One House’s Story: The Pfeiffer Family

The Pfeiffer Saloon and residence on West Front Street, Dover, Ohio, 2023. (Source:

I enjoy good barbecue as much as anyone. The other day I drove past one of Dover’s local barbecue restaurants and, knowing how Front Street was a collection of hotels and saloons in the early 20th century, I wondered who had called that building home (and work) in the past. This is the story of one of those families.

A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.

Frederick (Fred) Pfeiffer (1871-1915), by all accounts, came to the United States from Switzerland by himself in 1890. After his arrival in this country, he made his way west to Ohio and found work as a barkeeper in a saloon and boarding house operated by Agnes Thomas (1839-1906), widow of a Sugarcreek farmer named David Thomas (1814-1886). Agnes had purchased the lot from Mary Cox (1835-aft. 1892), the widow of Dover’s American House Hotel proprietor Thomas Cox (1836-1892), in 1892. It was Mary Cox who was responsible for the construction of the structure that Agnes used as a saloon and boarding house, and where she employed Fred Pfeiffer.

It’s not clear when Fred Pfeiffer arrived in Tuscarawas County following his immigration in 1890 and, believe it or not, there was another Frederick Pfeiffer already living in Tuscarawas County when Fred arrived. Regardless, he is listed as Agnes Thomas’s saloon keeper and boarder in the 1900 census, living on the saloon property. Fred Pfeiffer met and married a fellow Swiss immigrant named Anna Stegmann (1882-1963) and the two married in March 1902. Shortly after their marriage, Agnes sold the saloon and boarding house to Fred Pfeiffer. Agnes died a few years later in 1906.

  • The lots on Front Street in Dover, shown on the 1875 Atlas of Tuscarawas County's map of Canal Dover, that were the location of Frederick Pfeiffer's later saloon and boarding house. (Source:
  • Agnes Thomas's purchase of the lot that became her saloon, and later Pfeiffer's, reported in the New Philadelphia newspaper, August 1892. (Source:
  • Record of the marriage of Fred Pfeiffer and Anna Stegman, March 1902. (Source:
  • Fred Pfeiffer's purchase of Agnes Thomas's saloon and lot, May 1902. (Source:

The early 1900s were a very challenging time to be in the saloon business in America. Temperance movements, efforts to prohibit alcohol consumption and sales, had been around in America since the 18th century. By the time Fred Pfeiffer acquired the Thomas saloon, the United States was in the middle of its third wave of the movement. Localities all across America were voting to “go dry” or “stay wet” and Dover and Tuscarawas County were among them. When the community went dry, saloons transitioned to restaurants or soda shops, only to return to selling alcohol when the locality reversed itself and went wet again.

The building that Mary Cox had built after 1887 to serve as a saloon and boarding house was a simple, two-story frame building with the saloon downstairs and dwelling upstairs with rooms for boarders. During the period that Agnes Thomas owned the building, she added a one story frame addition to the back likely for storage or food preparation. Fred Pfeiffer did not make any obvious changes to the building’s layout after he purchased it in 1902, but he did acquire the lot and house to the east of the saloon in 1907. The structure’s overall footprint has changed little in 140 years.

  • The Pfeiffer property (empty) as depicted on the 1887 Sanborne Fire Insurance Map for Dover, Ohio. (Source:
  • The Pfeiffer property as depicted on the 1893 Sanborne Fire Insurance Map for Dover, Ohio. Now showing the saloon and boarding house. (Source:
  • The Pfeiffer property as depicted on the 1899 Sanborne Fire Insurance Map for Dover, Ohio. (Source:
  • The Pfeiffer property, now owned by Pfeiffer and including the lot next door, as depicted on the 1907 Sanborne Fire Insurance Map for Dover, Ohio. (Source:
  • Detail from a 1910 panoramic photograph of West Front Street in Dover, Ohio showing the Pfeiffer saloon's appearance.
  • An anti-saloon cartoon that appeared in the New Philadelphia newspaper in September 1914. (Source:

During Fred Pfeiffer’s operation of the saloon, he occasionally fell into trouble due to the confusing nature of the various wet and dry laws that were passed during that period. When the community went dry, the saloon operators circulated petitions to have a new vote and the community would once again allow the sale of alcohol. Saloon owners would get permits, hours would be restricted, and at least once Fred was brought into court for violating one statute or another. Anna, meanwhile, was busy with the couple’s three daughters born between 1902 and 1909.

You will not be surprised to learn that the operator of a saloon in the early 20th century was also a partaker in that saloon’s products. Fred Pfeiffer must have partaken a lot because, in November 1915 at the age of 44, he died from cirrhosis of the liver. Anna, with a business to run and three children, remarried shortly after Fred’s death to a man who would go on to serve as the Mayor of Dover years later. Fred and Anna are both buried in Maple Grove Cemetery in Dover, Ohio. The next time you’re enjoying your barbecue, be sure to have a drink for Fred.

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2023.


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