Jakob Ludwig Muller (1843 – 1877)

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My great-great-grandfather Jakob Ludwig Muller [a.k.a. Louis Muller] was born in Schwetzingen, Germany in 1843. Sometime, probably during the 1860s, he emigrated to London, England, settling in the Finsbury area of the city. Here he adopted the name Louis Muller, found a job as a waiter, and married Margaretha Gaspers. After that, he went into part ownership of Starr’s Hotel in Finsbury Square, the beginning of a turbulent few years, which, unfortunately, led to his untimely death.

1840 Map of Schwetzingen where Louis Muller was born in 1843

Where Was Jakob Ludwig Muller Born?

Louis was born Jakob Ludwig Muller, on 30 January 1843 in Schwetzingen, Germany. We know this because a distant in-law of ours, Panos Anagnostopoulos, commissioned a genealogist in Germany to find him, later sharing the information with us. The genealogist found Ludwig (later going by the name Louis Muller) in Schwetzingen’s church records and was able to put together a family tree for close relatives. We’re confident that this is the right person because Ludwig’s year of birth and location are corroborated in a number of later documents, such as the 1871 census, and his marriage certificate. This also matches his father’s name to the church records.

The city of Schwetzingen lies in the Baden-Wurttemberg region, nine miles southeast of Heidelberg. It is an ancient town, first documented in 766 but with archaeological evidence of human settlement as far back as Neolithic times. The city around the time of Ludwig’s birth was much smaller than it is today, with a population of around 2,900, and was dominated by a castle. His family lived at 15 Kronestrasse, which lies at about 1 o’clock at the edge of the circular flower gardens in the map above.

In 1833, ten years before Louis’ birth, Schwetzingen was elevated to city status, and by the time he was seven, in 1850, early industrialization had made the city an important location for cigars and canaries. Rapid industrial expansion played its part in creating an economic boom and bust, leading to economic and political unrest. Subsequently, during the late 1800s and early 1900s, tens of thousands of Germans left their homeland for England and America. 

When Did Jakob Ludwig Muller Emigrate to London?

We don’t know exactly when or why Ludwig Muller left Germany for England. There are Ludwig and Louis Mullers mentioned in immigration records, but the dates make these unlikely candidates – unless he traveled in his early teens.

I found a couple of references to a J. L. Muller in London tax records dated 1861 and 1863. If these are Ludwig, then he was still using his German name, Jakob Ludwig, and he was located in the Cripplegate district of London, not far from where we find him in 1870 when he married Margaretha Gaspers. Whether this is our Ludwig or not remains to be proven, but it is probably safe to assume that he arrived in London during the 1860s.

At this time London was a popular destination for German immigrants. Many planned on settling, but others were looking to continue on to the United States. Europeans often traveled on smaller vessels from mainland Europe to England, and then joined larger ocean-going ships for the Atlantic crossing. Some immigrants would use the stopover in England to make money to pay for the final leg of their journey.

Since at least one of Louis’ relatives made it to America in the 1850s there is some speculation that he may have originally intended to make the trip to America, but changed his mind while in London.

When Did Louis Muller Mary Margaretha?

The first conclusive evidence we have of Ludwig being in England is through his marriage certificate, issued when he married Margaretha Gaspers in 1870. It is also the first time we see him using his anglicized name Louis Muller. Margaretha was born in Prussia but was now living in Chipstead, Seven Oaks in Kent. Louis was listed as living in King’s Square, London.

Louis and Margaretha married at St. Josephs’s catholic church, Lamb’s Passage, near Finsbury on 3rd March. At the time he was a waiter, aged 27, and Margaretha a spinster of 34. Louis’s father, Christian Muller is mentioned, which helps confirm the connection to Louis’s birth record.

Erich Sommer and Eliza Warnes were listed as witnesses at Louis’ wedding. According to the 1871 UK census, Erich and his wife Bertha Sommer were Louis’ neighbors, living at 24 Hanover Street, Islington, London. According to The History of London website, Islington was one of the primary locations where middle-class German immigrants settled. This ties in with what we know about Louis’s family having been skilled workers.

As well as names and ages, the 1871 census records confirm Louis’s employment as a waiter and the birthplaces of Louis and Margaretha as Schwetzingen and Prussia respectively. This also fits into the narrative on the London History website, as it specifically calls out waiter as a popular occupation with Germain immigrants settling in London.

