Charles Clever: New Mexico Business and Legal Pioneer

Charles P. Clever

Values Codes E – L – P

Charles Clever of New Mexico

Charles Clever of New Mexico


Charles Clever was born in Cologne, Prussia in 1830.

In 1849, Clever arrived in the United States.

In 1854, he was naturalized as an American citizen.


Along the way . . . 

In 1850, Charles Clever journeyed to New Mexico Territory.

He worked as a bookkeeper for Eugene Leitensdorfer, a Santa Fe trader who owned a store with his brother and Jacob Houghton.

In 1854, Clever entered into a partnership with Sigmund Seligman. The partnership lasted until 1861.

Clever worked in purchasing and merchandising.

In 1856, Sigmund Seligman’s brother, Bernard, joined the Seligman & Clever firm.

Sometime prior to 1861, the firm’s name changed to Seligman Brothers.

While working for this firm, Charles Clever studied English and Spanish as well as law and politics.

From 1858-1863, Clever was also part owner of the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, win which he wrote articles on legal matters.

In 1863, Charles Clever joined Sigmund Seligman and Gustave Elsberg as a charter member of the Bank of New Mexico.



In 1852, Charles Clever was appointed Acting Sheriff of New Mexico Territory

In 1858, he was appointed United States Marshal.

Charles Clever passed the bar in 1861.

He was reappointed U.S. Marshal and Census Enumerator.

From 1861 to 1865, Clever held the position of Adjutant General for Governor Henry Connelly.

Clever served as Attorney General from 1862 to 1867.

In 1867, as Attorney General, Clever issued Order Number Five to protect Veterans from swindlers who schemed to acquire their pensions.

He published the Order in Spanish, as the Spanish-speaking Veterans were the primary victims of fraud.

In 1867, Charles Clever won the election for Territorial Delegate to the Forty-first Congress.

However, the election was contested by the Republican candidate and, two years later, in 1869, J. Francisco Chaves took over the congressional seat in Washington D.C.

During his political career, Clever converted to Catholicism and also dropped ties to his German heritage, telling people that he was of Spanish descent.

J. Francisco Chaves used this religious affiliation to discredit him and his claim to the delegate’s seat.

Other people criticized Charles Clever, not for his conversion, but for the fact that he hid his original Jewish heritage.

In 1869, Clever served as an incorporator of the Centennial Exposition.

Also in 1869, he showed his generous character when he donated $1,000 to the St. Francis Cathedral building fund, the third largest contribution to this Santa Fe endeavor.

Charles Clever also helped revise and codify the laws of New Mexico.

St. Francis Cathedral,heavily funded by the early Jewish Merchant Families of Santa Fe.

St. Francis Cathedral, largely funded by the early Jewish Merchant Families of Santa Fe.

Charles Clever died in 1874 in Tome, Valencia County, New Mexico.

He is interred in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.



  • Floyd S. Fierman, “The Frontier Career of Charles Clever, New Mexico Territory, 1830-1874,” Western States Jewish History 35/1.

Samantha Silver is the curator for this Charles Clever exhibit.