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The Raabe-Davies-Raabe Affair

(Reprinted with the very gracious permission of the Don L. Griswold Trust and the Colorado Historical Society in cooperation with the University Press of Colorado, publishers of the History of Leadville and Lake County, Colorado: From Mountain Solitude to Metropolis by Don L. Griswold and Jean Hervey Griswold, Boulder, 1996.)

(Griswold, p. 2104-8, 1890)

 

The fourth instance of misconduct involving a religious group was brought to the public’s attention in the August 16, 1890, Herald Democrat under the headline of HIS RUINED HOME:

 

There are few cases that have excited more general interest throughout the community than the events which led up to the divorce granted Thursday [August 14, 1890] in the county court to Clementina Raabe from her husband Julius. The interest is more intense, inasmuch as the third party in the case, Mr. Ben Davies, is a prominent citizen of the community, the owner of a large jewelry business and one of the leading members and the cantor of Congregation Israel.

 

Six years ago, Julius Raabe, a man of about 21 years of age, was living in the village of Schalback, province of Lorraine, in the German empire. He there met Clementina Kahn, a fair and buxom lass two years his junior, and in due time, the couple became man and wife. Believing that he could do better in America than in the old country, Julius took passage with his wife and they were soon in New York. He worked in that city for some time and finally two years ago came to Leadville his wife having cousins here.

 

Having saved up a little money, he opened a little fruit stand on lower Harrison avenue, and did a very fair business.

 

He was unfortunate, however, in many respects, although he worked early and late for his wife and the three children who had been born to them. He invested money on one or two occasions, all of which he lost, and, on another occasion, nearly his entire stock of goods was destroyed by the falling of a wall at the time the old building belonging to Ben Davies was being torn down. In spite of his pecuniary losses, Julius never lost heart, but from the testimony of his neighbors, was a hard working, industrious young man, animated by the sole desire of providing for his little family, and making them comfortable and happy.

Immediately adjoining the little fruit stand was the jewelry store of Mr. Ben Davies. That gentleman soon became acquainted with Raabe and his pretty wife, and by his attentive interest in their welfare soon became a welcome and constant visitor in their little home. Mr. Davies very frequently advised Raabe with reference to business matters, and the latter placed implicit confidence in his honor and integrity, and always consulted him on every important question.

 

But Mr. Davies was not half so much interested in the husband as in the wife. Clementina was now about 26 years of age, fair and plump. She was in the store much of the time, helping her husband attend to the business and it was to her, in most instances, that Davies addressed his conversation. Very frequently Mr. Davies would send round his boy with a horse and buggy and tell Julius to take a ride, and while the husband was absent, he would improve the opportunity of talking confidentially with the wife and telling her how sorry he was that she should have to work for a living, what a shame that she should be compelled to take care of the store and sell peanuts while other women could wear silks and satins, ride in carriages, have servants to do all the housework and live in pleasure and luxury.

 

This sort of talk all had its effect on Mrs. Raabe. She was dazzled by the diamonds that Mr. Davies always wore when he called upon her; she knew that he was rich and could make her life, as she thought, happy and free from care; and the dream of what might be hers was pleasant and delightful. But then there was the cold hard reality. She was compelled to work in the little fruit stand from morning till night; her husband was poor and she could never hope to experience, under present conditions, the sensation of being a fine lady. Then it was that she became discontented with her lot, and that trouble arose, which culminated in a hasty divorce, the departure of the husband for Salt Lake, and the announcement that Mr. Davies will marry the woman either Saturday night or Sunday [August 16 or 17, 1890].

Before leaving the city, Mr. Raabe stated to some of his neighbors, and also to a representative of this journal, how the trouble began. First his wife accused him of being cruel to the children. She said he was in the habit of abusing themvery frequently and without cause. This he denies most emphatically. He had to work hard, the children were sometimes unruly, and there may have been times when he spoke harshly to them. “But,” said he, “I never harmed them. All my life was spent in trying to make enough money that they might live happily and comfortably.”

 

Then Raabe went on to tell about his wife’s infatuation for Davies. He said he was in the habit of coming to the house continually, and after each conversation with him, Mrs. Raabe would be more discontented with her lot than before. At first he did not realize the true situation. Finally one day, she told him that if he would only go away and leave her, she could marry someone who would make a fine lady of her, would let her have diamonds, servants, a carriage, and all the luxuries of life. This opened his eyes. He then knew that his wife no longer loved him, but had been infatuated by the glittering promises made to her by Davies.

