Thursday, August 16, 2018

A tale of two Frenchmen.Updated with a wealth of new info!

The whiskey market of the pre 1900 west coast was a tangled web indeed. Partnerships, co-partnerships, agencies, sole agencies, sole proprietorships, wholesalers, retailers, brand rights, etc. etc. seem to intertwine companies on a constant basis. It seems that everyone was pushing this brand or that in hopes of getting a leg up on the competition. And not just in San Francisco...

Virginia City Nevada (VC as it's fondly called by many) was past its prime by the time the "gay nineties" rolled around. A quick glance at the Sanborn map of VC in 1890 shows an abundance of vacant and abandoned buildings. It also displays a dearth of one type of business vying for a slice of an ever shrinking pie; Saloons!

South C St. was a mixed bag of occupancies in 1890. The Bonner Shaft of the Gould & Currey Mining Company was just a couple of blocks downhill, as were the V&T Railroad tracks. South C, below Smith St. sported the Odd Fellows Lodge, an undertaker, a second hand furniture store, a cobbler, the Tahoe House (a second rate hotel), a shoe store, and a myriad of others including the Wells Fargo & Co. offices. Oh, and did I forget to mention, saloons (lots of saloons)? At 56 South C, a "Madamm Blizz" plied liquor out of her saloon located on the ground floor of a three story brick building. Who knows what went on upstairs...

A fella by the name of Frank Douet first shows up in print in the Gold Hill, Nevada Territory newspaper on a bitter cold day in January of 1871. The reference is short and to the point, he was departing for places unknown on the Wells Fargo stage that afternoon. 

The next time he is mentioned in the paper is on March 18, 1882. He'd filed a degree of foreclosure against a Thomas Buckner.

Nearly ten years later, in 1891, he surfaces once again, only this time in VC. He, and a gentleman by the name of Alex P. Pion, announced that they had entered into a partnership and had purchased "Madamm Blizz" Wine and Liquor Store, and that they had just received a new shipment of the same.

Stop the presses! Turns out there was a typo in the first advertisement. Corrected, it reads, Madame Suize. And that changes things a bunch. It also reinforces the phrase "tangled web". See the addendum following the main article!

Things appear to have gone swimmingly for them from the start, and they began to advertise on a regular (almost daily) basis. 

Ads for the new endeavor were printed by both the Virginia Evening Bulletin as well as the Daily Territorial Enterprise (made famous by Mark Twain). By 1893, their advertisements included cigars, as well as foreign and domestic wines and liquors. 

By then, they also had obtained the agency for Celebrated Pabst Beer from Milwaukee. Notice though, the ad doesn't state "SOLE agency". I guess a little bit of a good thing was better than none. 1894 saw a bit of a name change and the sign out front now read "Comstock Wine House" (how upscale...). A newspaper ad also declared that they had also obtained the agency (again - not SOLE agency) for Washoe Soda Works of Reno. They were on a roll!

Another ad in 1894 caught my attention. It was puffing Hirschler's Celebrated Fruit Brandy; "Distilled from pure fruit"; (that as opposed to impure rotten fruit I guess~)  

All kidding aside, Hirschler & Co. was a force to be reckoned with in the 90's. They marketed both wine and liquor and owned their own Summit Vineyards in Napa County. An article which appeared in the Pacific Wine & Spirit Review of 1890 spoke highly of the firm, it's vineyards, and especially their brandies. 

One of my favorite embossed and labeled fifths is that of Hirchler and Co. This Hirschler tooled cylinder dates to the mid 90's. 

The label is nothing short of whimsical. Talk about over the top! Elves standing on elves with a tiny corkscrew trying to get at the magical nectar inside the bottle. My guess is that the lithographer who designed this label, was imbibing of some sort of pre food and drug act substance while "creating"...


Recently, a close friend of mine gifted me with what I consider to be one of the scarcest of my seven dozen and change labeled western whiskies. At first glance, from across the table, I wasn't overly elated when the bottle came out of the box. Faced with the back side to me, the distinctive shape told me without even looking at the embossing that it was an I.W. Harper. Whoopeee........ That was until he spun it around and I spied the label. Not just any label though, this one read (in addition to I. W. Harper's Nelson Co. / Kentucky Whiskey)        --------         Douet & Pion / 56 S. C St. / Virginia City, Nevada!

