One glance, and you just know this Markleeville cottage has a story! And quite a story it is.
In 1864, this was the site of the Empire Meat Market, owned by a butcher named M. Peltier. To help promote sales, Peltier hired Augustus T. “Gus” Lee to run a meat wagon peddling his meat to outlying communities like Monitor. It seemed like a good idea at the outset, but the mobile meat market idea proved a dud. One day after Lee returned from his rounds, Peltier informed Lee that he was now unemployed.
Lee had just lost a young daughter and was already grieving. Another calamity was too much. After fortifying himself with a drink or three at a bar close by, Lee stormed back to the meat market and confronted Lee with a raised fist. The startled Peltier did what all good butchers would do; he picked up a meat cleaver to defend himself. Lee quickly found a butcher knife to even the odds and proceeded to stab Peltier in the throat — all of which goes to prove that a meat market is a pretty inauspicious place to hold a fight.
Peltier was able to stagger down the street to the office of Dr. Waters (roughly behind today’s courthouse), but soon expired from his wounds. Lee himself was so badly wounded that court proceedings against him were delayed.
Needless to say, the butcher shop changed hands. The following year (1865) it reopened with new proprietors H.L. Marsden and C.H. Kilgore at the helm.
Yet another tragedy ensued here twenty years later when the Great Fire of 1885 engulfed most of Markleeville’s downtown. The butcher shop was smack in the middle of the conflagration and became one of the many casualties of the fire. Then-owner John Cronkite promptly rebuilt, however, erecting another butcher shop on the same site — today’s building — in 1886. According to local lore, the basement was specially constructed to stay cool, using sixteen-inch walls filled with dirt. Ice harvested from the creek in winter months likely also helped provide refrigeration.
The property remained a meat market until about 1916 when it was purchased by William Barrett and his wife, Wilda (the local postmistress), and the Barretts converted it to a residence. It later became the home of woodworker William Eggleston, who added the section on the north as a workshop. War hero Hoke Barrett and his wife June lived here in later years, and Hoke is said to have added the quonset hut on the side.
Today, the former butcher shop is a private residence, and the quonset hut features an eye-catching tie-dye emporium in summer months.
Another thing i didn’t know was my Great Grandmother Wilda was also the postmistress and i always thought she was the schoolteacher exclusively. Love learning all this history
Wilda Barrett was actually the purchaser of the property from the estate of J.E. Mayo in 1916, too. A Historic Resources Inventory for this property prepared in 1993 indicates this building served as the U.S. Post Office about 1912-1914. A separate typed description of the property in a file at the Alpine Museum indicates that Wilda was the Postmistress. It’s always cool to find more details; hopefully readers will be able to add even more!