 

At another time, he says, it was suggested to him that he leave his wife, take the peanut stand and run it himself, and let her marry Mr. Davies. This, however, he would not agree to do.

But the unfortunate husband, soon found that his domestic troubles were far from ended. His wife and Davies became more and more intimate, and while he does not allege that they were criminally intimate, still he saw enough to convince him that all was not right. He refused absolutely to state whether or not he knew that his wife and Davies had been criminally intimate, but the neighbors say that on one or more occasions he caught them in a compromising condition.

The divorce was obtained expeditiously and without trouble. Thursday morning [August 14] there was a quarrel between the couple, and it was decided, after a stormy interview, that they separate. The arrangements had all been made beforehand, and a complaint had been drawn up by Mrs. Raabe’s attorney, Judge W. R. Kennedy. At 11 o’clock on the morning of Thursday, both parties, including County Judge W. R. Hall and one or two other parties, were in the store, and there was some attempt at reconciliation. So the matter was left until 3 o’clock in the afternoon. By that time, the decree had been granted, and Mr. and Mrs. Raabe were divorced. The costs, which amounted to $65 were all paid by Mr. Davies.

 

Mr. Raabe immediately on obtaining the divorce packed his trunk and departed on the Denver and Rio Grande for Salt Lake. Before leaving he said to a reporter: “I made application this morning for a divorce and now I have the divorce in my pocket. I got the divorce in my wife’s name and acknowledge that I was leaving her forever, so you see, the decree was easily granted on the charge of desertion. I do this, not for her sake, but for my children. She wanted to make up with me this morning but couldn’t do it. If I were a rich man or even had enough means to go to some new place and take my family I would take them all away. As it is, I am poor but probably she will sometime learn that all that glitters is not gold. I leave tonight for Salt Lake. In writing your article don’t be too harsh on her for my children’s sake.”

The record in Judge Hall’s court is as follows: “The complaint was filed Aug. 9; service was made and accepted on the 12th; cause set for hearing by agreement on the 14th; hearing of evidence, of evidence, decree entered and divorce granted.” The complaint reads substantially:

 

“The complainant (Clementina Raabe) complains of the defendant, and alleges that while no alimony is claimed or asked for, still plaintiff asks for and demands that the bonds of matrimony be dissolved on the grounds, that plaintiff has been a resident of this state for more than one year last past, and having therefor entered into the bonds of matrimony, and plaintiff complains that on the 5th day of August, her husband disregarding his marital obligations, deserted and abandoned this plaintiff without cause, and threatened to depart from this state of Colorado, without any intention to return to his family, and deserted and abandoned the plaintiff and his three children, and by reason of such abandonment is not fit and proper to care for the issue of such a marriage.”

 

Yesterday afternoon [August 15] a reporter called on Mrs. Raabe and asked her whether it were true that her husband had been cruel to her and had deserted her without cause. The lady was inclined to be tearful and wanted to know if it were necessary that it all be put in the paper. The reporter stated that the public simply wanted to know the facts and that her story would be put in the paper just as she chose to tell it.

 

“People,” she said, “will talk about me, I know, but I came of a good family and am a hard working respectable woman. I have done nothing wrong. My husband has had trouble and he is better off away. When he left he took with him a check for $80, $30 in cash, $120 worth of knives, some laces and some money which he had borrowed and which I will have to pay. He has left me the fruit stand. Now that he has gone, I don’t want to say anything about him.”

 

“Is it true, Mrs. Raabe, that you are going to marry Mr. Davies?”

 

“I think you had better not say anything about that until the marriage comes off. Mr. Davies has been a good friend to us. He is a kind, good man, and I don’t want you to say anything against him in your paper.”

 

“Did you and your husband agree to have this divorce granted?”

 

“All I know is that he went away and left me, and that Judge Hall came down here and told me he would fix it so that I could get the divorce, and that there would be no trouble about it at all, and that I would not even have to go into court. He said that it could all be fixed and that no one need know anything about it.”

 

“Were you in court?”