Some time ago I purchased a pre-pro shot glass collection. All glasses were from San Francisco with the exception of one; an IW Harper glass. One can't help but wonder if it didn't see duty on the back bar of Douet & Pion's saloon, alongside the labeled and embossed cylinder~

By 1895, Douet & Pion's advertising vanished. However, a look at the Storey County treasury disbursements for both "indigent bills" and "hospital claims", show that Douet & Pion regularly received stipends, no doubt for "medicinal whiskey", right on up to the turn of the century. All references disappear after July 1900, and one can only guess that the two Frenchman retired and lived out their days in a more hospitable climate than that which they had endured on the east side of Mt. Davidson for the past nineteen years.


I just received the following info and attachments via email from fellow researcher and author, Eric Costa. 
Killer Stuff! And, it wraps everything up into a nice, neat package!

Read On.

Hi Bruce, thought you might enjoy these. I have spent the last 20 yrs. researching the Douets. Frank, or Fransois, first came to the US and worked at his Uncle Andre Douets Winery and Vineyard in Clinton, Amador County.

Andre's partner was Marie Suize, a woman who dressed as a man and both mined in Amador during the Gold Rush and opened a wholesale liquor and wine shop in Virginia City.

Franks headstone is prominent in the Silver Terrace Graveyard in VC. Frank made frequent trips between Amador and VC as did Marie, who for a while was in partnership with another Frenchman in a liquor biz in VC.

  Frank bought out Marie when she moved back to the ranch in Amador County.


Advertisement in the Virginia Evening Chronicle dated 
Feb 25, 1885.


