Leonora Muse (Curtin)

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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Leonora Scott Muse (1879-10-02 [White Plains, NY] - 1972) was the only child of William Muse and Eva Scott.

Leonora was very close with her maternal grandparents, Leonard Scott and Rebecca Briggs Scott; she was named after her grandfather. Her parents divorced in 1891 and she was sent to Swiss and English boarding schools, with summers spent traveling alongside her mother.

Her mother remarried in 1896 and took Leonora with her to settle in Pasadena. Whilst in Pasadena, Leonora attended Miss Orton's Classical School on South Euclid Avenue.

1891Parents William Muse and Eva Scott Muse divorced.
1896Mother married Dr. Adelbert Fenyes in Budapest, Hungary.
1896 JulyDr. Fenyes, Mrs. Fenyes and Leonora arrived in America.
1896 NovResided at 75 Grand Avenue with her mother and step-father.
1898Resided at 251 S. Orange Grove Avenue with her mother and step-father.

Marriage to Thomas Curtin (1903)

Pasadena Society Belle Marries PASADENA, March 12. -- Miss Leonora Muse and Thomas E. Curtin were married at noon to-day by the Rev. W. MacCormack at the home of the bride's parents, Dr. and Mrs. Adelbert Fenyes of 251 South Orange Grove boulevard. Miss Muse is a well-known society belle and the groom is an attorney of the Santa Fe railroad. The couple will reside in New York. San Francisco Call, 1903-03-13

Thomas Edouard Curtin (1874/03/19 [New Jersey] - 1911/10/30 [Colorado Springs]) was born to Mr. and Mrs. John Curtin.

He was already a prominent railroad attorney when he married Leonora Muse in 1903. The happy newlyweds moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado and their daughter Leonora "Babsie" Francis Curtin was born December 7th 1903. Thomas was senior member of Curtin and Sunderlin (an investment firm in Suite 501 of the Mining Exchange Building) and was president of the Antiers Orchard Development Company (in the same suite as his firm); he was also prominent in the El Paso, Cheyenne Mountain Country and Colorado Springs golf clubs, as well as the Denver Club of Denver.

Leonora maintained her Pasadena ties, and in 1904 whilst in Colorado she bought a painting for $25 from Benjamin Brown entitled The Marine el-Capri (FCP Archive B96 F20). Leonora and Babsie oft visited Mrs. Fenyes in Pasadena.

1903 Mar 12Married prominent railroad attorney Thomas Edouard Curtin (FCP Archive B96 F51) and moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Resided in Colorado Springs, Colorado at 1205 Wood Avenue (FCP Archive B96 F48) and/or 1830 Wood Avenue (FCP Archive B96 F5).
1904Daughter born, Leonora "Babsie" Curtin (FCP Archive B96 F51).

Loss of Thomas (1911)

Thomas succumbed to an influenza epidemic (?) in 1911.

Leonora never remarried and oft referred to herself as Mrs. T. E. Curtin decades later (FCP Archive B96 F25 01/07/1931).

1911Leonora is widowed. Leonora and Babsie moved into Fenyes Mansion.
1915Leonora and Babsie move into Curtin House.

Life in Pasadena

His widow and daughter returned to live with Mrs. Fenyes at the Fenyes Mansion.

However, the Fenyes Mansion was already a small home for Mrs. Fenyes before the return of her daughter; in 1915 she had an adjacent house built just for Leonora and Babsie.

As a widow, Leonora spent her time focused on linguistics, culture and projects. She was fluent in French (FCP Archive B96 F12) and Spanish, and even requested those fluent to write to her in Spanish (FCP Archive B96 F1).

Leonora studied the evolution of Spanish from Spain to Mexico and South America. Leonora also live in India, Switzerland and Morocco to study the local languages and traditions. She spent four years amidst the natives of America's southwest and published Healing Herbs of the Upper Rio Grande and By the Prophet of the Earth about their customs and their culinary and medicinal use of of plants.

Regarding the then-titled Herbs and Healers of the Upper Rio Grande, Leonora's Santa Fe friend Merle Armitage wrote the following September 5th 1947 letter:

It's a monument. And somehow, the rather bad printing job doesn't seem to matter. In fact, it would be out of character for such a book to be a slick, perfect printing specimen...it would lose its identification with its subject. Somehow, the book looks like it came from the valleys, with their dusty roads, their badly eroded adobe houses, and their worn utensils. In other words, I think the book has character from a standpoint of its appearance. Its type is clear, and the paper is excellent. Had my printer done the job ... it would have been impeccable ... but I doubt if it would have so truly represented its text and its people. (FCP Archive B96 F3)

Letters left behind by Leonora illuminate aspects of her social life. Leonora and Babsie had a very close relationship and embarked on projects and travels together.