 

“No.”

 

About 6 o’clock that evening, Mr. Davies was found at his place of business on Harrison avenue, and asked if he had any statement to make with reference to the trouble between Mr. and Mrs. Raabe.

“I have nothing whatever to say. Mrs. Raabe and I leave tonight for Denver and will be married there. When I return I may have something to say, but not now.”

 

The two left on the Rio Grande for Denver last night, the children being placed in care of a relative of Mrs. Raabe.

 

Congregation Israel owns a very neat little temple on West Fourth street, but owing to the limited number of Hebrews in the city able to contribute toward the support of a rabbi, none has ever been regularly employed. In this emergency Mr. Ben Davies has long supplied the want, giving his services as cantor to the congregation without any compensation whatever, and it is needless to say his volunteer services have been highly appreciated. Learned in the language of his fathers, and almost phenomenally equipped with knowledge of the Jewish religion and rites, he has been enabled to keep the little flock together in the faith, and has ministered with quite wonderful success to their spiritual wants.

 

When the news of his conduct came to the ears of those who are charged with the affairs of the congregation--the high priests and elders--they were quick to recognize their duty, and at once called a meeting of the members of the Temple Israel, to consider what steps were necessary to purge the synagogue of the offending cantor. The members gathered at the Temple at 10:30 o’clock, and were called to order by Mr. M. Leppel, president of the congregation who briefly stated the object of the meeting.

 

A general discussion ensued, when it was resolved to cite Mr. Davies to answer the several charges preferred, the entry upon the records of the society by Mr. A. Schayer, the acting secretary, being in the language following:

 

“At a special meeting of the members of Congregation Israel held at the Temple, Friday, August 15th, it was decided that owing to the several charges preferred against Mr. B. Davies, to suspend him from his services as cantor until such charges were proved untrue. It was also decided to have a special meeting at the Temple Sunday morning, August 17th, at 10 o’clock to investigate the charges against Mr. B. Davies. That gentleman was notified of the action by the members of the congregation, and was requested to appear in person and plead to the guilt or innocence of the charges made.”

 

There is probably no more widely known citizen in the community than Mr. Davies. He has always been recognized as one of the leading businessmen of the city, the owner of one of the largest jewelry establishments in western Colorado, and very prominently identified with the spiritual interests of the Jewish church. At present he is engaged in erecting of a handsome two-story brick structure on Harrison Avenue. He is a widower, about 50 years of age and thefather of five children.

 

The affair has caused the deepest sensation and is almost the sole topic of conversation on the streets. Interesting developments are looked for in his return from Denver, where it is understood he is to be married by the rabbi.

Since Ben Davies and the former Mrs. Raabe had left Leadville on Saturday and were married in Denver the next day, Davies did not appear at the Sunday hearing and was discharged as cantor for the Temple Israel congregation. The leadership and services of Ben Davies in behalf of Temple Israel were missed, but the congregation carried on by emphasizing good music and the talents of other members at the weekly worship services.

 

 On August 24 the following was printed in the Herald Democrat:

 

The second act in the little domestic drama of the Raabe family took place yesterday by the sudden return of Mr. Julius Raabe.Some few days ago he left Salt Lake, arriving in Salida yesterday morning and getting into Leadville last evening. He at once went to his little fruit stand on Harrison Avenue which was in charge of his former wife’s brother, Jacob Kahn. The stand was turned over to his possession, and taking off his coat, Raabe went merrily to work to fix things up, as, during his absence, the stock had been allowed to run away behind.

 

As he was busy with his work, a woman appeared in the doorway. She was flushed, nervous and excited.

 

It was Mrs. Ben Davies. “This store is mine,” she cried. “What do you mean by coming in here and taking charge of it? I’ll have you arrested.”

 

Raabe was thoroughly taken by surprise at the sudden entrance of his divorced wife. His black eyes flashed as he replied:

 

“This store is mine. I bought it. Haven’t you got a jewelry store? Isn’t that enough for you without your trying to take this little stand away from me?”

 

“ Yes” she answered, “I’ve got a jewelry store, but you’ll have to get out of here. You promised to stay away, but you did not, and you have insulted me, and talked about my character.”

 

Raabe denied this, but expressed his determination of keeping the store, and said he did not want to have any further trouble.

