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April 12, 2011 > History: Bergmann-Walton Families

History: Bergmann-Walton Families

Nicholas Bergmann migrated from Germany to New York in 1851. He came across the country to San Francisco, earning his way as a wheelwright workman for wagon trains. Two years later he brought his wife, Sophie, and their two small children to California. He noted the area's lack of quality wheeled vehicles and set about to fill the need.

Nicholas bought Peter Wessinger's blacksmith and wagon shop in 1860. Four years later he built an extensive establishment consisting of his carriage shop and a rambling two-story frame residence for his family. In his carriage shop he produced heavy wagons for farmers, light delivery vehicles for merchants, and buggies to meet demands of farmers and others.

The carriage house was a sturdy structure with a sign that read "N. Bergmann's Wagon Manufactory." An 1879 advertisement added the words "wagons, carriages, buggies, and Agricultural Implements on hand and made to order." He installed the Eureka Saloon in the corner of the building for the convenience of customers waiting for repairs to their equipment. We have no records of accidents of buggies driven by inebriated customers.

Nicholas was sometimes listed as a blacksmith in business directories. Nicholas and Sophia raised 12 children. The family became involved in the educational and social activities of the community. Miss E. L. (probably Edith) and Miss F. (probably Florence) were cast members in an entertainment given by the Mission San Jose Congregational Church in 1889.

Theo Bergmann was living in Skagway, Alaska in 1890 during the gold rush days. He wrote a letter addressed to "Mother and Sister." He was working long hours and Sundays in a blacksmith shop. His boss called him "Bert." Theo mentions several family members and friends in his letter.

Florence, one of the Bergmann daughters, married William Walton, a prominent Centerville resident, creating a relationship between the Bergmann and Walton families. William was born in Centerville in 1868. He followed his father's profession as a blacksmith but was also an auctioneer, a veterinarian and a farmer. He owned a home with a large orchard north of Centerville on the road to Alvarado. He is often recognized as Centerville's first fire chief. William loved race horses and owned a sorrel stallion named Rustler. He entered his horse in trotting races at the Carter race track near Irvington in 1889. An estimated crowd of 1,000 people came to watch some of these races.

Son, Allan, was born in 1901. At a young age he decided to be a pharmacist. He worked his way through school milking cows, delivering milk, assisting a plumber, earning a dollar a day at his uncle's drug store and driving stage when he was old enough. Allan graduated from the University of California School of Pharmacy in San Francisco in 1925 and acquired his first drug store, Waltons Pharmacy, in Centerville in 1934. He operated this business and one in Niles for many years. He married Josephine Gerken of Reedsburg, Wisconsin in 1932. Allan was very involved in community enterprises and was a leader of many community organizations and efforts including town meetings that led to the incorporation of the City of Fremont. He freely shared his knowledge of business, governing, raising funds and had a wall full of awards for his service.

Josephine was a founder of the Pink Ladies at Washington Hospital and a faithful worker there. She also was a director of Blood Bank drives and served many women's community service groups. Josephine and Allan made a good team and were leaders and tireless workers on many community projects. By 1965 they had retired to a new house on Mill Creek Road not far from the Mission Church and the site of the Bergmann carriage house.

John Sandoval wrote in 1965 that Allan Walton was the long-time proprietor of his Centerville drug store and a leader of his time. His mother, Florence Bergmann, was the daughter of Nicholas and Sophie and had been born in Mission San Jose. Florence and her sister, Edith, were honored guests at the 1947 celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of Mission San Jose.

Other Mission San Jose business featured in the 1879 advertisement included the Washington Hotel run by Stephen Murphy, who also was proprietor of the Washington and Mission San Jose Stage Line. H. Friermuth was owner of the local Plumbing and Gas Fitting Business and did copper, tin and sheet metal work.

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