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July 3, 2007 > History


Wipfli Brothers Dairy

By Patricia Wipfli Schaffarczyk

Johann Wipfli was born January 5, 1863, the eighth child of 11 children to Franz and Anna Wipfli. He attended school in Switzerland through the 6th grade and came alone to the United States in 1880 at age 17. Johann worked on ranches in Berkeley and later at a ranch near Newark. On a return trip to Switzerland, John met Caroline Herger. They traveled to the United States together, married in New York in 1910 and made their first home in the Newark area. John Edwin, their first child, was born at the Centerville Maternity Ward in 1911.

John Sr. sold his business and moved his family to the Kottinger Ranch in Pleasanton. He managed the Hopyard Ranch for the next eight years during which Frank, Olga, Frieda and Bertha were born. John bought his first car, became a US citizen and almost died in the1918 flu epidemic. Because of weakness from his illness, he bought tickets to return to Switzerland but heard the old Brewer Ranch in Irvington was for sale. John returned the steamship tickets and prepared to move to Irvington.

The family moved into the ranch in 1920 and the sixth child, Walter Louis, was born in Irvington. The ranch was approximately 367 acres; another Swiss, Joe Schalbert bought a 48 acre corner plot at the same time. John started a dairy with 30 head of cattle. He was unable to work very much so he had partners in the business until his children were old enough to help.

The family ranch house had a kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and an outhouse. Kerosene lamps provided light at night and the family bathed in a wash tub brought into the kitchen. A windmill pumped water from a well to a water tank. Caroline washed clothes outside with a hand washer. Through the years, the house was remodeled to include a "modern" kitchen, a cellar, a wash kitchen and two more bedrooms. The youngest, Ernst, was born in 1926.

The depression years were difficult for the Wipfli family. They almost lost the ranch several times. In 1925 John Sr. sold 75 acres of the ranch to a businessman in San Jose named A.F. Brosius who built a duck pond and a duck club. In 1927 he borrowed money with his land as collateral. In 1931 John Sr. borrowed $3000 from Willis Brinker to pay feed bills. In the late 1930s the boys decided to lay off all the hired milkers and milk the cows themselves to hold on to the ranch.

There were many Swiss immigrants working in the dairies in the area in the 1930s and the older Wipfli children began looking for partners. They attended house parties, dances and events at Swiss Park after it opened in 1933.

Frank married Rosie Ann Bucher of Sunnyvale in 1937. Their children are Rosemary and Patricia. Frieda married William Nicholas Bauhofer in 1938. Their children are William, Carol (deceased), Linda and Mary. Bertha married Frank Vogt, a San Jose dairy operator in 1938. Their children are Frank (deceased), Daniel, James and Peter. Olga married Moritz Schnyder, a milker at the Mowry Dairy, in 1939 and they settled in Newark. Their children are Walter and John. John Jr. married Lily Bauhofer, Bill's sister, in 1939. They settled in Centerville. Their children are Thomas, Richard and Colleen. Walter married Bette Morgan of San Jose in 1948 and they settled in Irvington. Their children are Walter Jr., Robert and Stanley. Ernest (Ernie) married Vera Marks of San Lorenzo in 1951. They were married a short time when Ernie was killed in an automobile accident in Nov. 1952. Their children are Ernst Jr. and John (born after Ernie's death).

The Wipfli Brothers continued to operate the dairy, which became more financially solvent during and after WWII. By the early 1950s they milked six strings of thirty two cattle in each string and rotated the cattle out twice to accommodate the milking of 400 head of cattle. They delivered their milk to Berkeley Farms and Cloverdale Creamery for processing.

John Sr. died in 1944. Four years later the family ranch house burned down and Caroline moved to a new home on Cooks Road where Frank and Wally also built homes. Caroline lived there until she died in 1966. The Wipfli Brothers Dairy was sold in 1960 to make way for the new Nimitz Freeway. Marshal Park is where the main dairy buildings were located.

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