Marie Suize in Virginia City: The Story of Madam Pantaloon on the Comstock

by Eric J. Costa

While generally well known, and even celebrated, by the residents of Amador County, California and its immediate environs, Marie Suize better known as Madam Pantaloon has to date received little attention from historians in other regions. Most of what has been reported about her life has concentrated on what she did in California, prior to coming to Virginia City in 1870. That she is one of the western mining frontier’s most colorful characters, there can little doubt, but somehow her story has been presented only in widely scattered sources.[1] When we fully consider all the details, only then do her contributions to the fabric of western history become apparent.  In addition to being among the first female placer miners, agriculturists, and winemakers in California, she is thought by some to be among the earliest pioneers in the fight for women’s rights.  Additionally, her story provides more texture to the history of the Comstock, by helping to describing some of the less well known 19th century citizens of Virginia City. Where did they come from?  Why were they there? 
Marie Suize was born on July 14, 1824 in Thones, Haute Savoie, the mountainous region of eastern France. She first arrived on the Pacific shore at San Francisco on November 24, 1850, a passenger aboard the French ship La Ferriare.  After living in Paris for a few years, apparently under poor conditions, she learned of the discovery of gold in California.  Having heard that maids in California were being paid vast sums of money, she decided to sail for California. Two days after her arrival in San Francisco the Daily Alta California carried the following item:
Our Streets yesterday presented quite a picturesque appearance, from the advent of the French émigrés, arrived the previous day from Havre and Bordeaux. Both males and females were remarkably cleanly dressed, and had the appearance of belonging to a very respectable class of society. They “prospected” over the city to a great extent[2].
According to Louis De Cotton who spoke with Marie in Virginia City during the 1880s, Marie had been unable to find work in San Francisco, so she cut her hair short, began wearing men’s clothing, and headed for the gold fields of the Sierra foothills[3].  Apparently Marie met with some early successes in the mines, because by 1855, she was the only female assessed for property in the small mining town known as “The Gate,” north of Jackson, Amador County.  She also held mining ground at the nearby placers on hills named French, Humbug, and Ohio.  In 1860 she was still living at “The Gate,” and operating a boarding house that was occupied mostly by French and French Canadian miners.  One of these French miners was G. Andre Douet, who would later become Marie’s partner in the acquisition of an agricultural property that eventually led both of them to a nearly three decade long commercial association with Virginia City.  Some believe that it was at Douet’s urging that Marie came to California.  Also residing in the boarding house was Joseph Suize, a blacksmith, who was apparently Marie’s brother.  It is no coincidence that Marie managed to find such a large contingent of French in Amador County.  The Southern Mines of the California gold country became the region that attracted most of the foreign born miners. In addition to miners from Mexico and Chile, there were large numbers of men who were French, French Canadian, and Italian.  Upon reaching the mines, these men would form small companies that became involved in mining or agricultural ventures. It was alongside these men that Marie, as the lone women, worked as a placer miner and later a winemaker and grape grower.
In 1863, Marie’s mining partner G. Andre Douet acquired a property known as the “Frenchmans Garden and Ranch” located some five miles east of Jackson, Amador County. The property had originally been claimed by another contingent of Frenchmen during the early 1850, and by the time Douet took possession, quite a few improvements had already been made. In 1857, an Amador County newspaper carried the following description of the property:
…in a little valley that comes into the creek, is a perfect beauty of a place, it belongs to some Frenchmen and is called Frenchmen’s Ranch. It is in a high state of cultivation and many of the fruit trees are loaded with fruit. A new building is being erected here, and work seems to be going on vigorously[4].
Just one month after Douet’s initial purchase of the Frenchmen’s Ranch, he sold the property to Marie for $3000, providing evidence that she had already accumulated considerable wealth from her various mining properties.  Although the ranch, which also contained deposits of gold bearing gravel, now officially belonged to Marie, her lifelong association with Douet had increased to a higher level. Douet remained on the ranch with Marie, and they began planting more grapes and advancing their winemaking efforts. Within a few years they had turned the property into one of the premiere pioneer wineries and vineyards of Amador County[5]. The first official production of wine, as ascertained from the IRS Tax Assessment list of 1865, credits Marie Suize with the production of 1,200 gallons of wine. By 1870, wine production had reached commercial levels, with some 5,000 gallons being manufactured. That same year, Marie opened her first wine shop in Virginia City, where she would continue to do business for nearly the next 20 years.  According to an advertisement appearing in the Territorial Enterprise of October 27, 1870, California white and red wines, and distilled brandy, were available at her shop located at No. 7, B Street (Mau’s Old Store)[6].  This address was located just north of where John Piper’s Old Corner Bar and business block was eventually established. Later that year, in a letter from Virginia City, the Amador Dispatch reported that Marie Suzie, who was now being referred to as “Madam Pants,” had brought over a quantity of wine and brandy of her own manufacture and opened a wholesale liquor store.[7]
A detailed description of Marie’s winery appeared in the Pacific Rural Press that reported the following:
Mme. Marie Suize is the proprietress of a 300-acre tract of land situated six miles east of Jackson, and is cultivating some 30,000 vines and manufacturing about 12,000 gallons of wine and 600 gallons of brandy annually. With a view to silk raising she is cultivating 3,000 mulberry trees. At this writing there are on hand at this ranch some 18,000 gallons of wine, from one to five years old. It is kept in twenty-four 800 gallon casks, manufactured from a species of black, live oak, cut, sawn, manufactured upon the farm. Two large 3,000 gallon casks are used for making the red wine. Five men are regularly employed[8].
Without the large population centered on the Comstock, and the market it created, the production of the vineyard would have not been increased as rapidly as it was. According to the census of 1870, named among the five French laborers living on the ranch, was Frank Douet, a nephew of Andre Douet, who would later relocated to Virginia City, where he worked along with Marie in the wine shop.
By this time, Marie’s activities were more and more, attracting the attention of the local press, especially after she was arrested in San Francisco for appearing in public dressed in male clothing.   In April of 1871, the Territorial Enterprise contained the following item:
It appears that Marie Suize, the woman who was engaged in business for some months in this city, in male apparel has been fined $5 in San Francisco by Judge Sawyer and required to doff her masculine toggery and don the proper habiliments of her sex. In this city she kept a wine store on B Street, where she sold the products of a large vineyard owned by her in California. Soon after making her appearance here she applied to the Board of Aldermen for permission to wear male attire. The matter was left discretionary with the Chief of Police, he having authority to arrest her at any time should he think proper. She was in business here for several months and was never arrested. As in San Francisco, Marie Suize stated here that she had dressed as a man for eighteen years, had worked in the mines with men in Amador County, Cal., and had even made a trip to France and tarried for some months in European countries dressed in male attire[9].
