Historic Hotel Leger in 1896

Jul 17, 2019 by

Historic Hotel Leger in 1896

Last week the Mokelumne Hill History Society acquired from an estate an historic “Leger’s Hotel” envelope postmarked November 15, 1896. Identifying “Muths and Pfeiffer Bros., Proprietors,” it is addressed to the “Stockton Woolen Mills” and affixed with a two-cent stamp.  So how did the Muths and the Pfeiffers become the Hotel proprietors?

First named the Hotel d‘ France,  the Leger Hotel is one of the oldest, longest-running hotels in California.   In 1853 George Leger bought out his two partners and owned the establishment until his death in 1879, when his heirs sold to the Muths.   George and Rosina (Clauss) Muths, both from France, were long-time friends of George and his wife Louisa.  George Muths was a shoemaker and although he and Rosina owned a shop and other property in Mokelumne Hill, the childless couple made their home at the Hotel.  When 27-year-old Louisa died in childbirth in 1860, Rosina became involved in running the Hotel and raising the three Leger children.

When George Leger died in 1879, his will designated the Muths as administrators of his estate which was divided equally between his children Albert (22), Matilda (21), and Louisa (19).   Albert and Matilda soon left Mokelumne Hill, Albert to pursue music in San Francisco and Matilda accompanying her new husband Dr. William Todd to Nevada. These two promptly sold their shares in the Hotel to their younger sister Louisa who continued living there with the Muths.

Within a year, Louisa sold a half-interest in the Hotel to the Muths for $3,500 in gold coin. Four months later Rosina Muths died. Shortly thereafter, widower George purchased the remaining half of the Hotel from Louisa for $4,000 in gold coin.  With this substantial dowry, Louisa married and departed with David Edwards, a stage driver from Ione who boarded at the Hotel (this marriage did not last).

The mystery in this sale is, where did George Muths obtain the then substantial sum of $7500?  The Mother Lode economy was in decline at this time and assessments show that the Muths had few assets.  In answer, it appears very likely that the purchase money came from Rosina (Clauss) Muths’ sister, Elizabeth (Clauss) Pfeiffer.  In addition to the marriage of Rosina and George, the Clauss and Muths families had a long association having apparently immigrated together to California from New Orleans in the 1850s.

In 1880, Elizabeth Pfeiffer was a 43-year old widow living in San Francisco with her eight children.  Left with comfortable holdings, she likely made a loan to her widowed brother-in-law George Muths to purchase the Hotel.  Supporting this theory was the transfer in January 1896 of a half ownership in the Hotel by George Muths to two of Elizabeth Pfeiffer’s sons – Charles and George (there are far too many “Georges” in this story!); hence, Muths and Pfeiffer Bros.

Our newly acquired 1896 envelope with “Muths and Pfeiffer Bros., Proprietors” marks this new partnership!

The finances of the Hotel Leger, however, were in a tailspin.  Within a few years, George Muths deeded over his remaining interest to the Pfeiffers, but in 1898 they were bankrupt and conceded defeat.  The Hotel Leger was taken by John McLean who held a mortgage not only on the Hotel property but numerous others in Mokelumne Hill  – but that is another story.  The following year, George Muths died and was buried in the Mokelumne Hill Protestant Cemetery. The location of his grave is unmarked and unknown.

Thanks to Rurik Kallis for facilitating acquisition of the envelope and to Lee Bibb for his detailed research on the Muths and Pheiffers.

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