 

Mrs. Davies was evidently wrought up to a high state of excitement, and talked somewhat incoherently for a time. She finally said, however, that she would send the children back to him and make him take care of them.

 

“All right,” he replied, “I’ll take them, gladly, and try to make a good home for them.”

 

This ended the interview. The excited lady left the store, making various vague threats of lawsuits, ejectments, etc.

 

Mr. Raabe was seen by a reporter a few moments after the occurrence, and asked what brought him back, and whether or not he intended to remain.

 

“Yes, I’ll remain in Leadville as long as God will let me live. I received a telegram from my brother-in-law that he had an offer for the business, but the figure was so low that I thought, rather than sell it, I could do better by coming back and taking it myself. I try to be an honest man and want to pay all my debts. I can make a good living here, and intend to remain.”

“How about this divorce?”

 

“Well, what am I going to do about it? She is married and has her fine jewelry store, and all I ask is to be let alone with my little peanut stand. I want no further trouble in that matter. It is all over with.”

 

Just how the matter will end is doubtful, although Mr. Raabe himself is not likely to precipitate any trouble.

 

The situation, however, is unique, and ridiculous enough. The wife applied for a divorce on the grounds of desertion, while her husband is still in the city. It is railroaded through in about an hour. Then the husband departs for Utah, but, inside of a week, returns home, only to find his wife has once more entered the bonds of matrimony.

 

Just where the “desertion” comes in, is a problem that might puzzle a Leadville lawyer.

 

 A truce between Julius and Clementina was reached whereby Julius ran his fruit and peanut stand without interference from anyone. As the economy slowed due to the fall in the price of silver, Julius added cigars and tobacco to his list of saleable items and made a satisfactory living for the next three years.

 

 On the other hand the business of Ben and Clementina Davies fell on hard times after 1890 not only because of the fall in the price of silver but also because of the approaching panic. Selling of jewelry and watches and the resale of such pawned items brought meager returns; even though operating costs were reduced by the help of Ben’s son, Barney, who slept in the back room of the jewelry store, located in the Boston Block, number 404 Harrison Avenue.

 

 On Friday, April 7, 1893, a lamp exploded in the jewelry store about 7:30 P.M., and kerosene flames went in all directions. Several small fires sprang up, and after Davies had run to the door and shouted “fire,” he tried to put out as many of the fires as he could by stamping on them, but he had little effect. Since there was no water in the front part of the store, he hurried into the back room, turned on the water and started to fill a bucket. Smoke had filled the room and before he could start back with a full bucket, he fell to the floor.

 

 Hearing the fire alarm, Barney headed for the Boston Block store and discovered it was the location of the fire. When he inquired about his father, he was told by a spectator his father had been seen going up Harrison Avenue. As soon as the fire department had most of the blazes put out, Barney went into the back room and found the water running, with his father on the floor. Efforts to revive him were futile and he was pronounced dead. His funeral was held on Sunday, April 9.

 

 While Ben Davies’estate was being settled, Clementina opened a fruit store in the building at 222 Harrison. About six months after the jewelry store fire, a three-line marriage announcement in the Herald Democrat aroused the curiosity of all the Leadvillites who saw it, and on September 28, 1893, a staff member of that paper wrote this version of what has come down in Leadville’s history as The Peanuts To Diamonds To Peanuts legend, under the heading of JUST LIKE A STORY BOOK:

An unostentatious little item appeared in this journal yesterday morning announcing the marriage of Mr. Julius Raabe, a fruit dealer on Harrison Avenue [223], to Mrs. Clementina Davies, who conducts a fruit and candy store directly across the street [222]. The event marks the culmination of as curious a set of incidents as ever a novelist conceived of, and might furnish the basis for a romance of domestic life in the Cloud City that would certainly make spicy reading. It is hardly necessary to remind the readers of this journal that the new Mrs. Raabe was only three years ago Mrs. Raabe, before she threw off the matrimonial yoke and became Mrs. Benjamin Davies. The happy couple who are now married again had vouchsafed to them an experience which seldom falls to the lot of mortal man and woman, namely, a marriage, a divorce and a remarriage. Many men prefer to live and die single. Others would embark on the turbulent sea of matrimony, and if they find the voyage too rough, get back to the port of single blessedness through the haven of a divorce court, quite content to remain on dry land. But it is only in rare instances that a man cares to try the experiment again, especially taking for a companion one who it might be supposed, had caused all the trouble and trials. When a case of this sort arises the circumstances certainly warrant something more than a brief mention. They furnish a chapter in local history of interest and instruction to the student of human nature.

