Post Card Photos of Coos County (1909-1914)

The Story of Will Kolm and Nellie Bernitt

In 1908 William Louis Kolm (1884-1956), a Nebraska native, went to work for the Coos Bay, Roseburg & Eastern Railroad and Navigation Company in Marshfield, Oregon. The railroad (CBR&E) ran 26 miles from Marshfield south to Coquille and Myrtle Point. The navigation part of the company was the Portland and Coos Bay Steamship Line which operated the coastal steamers Breakwater and Czarina. (Note that Marshfield changed its name to Coos Bay in 1944).

That same year Will met Nellie Frieda Bernitt (1883-1969), who was working as a clerk in a Marshfield dry goods store. Nellie was born in Marshfield and lived there with her parents, Edward William and Eliza Bernitt. Her father, Captain Bernitt, operated the scow Relief on Coos Bay, towing rafts of logs, crushed rock, and other materials.

By 1909, Will Kolm and Nellie Bernitt were spending a lot of time together. In September 1909, Will became CBR&E Railroad's station agent at Myrtle Point. Will and Nellie wrote postals (post cards) and letters to each other almost every day. Will left the railroad and moved back to Schuyler, Nebraska in February 1910. Their correspondence continued until they were married in Marshfield in June 1910. Both before and after their marriage, post cards were also sent to Will's family in Schuyler, Nebraska. Will saved many of the post cards for their photographs.

Will and Nellie lived in Schuyler, Nebraska for about two years where their first child, Leland Bernitt Kolm, was born in 1911. They moved back to Marshfield in 1912 and Will again worked for the CBR&E Railroad and its steamship line. Will's positions at different times were steamship agent at North Bend, station agent at Coquille and Myrtle Point, and railroad dispatcher in Marshfield. Their second child, Roger Edward Kolm, was born in Marshfield in 1915. The CBR&E became part of the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) in 1915 and the line from Eugene to Marshfield was opened in 1916. For a while Will was a baggage clerk on trains between Marshfield and Reedsport. The family moved to Beaver Hill (SP's coal mine town) in 1916 where Will operated the company store. They moved to Portland in 1917.

Some of their post cards, depicting scenes of the Coos Bay area, can be viewed through the links listed below.

Coos County Names mentioned: Mrs. Emma Klahn (Nellie's aunt), the Ploegers (Nellie's aunt and uncle), the Gurneys (Nellie's sister and brother-in-law), Miss Eva Cornwell, Miss Buell, H. Temple, Mr. Terry, Merritt (Terry?), Mrs. Joiner, Mrs. Fox, Mrs. Gebhart, C.J. Millis (general manager of the Coos Bay, Roseburg and Eastern Railroad and the Portland and Coos Bay Steamship Line), Harold Millis (C.J.'s son), and W.F. Miller (an agent for the steamship line at Marshfield).

Bernitt Family History

The Town of Marshfield (Coos Bay)

Ships and Shipwrecks

The Coos Bay Bar was (and is today) very treacherous. Many of the post cards showed shipwrecks.

Coos County Scenes

Photos of Will and Nellie (Bernitt) Kolm

Photograph of newlyweds Nellie Bernitt and William Kolm, June 1910

Photograph of Will and Nellie Kolm, late 1910

About the Coos Postal Collection

Will Kolm's collection of old post cards was saved by his son Leland Kolm. They were eventually passed down to his grandson Richard Kolm and great-granddaughter Peggy Kolm.

For more historical photographs of Coos Bay (and the rest of Oregon) see:
Salem Public Library Historic Photograph Database
Coos County Historical Museum
National Register of Historic Places for Coos County, Oregon

Page prepared by Peggy Kolm and Rich Kolm, March 1999.
Please e-mail any comments or inquiries to Peggy Kolm

Return to the Coos County GenWeb page

Last updated: September 2005