child. The Rosselli's had gone back to NY to meet his sister and her husband at the time of the 1920 census and that is where their first child was born. Their second child, my husband's mother, was born in NM, in 1922, as well as the third, in 1924. They were also in California by the 1927 birth of their fourth child.

So, my questions, for some wonderful people are:

1)What happened to the church records for Sopris? (I should think there would be at least one marriage, and a few baptisms recorded for these families)

2)What did they do regarding the cemeteries and records for those communities under the lake?
I thank you and whomever else for the time taken to read this, and I hope your reunions continue. Someday, we will have to make a trip to that area, as you are not that terribly far from us, and I am certain that we would enjoy that part of Colorado.

Take good care, and be safe,

Shirley Moore
Hickman NE

For one person it is information shared....for another, it is information found. srm
Please, pay it forward :-)


Hi Bruno!

My name is Michealene Fry(Passarelli) I really enjoy the Sopris web site. It brings back so many memories of friends and family. I'd like to contribute a few lines in gratitude to my Grandparents Mike and Rose Martorano. I lived with them for a few years during the breakup of my parents. They were truly the most memorable days of my life. I loved growing up in Sopris, it was a great experience living in a small town. My Grandparents were the best ever and I'll always appreciate all the things they did for me. I'm looking forward to the Sopris reunion this year. Again your web site is great! Thanks for the memories.

Michealene Fry


Hi Bill,

Those pictures taken by Anthony Faoro are priceless. Also the map done by Al Laiminger and John Coszalter are great. Thanks for maintaining a great web site!

Bob Zamborelli


From Pat Cunico Festi:

I just viewed your wed site on Sopris. It is GREAT. I was born in Sopris but my family moved from there when I was three years old. However, I had many relatives that lived there until Trinidad Lake was built. The Cunico. Lira, Niccoli, Butero, Turra families were relatives. I would like to add to the faithful departed list if I may. My grandparents Antonio and Libera Lira lived in St. Thomas, My grandparents John B.and Maria Cunico lived in Jerryville as did my uncle Antonio Turra. My father Angelo N. Cunico lived there many years. I thank you for the great website and hope you can add their names to the list.

Thank you,

Pat Cunico Festi


From Loretta Martin, TSJC:

Bill, The one picture of the dig with the Catholic church steeple in the background was taken in 1971. I think it is the same dig you are thinking about. Dr. Dick dug part of this site in the 50s and 60s. This was one of the best sites. It was still being excavated when they were building the dam in 1975. I will try to find some more pictures. I have some that are from the area, but don't know whose place maybe some of your friends might know the location. Would you be interested in this type of photo?




I was wondering if you can find some information for me. I live in California so it is harder to find information (It feels like that) way over here. I have been searching everywhere on the internet for my ancestors and feel as though they never existed. I have spent a good chunk of money buying a variety of books and internet access. Still, I find nothing. My Grandfather, Louis Martinez born in Sopris, Colorado on Oct. 29th, 1896 to Higinio Martinez and Rita Trujillo. I know that my grandfather was around 14 years old when his father killed his mother and then killed himself right in front of him. I am not sure where or when and I don't know much about his parents. I would really like to know where they were born and who their parents were. Their children were separated but still saw each other because they lived with family members except one sister named Eleanor Martinez who was only ten at the time. She was put in an orphanage and was never seen again. Louis and his brother Bennie Martinez tried to get her back but they could not find her. Louis lived in the Trinidad area for many years as a miner. He married my grandmother whose family also lived in the Trinidad area. My Grandmother, Frances Trujillo was born on October 4th, 1898, in Torres Colorado, to Adolph Trujillo and Nestorita Mary Sandoval. My Uncle owns the land my Grandmother lived as a child. I am not sure exactly where but I know it is in/or near Torres/Tercio, Colorado. We all live in California. I probably have cousins in Colorado that I don't know. My Grandparents Louis and Frances were married at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Trinidad on Nov. 28, 1921. Witness signed Juan Maes and Victoria Trujillo. Louis was baptized at the same church on Nov. 22, 1896. Winess signed Jronima Trujillo and Colorita Chavez. I have the original document for his baptismal and many military records. I know all about Louis and Frances but I would really like to know about their parents. I would really appreciate any help that you can provide. I've searched many places and can't find nothing. I know they were from this area, so somebody must know something.

Thanks you so much for your time, and your great website,

Rita Velazquez

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