Starr’s Hotel, 14 Finsbury Square

Richard Benjamin Starr was a London-based entrepreneur and property owner. Notably, he co-created Starr-Bowkett societies, which were a form of non-profit societies, making it easier for middle-class families to take out loans. These became popular throughout the UK and Australia. He also owned several hotels in the Finsbury area of London. One of them was at 14 Finsbury Square and was later to be owned by Louis Muller

We haven’t found documentary evidence of when Starr’s Hotel opened its doors, but there are a number of newspaper articles that reference the hotel during the 1860s and 1870s. Some are advertisements touting the Hotels central location and easy access to railways. There is also an announcement in the Morning Advertiser in 1871 detailing when Starr applied for a license for Starr’s Hotel, which was granted.

By June 1873, Starr must have been in financial difficulty, as the Hotel is put up for auction. This was followed by a second announcement on 23rd June that the auction had failed and the hotel was being put up for private sale.

We assume that it is at this point in time that Louis Muller goes into partnership with Gustav Schmidt and purchases Starr’s Hotel. The 1873 London and Suburban Licensed Victuallers’, Hotel and Tavern Keepers’ Directory lists:

‘Starr’s Hotel. Muller Louis and Schmidt Gustave, Finsbury Square, St Lukes, EC’

London and Suburban Licensed Victuallers’, Hotel and Tavern Keepers’ Directory, 1873.

Louis and Margaretha then move into 14 Finsbury Square, ahead of the birth of their son, also called Louis, in 1874.

Birth of Louis Muller and Margaretha’s Son

Louis and Margaretha’s son, Louis Muller was born on 28th June 1874, at 14 Finsbury Square. The younger Louis was then baptized on the 16th August 1874 at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Lamb’s Passage, London. The birth certificate confirms the address and Louis seniors’ occupation as a Hotel Keeper.

Interestingly the baptism certificate, issued by the Catholic church used alternative spelling for both Louis’, stating ‘Aloysius Muller son of Aloysius Muller’. The baptism was witnessed by Aloysius Scheerbait and Bertha Sommer. As previously noted Bertha Sommer was a neighbor when Louis and Margaretha were living at Hanover Street, and her husband Erich Sommer was a witness at their marriage 1n 1870.

Louis Muller Becomes Sole Proprietor of Starr’s Hotel

The partnership between Louis Muller and Gustav Schmidt lasted about a year. Having purchased the Starr’s Hotel after June 1873, in August 1874, the London Gazette announced that the partnership was dissolved as of 1st August 1874. It also states that Louis assumed all the debts owed from and to the said property.

There may be more to know about Gustav Schmidt, but all I have found that may be of relevance is a marriage certificate from 1872 when a Gustav Schmidt, a waiter, was living in Piccadilly, London. Regardless, Louis now took on full responsibility for Starr’s Hotel having just become a father for the first time.

For three years Louis and Margaretha struggled to maintain the Starr’s hotel. The long hours required to keep the hotel running began to take their toll.

Louis’ Time at Brookwood and Hanwell ASylums

In April 1877, Louis was admitted to the Lambeth workhouse after suffering from a serious mental breakdown. Within a few days, he had been transferred to Brookwood Asylum. Records obtained by my mother, and similar records provided by Panoz on Ancestry.com detail his decline and ultimate death in September 1877.

The asylum records suggest that by the time of his comital, Louis’ family had moved to 25 Nelson Street in Bermondsey. However, it’s possible that Margaretha moved to Nelson Street after Louis had been committed and that she gave this the family home for the asylum records.

Louis stayed at Brookwood for four months. He was then transferred to Hanwell Asylum on the 15th of August 1877. The hospital records give considerable detail of his condition and deterioration. He had originally been committed due to his erratic behavior, delusions, confusion, and slurred speech. He was diagnosed with dementia and general paralysis, as a result of ‘overwork and long hours’.

Louis Mullers Death in 1877

On September 24th, 1877 Louis Muller died at Hanwell Asylum at the age of 35. At some point during Louis’s institutionalization, Margaretha moves from Nelson Street to Temple Grove, East Sheen. We know this because her original address is crossed out and the new one was added. However, after this, she disappears. The next conected record we have is the 1881 Census, where we find Louis and Margaretha’s son Louis, my great-grandfather, living in an orphanage on Dalton Street, Hackney.

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