Abraham Leffler ~ the Merchant from Bavaria

Autograph of Abraham Leffler, 1867.

Abraham “Abrum” Leffler was a Jewish merchant who prospered in Berrien County in the 1860s, and went on to lead a large wholesale grocery business in Savannah, GA.

Abraham “Abrum” Leffler was born in 1831 in Bavaria Germany. At the age of 20 he sailed to America, departing from the port of Bremen, Germany, arriving at New York City on April 16, 1851. He gave his occupation as tailor, and his destination as Philadelphia.  Some time about or before 1854 he was married. His wife, Elizabeth, was also Jewish and from his native Bavaria.  In 1855 two sons , Henry and Joseph, possibly twins were born to Elizabeth and Abraham in Philadelphia. It appears that some time before 1857, Abraham moved his family to Georgia where their third child was born.  This according to the census of 1860.

In his 1867 sworn statement, Abraham Leffler attests that he arrived in Savannah, Georgia in 1852, where he appeared before the City Court of Savannah and became a naturalized U.S. Citizen.  (There appears to be some confusion about the dates in this declaration, which also states that he had been in Georgia for 15 years and in Berrien County for 9 months.  This statement conflicts with information from the 1860 census, which shows he was already a resident of Berrien County by that time.  It seems possible that he actually arrived in Savannah in 1857, not 1852, and that he had been in Berrien County for 9 years, not nine months.)

At any rate, by 1860 the Leffler family was in Berrien County, GA where they were enumerated in the Census of 1860. Abraham was occupied as a merchant, with a personal estate valued at $200 and $6000 worth of real estate.  In March of 1862 he appeared on the list of eligibles for military duty in Berrien County.

In 1867 Abraham Leffler was present in Berrien County, 6th Election District, 3rd Precinct, where on July 26, 1867 he signed the oath of fealty required by the Reconstruction Act to qualify as a voter. He further swore that his citizenship papers had been lost or destroyed during the war, and gave his place of birth as Bavaria.  Apparently, his wife Elizabeth Leffler, died about or before 1864, and  son Henry died some time before 1870 as they do not appear in the census of that year.  While in his personal life Abraham suffered loss, in business his fortunes were better.  The 1867  Berrien County tax digest shows that he owned town property valued at $350, had $1500 cash on hand, $6000 in merchandise, and $375 in other property,  for a aggregate value of $8175. It appears that he paid a professional license fee of $1.00

The 1870 census of the 1144th Georgia Militia District, Rays Mill District, shows he was a country merchant with a personal estate of $200 and real estate valued at $14,010.  He had three children still in school, and a housekeeper, Miss Victoria Brooks.

Very shortly thereafter, Abraham Leffler relocated his family to Savannah, GA.  The 1871 Savannah City Directory shows Abraham Leffler was in business with Adolphus Gomm, as wholesale grocers under the name Gomm & Leffler.

About 1873 Abraham Leffler married Maria “Mary” Lilienthal. Her family was also in the grocery business in Savannah.  The 1872 Property tax digest for Berrien County, 1144th Georgia Militia District, Rays Mill District seems to indicate that J. H. Carrol was acting as an agent for Abraham Leffler there to handle his tax assessment.  Leffler had  $1800 in cash ans solvent debts, $700 in merchandise, paid no professional license fee.  In 1875, Leffler’s affairs in Berrien County were handled by J. W. Talley; Leffler  continued to own a city lot in Berrien  but had disposed of all other properties.

His Savannah business partner, Adolphus Gomm, died about 1877 and Leffler carried on. In 1877, Abraham Leffler sued a fellow grocer Julius Koox, first distributor of Eberhard Anheuser’s Lager beer in Savannah , and a Mrs. Helen Falligant who was boarding with Koox.  The May 8, 1877 judgment was for the plaintiff, and Leffler was awarded $117.34 in costs and interest. This judgment turned out to be the least of financial woes for Koox , who committed suicide 90 days later.

The census of 1880, shows Leffler and the family in Savannah, GA where they had a house on Gordon Street next door to his wife’s relatives.  Leffler continued in the grocery business and his son, Adolph, assisted as a grocery clerk.  His wife, Mary, kept house according to the census, and the family also employed two servants, Susan Redock and Lucy Slow.

In Savannah, the family business continued to prosper. Incorporated as Leffler Co. in 1899  with $100,000 in capital stock, by 1901 business directories  listed Leffler Co., wholesale grocers, liquors, cigars, and tobacco, at  117-119 Bay Street West. The company also had cotton and naval stores factories at 122 Bay Street East: Abraham Leffler, President; Adolph M. Leffler, vice president and general manager; Max Leffler, secretary and treasurer; Julien Leffler, shipper; Jacob Leffler, also with the company.

Abraham Leffler died October 5, 1911 in Savannah, GA

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