It is probably worth noting that in the mining camps of the Sierra, as well as on the Comstock, Marie was able to dress as she pleased, but it was only in San Francisco that she ran into trouble.  Societal norms in the mining regions appear to have been much more relaxed than in the big city.  Were the miners more accepting, or were people too preoccupied with finding gold, and their own survival in a harsh environment to care? There can be no doubt that a lot of the events that were considered common place by Mother Lode or Comstock standards would have been considered outrageous elsewhere. 
As listed in a Virginia City business directory of 1873-74, sometime in the interim, Marie had returned to the Comstock, this time apparently for the long term, and had re-opened her wine shop at the northwest corner of C and Mill Street. Back in Amador County, Andre Douet continued in his duties as head grape grower and winemaker. Wine sales remained strong for the remainder of the decade, with the Amador Ledger in 1877 reporting:
Wine Shipment- One day last week A. Douet of the Secreta ranch, near the Butte, shipped to Virginia City 3,000 gallons of wine. This ranks among the largest shipments ever made from Amador county. Quite an extensive trade is carried on with the eastern slope of the Sierras. Douet has for several seasons disposed of all the products in that direction[10].
Again, the following year, the same paper reported that Douet had shipped a carload, some 12 tons of wine to Virginia City[11].  It was around this time, that Frank Douet, the nephew of Andre, came to Virginia City to work as a bookkeeper and clerk with Marie, the wine shop and residence having now relocated to 140 South C Street.  By 1880 two additional Douet family members had arrived to help sell wine. Frank Tabeaud, age 17, and Peter Tabeaud age 13, both recent arrivals from Ruffec, France.   
Reportedly  both Marie Suize, and Andre Douet, dabbled rather heavily in Comstock Mining stocks, each of them, apparently loosing extremely large sums of money.  These stock losses may account for the fact that Marie sold the winery and vineyard back to Andre in 1881.  Further evidence that Marie was greatly involved in mining stock speculation is the fact that she is named as the appellant in the April 1887 Supreme Court of the State of Nevada, L.B. Frankel & Co. v. Their Creditors[12].  In the census of 1880, Frankel’s occupation is listed as a Virginia City stock broker.
Marie again relocated one last time, around 1886, to 56 South C Street. This is where, in September of that same year, she met with Louis De Cotton who published his Travers Le Dominion Et La Californie in Paris in 1889. In it he gives great details of his visit to Virginia City, and an account of his conversation with Marie. In a portion of De Cotton’s, work Marie explained that it was in order to stop other miners from working the gold bearing gravels that existed on her ranch, that it had first been planted to grape vines. She also stated that she had lost some $150,000 investing in the mines of Virginia City!
Sometime in the late 1880s or early 1890s, Marie left Virginia City and returned to the ranch in Amador County, where Andre was still growing grapes, making wine and mining for gold.  It was there this remarkable woman died in January of 1892 at the age of 68. Amazingly, her obituary stated that many in Amador County knew her only by the name of “Madame Pantaloon.” She lies buried in an unknown location In the Jackson Catholic Cemetery. Andre Douet remained on the ranch and continued to mine and make wine until his death in 1904.  In 1902, at the age of 80, Andre was still successfully mining on his ranch, reportedly cleaning up some seven pounds of gold worth $1500.[13]  The previous year he had manufactured around 10,000 gallons of wine. Andre’s nephew, Frank, spent his entire life in Virginia City, but would make occasional trips to California to help his aging uncle with work on the ranch. Frank died in 1917, and his marked grave may be seen in Virginia City’s Silver Terrace Cemetery. The Tabeaud boys both returned in Amador County. Frank became involved in cattle-raising, and Peter drove a brewery wagon and stagecoach.[14] They also worked on their family ranch, which today lies beneath the waters of a small reservoir know appropriately as Lake Tabeaud.
There is much evidence to suggest that Marie made a lasting impression on many of those who met her. Shortly after her death, the Territorial Enterprise ran a piece, titled The Late Madame Suize: One of the Earliest Pacific Coast Champions of Women’s Rights, a portion of which reads:
The late Madame Marie Suize who died a year or more ago on her fruit ranch in Amador county, and was proprietress of a wholesale wine and liquor store in this city for more than a quarter century, was the first champion of women’s rights on the Pacific Coast as will be seen from the following petition presented to the Board of Aldermen of this city on Tuesday evening, September 14, 1870: The document prays that the petitioner may be allowed to wear male attire …With the petition was a document bearing the signature of the Clerk of the District Court of Amador county, given her to serve as protection against arrest and the document speaks of her as an industrious, virtuous women, possessed of valuable real estate in that county[15].
In the book, A Kid On The Comstock, containing reminiscences written by John Taylor Waldorf, the author returned to Virginia City later in life, after have been a teenager there in the late 1880s. In 1924, he wrote:
As I wandered back toward the Divide, something not at all suggestive of schools caught my eye. On C Street, almost in the shadow of the Corporation House, I saw an abandoned store with its iron shutters tightly closed. Above the door I read J.B. Dazet, Wines and Liquors, and my mind ran back to Madam Pantaloon, who used to sit there dozing, but would wake up suddenly when you came in and draw you something from your favorite wine barrel. Madam used to say a little good wine wouldn’t hurt anyone. As a boy I took her word for it, and I still think she was right. [16]
Another mention of Marie can be found in a 1936 issue of the Nevada State Journal, in an article with the title “Old Verse Recalls Pioneers on the Comstock.” It contains the reprint of a poem that had been written “many years ago” by Jerome J, Quinlan.  A caption stated that hundreds of Nevadans whose families have lived on the Comstock will recall some of the men and women mentioned. One verse contains the line: Another old character…But bore a queer name –Madame Marie Pantaloon[17]
To this day, those few remaining old ranch families that live along the South Fork of Jackson Creek, in close proximity to where the Suize-Douet ranch and winery were located, continue to tell the Madam Pantaloon story to family members and anyone interested in gold rush history[18]. Locals can even point out a prominence that until as recently as 40 years ago was referred to as “Madam Pants Hill.”
Finally, in 1998, as part of the Gold Discovery Sesquicentennial Celebration, a monument commemorating Marie Suize was erected at the cemetery in Jackson. Most recently, Favia Winery has released a 2006 Viognier called “Suize” that was chosen to honor Marie’s “tireless spirit and dogged determination.” It is hoped that  by presenting this history of Marie Suize, that it may spark additional research, and perhaps someone in Nevada may turn up the one item that has thus far remained undiscovered-a photograph of Madam Marie Suize.