Letters to Leonora were often addressed to Leonoras Twain, Leonoras 2 or just Dearest Leonoras; reflecting her love of Spanish, Leonora even found herself addressed as Sra T. E. Curtin (FCP Archive B96 F23). Leonora was "dearest friends" with the Brown family and communicated with all its members, although particularly with Howell Brown (FPC Archive B96 F23 08/15/1934).

She travelled the world, including to China (FCP Archive B96 F23 06/23/1923). Also, she appears to have been a fiscal conservative despite assisting less fortunate relatives (even during her own difficulties) and neighbors and also believing that everybody is entitled to certain standards of living (FCP Archive B96 F23 02/18/1939; FCP Archive B96 F18; FCP Archive B96 F14).

many many thanks it was so kind of you to send me your usual Check I was trying not to use the money my sister left me for my burial things have gone up so I am sorry that you are having so much trouble with your Estate (Letter from Francena Briggs, FCP Archive B96 F19 10/01/1933)

Received your letter and the check, Many. Many. Thanks. I bought the children clothes with it as they can use them, will put them on our Xmas tree for them from you. (Letter from Santa Fe neighbor, FCP Archive B96 F14 12/23/1941)

The New Deal has squandered billions in deliberate drunken-sailor prodigality and concealment of facts and intent ... (Letter from Howell Brown, FCP Archive B96 F23 02/18/1939)

Your ideas about unemployment, + the absolute necessity of providing food + shelter, as well as clothes, for the unfortunate, + their families, are quite correct (Letter from Hal Burgess, FCP Archive B96 F25 12/19/1930)

The following letter from Hal Burgess provides incredible insight into the relationships between Mrs. Fenyes, Dr. Fenyes and Leonora at the time of Mrs. Fenyes' death. Also, Dr. Fenyes had apparently been excluded somehow from the will but perhaps was so ashamed of himself that he did not openly object.

I cannot imagine anything more cold blooded than the Dr's behavior, it was such a gratuitous affront to your mother's memory, as well as to both yourself + daughter. I had always thought of him as man of refinement + integrity, + not an insensate egotist. I am sorry my Dear -- it is infinitely the worst feature of the whole business, because so sordid + uncalled for. It is a very good thing the time in which he could confront the Will has elapsed. (FCP Archive B96 F25 12/19/1930)

In the following paragraph of the same letter, it is revealed that Mrs. Fenyes left Leonora her wealth and estates. Also, it is remarkable how candidly Leonora's male comrades spoke to her about politics and business; she was indeed considered a formidable power, if not at least a peer.

I wished we lived nearer, + could do something to help, if only to keep you cheerful. The Daughter was a very good, sensible girl to bundle you off to the hospital in the way she did, it at least gave you a much needed rest, + a quiet time in which to clean, + collect your thoughts, which is always such a blessing, please give her my best love + congratulations. It sees quite wise of you to "sit tight" + hold on to the various properties untill [sic] such time as business conditions improve, that, judging by our own experience, it would seem best to get rid of all real estate investments, + take up some form of good Bonds instead. (FCP Archive B96 F25 12/19/1930)

Life in New Mexico

In 1927, Leonora and Babsie designed and built an adobe-style home. In 1931, Leonora and Babsie established El Rancho de las Golondrinas (link) in La Cienega, New Mexico.

Leonora was concerned about Indian welfare and joined the Historic Santa Fe Foundation and the Spanish Colonial Arts Society. She also supported the Southwest Association on Indian Affairs and was a patron of the Santa Fe Community Theater. Leonora was elected an honorary member of the Board of Trustees of the Colonial New Mexico Historical Foundation.

The Fenyes Estate was donated to the Pasadena Historical Society (link) in 1970, after which Leonora lived during during the year at her adobe house, and during the winter with her daughter and son-in-law on their Carpinteria ranch. Leonora curtin died in 1972.

1927Leonora and Babsie designed and built an adobe-style home.
1931Leonora and Babsie established El Rancho de las Golondrinas (link) in La Cienega, New Mexico.
1930Mother, Eva Scott Muse Fenyes, died.
1970Fenyes Estate donated to Pasadena Historical Society (link).
1972Died, Santa Fe, NM, age 93.
1972 Jan 6Memorial services held at Episcopal Church of the Holy Faith in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Buried in Mt. View Cemetery, Altadena, next to her mother.

Leonora as World Traveler

Mr. Mrs. and Miss Thomas Curtin and their maid of Colorado Springs went to Castle Hot Springs Arizona Republican, 1911-02-23.