The story of the divorce of Raabe and his wife is still fresh in the minds of the public. He was a humble fruit vender, while she aided him in “tending shop” and looking after the three children that had been the fruit of their wedlock. Directly across the street Ben Davies, the prosperous and handsome jeweler, had his store. Mr. Davies who has now gone the way of all flesh, his tragic death being the sensation of a few months ago, was more than attentive to the buxom wife of the fruit dealer. The apple of discord was dropped into the erstwhile happy family and husband and wife became estranged. The glitter of diamonds was a spell under which Mrs. Raabe fell a victim, and the merry sound of the milk shake machine, the humble peanut shop and the surroundings had no longer any charm for her.

 

The divorce proceedings are matters of record. Desertion on the part of the husband was alleged, while he was yet in the city, and a decree was issued, the whole transaction taking no longer than the papers could be prepared on a typewriter. Then Mr. Raabe went to Salt Lake, and the toboggan slide, rapid transit divorce, having been secured in another half hour, Mrs. Raabe was the wife of Ben Davies; the diamonds were hers, and peanuts, milk shakes and obscurity were remains of the past. But the gems and the new silk dresses hardly compensated for the future trials and tribulations in store for her. The society in which Mr. Davies moved could hardly overlook the questionable methods by which the rabbi cantor of Temple Israel had secured a wife. He was removed from his high position and did not enjoy that respect and esteem which had formerly been his lot. To add to his troubles, he failed in business, and his terrible death in smoke and flame at the time of the burning of his place of business, is still fresh in the minds of the people.

The widow was prostrated with grief, but time is a gentle healer. Through the kind offices of friends she was enabled to commence business in a humble way, in a small fruit store directly opposite Raabe’s stand, and many a comment could be heard on the strange irony of fate which had placed the two in such a peculiar position.

 

Time went on, and Raabe, who had returned from Salt Lake, concluded to take his three children to Europe where they might receive an education. He had made arrangements for this, and a few days ago crossed the street to let his children bid their erstwhile mother good-bye. Just what happened will probably never be known. But there was copious shedding of tears, the remembrance of the old peanut stand and the milk shake machine, the husband who had brought her from her native land came over the mind of the widow, and Raabe melted. There was a tender ebullition of feeling and the upshot of the matter was that Mrs. Davies regained the husband of former days. Raabe regained the wife of the peanut stand and happiness, honey and hymeneal bliss were at a premium. Mrs. Raabe and the children will now make a trip to Europe, while Raabe will still continue at the old stand and attend to the business affairs of the renewed partnership...

A friend of the couple with whom the newsman talked told him the story should be titled, “All’s Well That Ends Well”; then said, “No, a better title would be ‘From Peanuts to Diamonds and Back Again to Peanuts.’“ The latter is the one used by most Leadville raconteurs when they retell the story.

 

A footnote to the story was told by the Raabe children who claimed that after they and their mother had returned from Europe in 1893, their parents decided to start attending services again at Temple Israel. The first time they went, not one member in attendance would speak to them, even though some of the congregation patronized the family business. Moreover, three years earlier dissension had arisen within the Temple Israel congregation as to how the worship services should be planned and conducted. Since a satisfactory compromise could not be reached, the orthodox members organized the Kneseth Israel congregation during the summer of 1892 and met in the homes of various members for the next few years.

 

Following the panic of 1893 the Salvation Army sold its barracks, 119 West Fifth Street, to the Orthodox Jews. It will be recalled this building had been the first house of worship for Leadville’s Presbyterians. After the members of the Kneseth Israel congregation purchased the barracks, they converted it into a synagogue.

Temple Israel Foundation

208 West 8th Street

Leadville, Colorado 80461

303.709.7050

Temple Israel Museum

201 West 4th Street

Leadville, Colorado 80461

longled@longled.cnc.net

Hebrew Cemetery

Within Evergreen Cemetery

North end of James Street, Leadville

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