[1]Larry Cenotto, Logan’s Alley; Amador County Yesterdays In Pictures and Prose, (Jackson:Cenotto 1999), vol. 3, 133-135 and vol. 4, 16-25.

Susan G. Butruille, Women’s Voices From the Mother Lode, (Boise:Tamarack 1998), 145-169.

J. D. Mason, History of Amador County, California with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches, (Oakland:Thompson & West 1881), p.179 and p.181.

[2] Daily Alta California (26 November 1850).p.3.

[3] Georges J. Joyaux, “An Excerpt From Louis De Cotton’s A Travers Le Dominion Et La Californie,”Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, 37:1 (Spring 1989), 53-70.

[4] Weekly Ledger (1 August 1857), p.3.

[5]  Eric J. Costa, Old Vines: A History of Winegrowing in Amador County, (Jackson:Cenotto 1994), 19-21.

[6] Territorial Enterprise (27 October1870), p.2.  Mau is believed to be Albert Mau, who is known to have had wholesale grocery businesses in San Francisco, and Austin, Hamilton, and Virginia City Nevada.

[7] Amador Dispatch (17 December 1870), p.3.

[8] Pacific Rural Press (29 April1871), p.2.
In addition to Frank Douet, those French laborers working in the vineyard and winery in 1870 were: Frank Douet, Joseph Perillia, Frank Perillia, and John Larroseni.

[9] Territorial Enterprise (12 April 1871), p. 3.

[10] Secreta is the name of a small mining camp that was located adjacent to the Suize-Douet Ranch. It dates to the early 1850s, and was originally settled by miners from Chile. The Butte, refers to a local landmark known as Butte Mountain located between Jackson and the Suize-Douet ranch.

[11] Amador Ledger (30 March 1878), p.3.

[12]Reports of Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada During 1887-1890, vol. 20, case # 1262, April 4, 1887.,  L.B. Frankel & Co. v.  Their Creditors, Marie Suize, Appellant.

[13] Amador Ledger (12 February 1902), p.3.

[14] Amador Dispatch (22 February 1946), p.1.

[15] Territorial Enterprise (17 February 1894).

[16] John Taylor Waldorf, A Kid on the Comstock: Reminiscences of a Virginia City Childhood (Palo Alto:American West 1970), 180-181.
 John B. Dazet  is listed in the 1880 census  as a native of France,  operating liquor at 120 South C Street in Virginia City. In an 1886-87 Business Directory, he is listed as Dazet & Chatain liquors. His connection with Marie Suize, if any, is unknown.

[17] Nevada State Journal  (25 October 1936), p.3.

[18] As told to author by Amador County rancher, and local historian Carolyn Fregulia. Fregulia’s family has resided in Amador County since the Gold Rush, and was next door neighbors to the Suize-Douet Ranch.

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