Andreas and Magdelana Von Bergen Dairy

Richard Roth and Madeline Benner fondly recall visiting their grandparent’s farm home in Garden Home in the 1930s and 40s. They would travel from their home on Mt. Tabor downtown and then by train out to Garden Home and then walk up Oleson to the farm. At that time, they opened the gate that kept the cows in and entered the farm down a lane east off of Oleson Road at about Miles Court. Andreas and Magdelana Von Bergen, the grandparents, were married Dec. 20, 1894 possibly in Garden Home and had three daughters, Elsie, Ida and Frieda. Ida (b. 1897) was Richard and Madeline’s mother. After the train was discontinued, they came out to Garden Home on the Blue Bus.Ida married Henry Roth in 1928 and they raised their family of four children in the Mt. Tabor area of Portland. Their children were Madeline (b.1929), Arnold (b.1931), Richard (b.1933) and Albert Leroy (b.1941).

The grandmother, Magdelana, was commonly called Maddie, pronounced “Mawdy” by the people. Andreas’ parents had also emigrated from Meiringen, Switzerland, a small village near the Bernese Alps in southern Switzerland. The parents and the two sons John and Andreas are thought to have come here together in order to get adjoining properties. Someone suggested that all of the Swiss dairies were related. The Andreas Von Bergen farm adjoined his brother John Von Bergen’s farm to the north. Andreas’ house is no longer there.

The Von Bergen property is shown on the 1927 Metsker map as Andrew (Andreas) Von Bergen. John Von Bergen had property just north of Andreas’. The 1936 Metsker map shows the Andreas Von Bergen property belonging to M. Von Bergen (Magdelana, his wife).

The Von Bergen Dairy probably began in about the 1890s and continued through the early 1930s. Andreas died in October, 1928 and Magdelana continued to live on the farm. A “type of cousin” Mike worked the farm. Uncle Bennie came in 1907 and worked on the farm. The dairy delivered fresh milk and milk products such as cheese to residents and other dairies.

Madeline was 4 years older than Richard and remembers more about staying with her Grandmother. Richard shared in recalling how he did sewer work on three houses on Miles Court in 1968. He went on to develop Roth Construction Company, run by his son today. Madeline was Executive Secretary for Western Wood Products Association for 27 years. They each had three children.

Their shared memories follow:

The Von Bergen family immigrated here from Meirngen, Switzerland along with a number of other dairy farmers who settled in this area. Ninety per-cent of all the dairies were Swiss. We believe that the farm was sold to the Hickmans of Hickman Lane in that same area. The family attended the Hillsdale Evangelical and Reformed Church up Vermont at Capitol Highway in Hillsdale which was for Swiss people. Other Von Bergens included cousin Caspar Baumgarten and Maddie’s sister Margaret. Ida’s children were Arnold, Richard, Leroy and Madeline Roth. Neither of Ida’s sisters, Elsie and Frieda,had children. Aunt Frieda graduated from Girl’s Polytechnic High School in Portland. Ida and Elsie did not go to high school.

Aunt Elsie always lived with Grandma and slept upstairs. She and Ida worked as cooks and governesses for rich lumber families.

The Von Bergen farm home in the 1920s and 30s was a big two-story house. I slept in a little room on the main floor when I visited. When I would stay overnight with Grandma, I would hear scary noises at night. Finally I learned that walnuts were put upstairs on the floor to dry and I was hearing mice chase the walnuts around. The family received the farm through a donation land claim. The house was fenced with tall slender wood pickets, the path leading to the front door. The back door was a “dutch door” so the upper or lower door could be opened independently. It had massive barn door-type hinges. The long path to the front porch was lined on both sides with Pheasant Eye narcissus, a lovely sight that so fascinated me.

Whenever Grandma was not out tending to the cow, the chickens, the flowers, the fruit in the orchard, or her large vegetable garden, she was in the kitchen cooking, canning, making jam or baking. I remember she had a large black stove for cooking and heat – she was always having to put in more pieces of wood to keep it going. Seems like everyone always congregated in the kitchen – hardly ever in the front parlor. She had a smaller-type table that had a thick marble top that was cold, and brother Arn and I loved to crawl about underneath.

The sink in the kitchen was large but rather shallow. There was no water spigot or hot/cold handles. To get water, one had to pump a large handle up and down and then the water came out of a round hole – cold, just like the outdoor pumps but this one was hooked to the edge of the sink. We city kids thought that was such a novelty!

Out back there was a chicken house. I shuddered at  the process of Grandma killing a chicken by chopping his head off on a stump and then contain the chicken in a sack. It was then doused in a bucket of hot water to loosen the feathers and then she’d go down to the basement to pull the feathers off. The innards were then removed and the chicken prepared for a delicious dinner.

Maddie taught me how to knit European style when I stayed overnight. So I never could knit right at knitting classes. I would also help feed the chickens. I would hang onto Grandma’s skirts, I was afraid and didn’t want to get pecked by those chickens. Grandmother’s hired man continued to milk the only cow left after Grandpa died. We would walk through Burroughs Woods to get to the mailbox up on Shattuck Road. The house had a pantry where Grandma kept a marshmallow tin that still had the wonderful smell. I loved to go in there and open the lid and sniff the smell. Grandma had a large round oak table and we would always have plain jello for dessert. It was served with very thick cream. She always had a dish of horehound candy sitting out.

Grandma had a big vegetable garden and many flowers. There was also an ancient orchard of fruit trees along Oleson Road. The girls had a dog named Mike. I had never seen crows in the Mt. Tabor area where I grew up and was surprised to see so many on the farm.  Grandma had red and green soap in the bathroom and that was quite unique. We begged Mama to have this exciting soap as we only had Ivory. Maddie had an old wall clock with a pendulum, a wedding gift to them.

I also remember going out in the open fields with Grandma and picking little white flowers, just the heads. A type of wild daisy, I think. She carried them home in her apron and dried them and then made them into Chamomile tea. She made this tea for us mixed with lemon juice and honey when we did not feel well. Her name for Chamomile was “Camilla” tea. To this day I love Chamomile tea and often make it for myself – both sick and well, and enjoy dear memories of Grandma.

In the late 1930s, our mother and Aunt Elsie would take the train to Portland and flirt with the motorman or conductor. They would wear lovely white dresses and big white hats. They also belonged to the Mazamas and hiked and climbed Mt. Hood. Very outdoorsy!

Grandpa drank, I think he drank too much. He did make wine. He died in 1928.

Our Swiss relatives were very precise about keeping track of everything, writing down every penney that was spent and the details of the farming such as the number of eggs and chickens.  We still have a special birthday book with all the relatives’ birthdays written in pen and ink, some in a Swiss language. The older relatives did not speak English and some tried to learn it from their children. Others continued their Swiss talk. They were all so very proud to be Americans!  And get their citizenship papers!

The Cadonaus had the Alpenrose dairy. Mr. Strohecker, another Swiss man, had a horse and wagon and was selling sundries and small items a farm family might need. Fred Meyer purchased the land for his store on Bertha/Beaverton from a Swiss farmer and friend of the family.

We know the farm was sold to the Hickmans. Our Dad, Henry, looked after the affairs and I remember them bringing $15 a month to pay off the purchase. I think the Hickmans had a filling station up near Capitol Highway.

Grandma moved to a rented house behind the Hillsdale Evangelical and Reformed Church on Capitol Highway. She later moved to 1409 N. Wheeler Street to take care of her TB infected sister, Margaret. Aunt Elsie also came along. Grandma died in 1945.

Oct 2010 interview with Richard Roth and Madeline Benner, written by Elaine Shreve. Some memoirs written by Madeline.

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