Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mr. Chalmers

Hi All, the good Dr.Barnes here. I ran across this article and pictures concerning the Catawba Wine Bitters. This came from a 1958 copy of a booklet entitled Coloma, California's Golden Beginning. This story is about half way through the booklet so I will just stick to the story at hand. For your enjoyment.

Meanwhile, Robert Chalmers had become the proud owner of the Sierra Nevada Hotel as well as several other properties. In addition to his financial success, he had become a real piller of the community and was well liked and respected.

Widowed twice by the time of Allhoff's death, Chalmers married Louisa Allhoff in 1869 and moved onto the Allhoff land. He expanded the Vineyards and won prize after prize at the State Fair. Allhoff had constructed two wine cellers - one in 1860 and the other in 1866. Chalmers built an adjoining one in 1875, and it was occasioned by a big celebration with the Governor and other notables taking part. James Marshall presented some of his papers and they were placed in the cornerstone along with sample bottles of wine and other objects.

The Vineyard House was built in 1878 as not only a home for the Chalmers family, but as a Hotel. The Grand Opening was on April 4, 1879, and people came from miles around to take part in the festivities. For a short time all was well, as the house became the center of social activities in the area.

Then suddenly, tragedy struck again as the court records show that in 1880 Robert Chalmers was declared mentally incompetent and his Brother appointed guardian over his affairs. From then on till his death a year later, Robert Chalmers became a man of mystery to the people of the valley. Wild stories were sread about him including one that he was kept in a windowless room in the basement of the house. This seems very unlikely, but it does appear that he was kept in a room in a nearby building where he had a constant companion, not only because of his mental state but because his eyesight had failed him, he was blind. (I wonder if it was from drinking the product?)

Louisa Chalmers, widowed again, now found herself with a court battle on her hands as one of Chalmer's sons by his first marriage filled a large claim against the estate. Other creditors appeared including a bank in Stockton which held a large loan against the property. ZFor a time it looked as though she and her children would lose even the original land which had belonged to Allhoff, but the courts, after three years, deeded her the house and about ten acres of land. Ohhh the Drama, even way back then. Peace Out. Dr.Barnes.

1 comment:

  1. Many years ago, I was involved in digging Chalmer's Coloma home privy, As I recall, no sign of any sort of Catawba was seen. Rather mundane were the contents of that privy.

    There is a dump behind the Vineyard House that has some very nice bottles in it. Too bad that the State Parks System has control of it now. Don't even THINK about digging within a mile of that place.