The Story of Will Kolm & Nellie Bernitt

This web site is dedicated to the post cards sent between Will Kolm, Nellie Bernitt and their families. The earliest postals date to 1908 and 1909, when Will and Nellie were courting. There is also correspondence between Will and his family in Nebraska, both before and after his marriage to Nellie. Will saved many of the post cards for their photographs.

Will's Early Years

William Lewis Kolm was born on July 29, 1884 in Schuyler, Nebraska, the youngest son of Henry and Doris (Lüneburg) Kolm. As a young man he joined the Nebraska National Guard, receiving his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant on August 1, 1905. He may have first traveled to Oregon for coast artillery training exercises.

By August 1907, Will was living with his older sister Mary and her husband Sidney Tivey in Eugene, Oregon. Almost a year later, on June 3, 1908, Will received a telegram that changed his life.

From Marshfield, Ore. June 8, 1908. Will Kolm, care Sid Tivey. Eugene, Ore. Mr. Miller recommnds you for posiiton night watchman salary sixty dollars will you come at once answer. C.J. Millis.

Will went to work for the Coos Bay, Roseburg & Eastern Railroad and Navigation Company in Marshfield (now Coos Bay), 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.

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Will and Nellie Meet

Nellie Frieda Bernitt was born November 23, 1883 in Marshfield (now Coos Bay), Oregon, the daughter of Eduard Wilhelm & Elisa (Hilmers) Bernitt. Her father, Captain Bernitt, operated the scow Relief on Coos Bay, towing rafts of logs, crushed rock, and other materials.

Nellie was working in a dry goods store in Marshfield when she and Will met in the latter part of 1908. By early 1909, Will and Nellie were spending a lot of time together. In September 1909, Will became CBR&E Railroad's station agent at Myrtle Point, about 20 miles from Marshfield. 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 on June 22, 1910.

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Move to Schuyler and Return to Oregon

Immediately after their wedding, Will and Nellie headed back to Schuyler, stopping to visit Mary and Sid Tivey in Oregon. There they had their photo taken.

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 was also a 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.

The Kolms moved to Portland in 1917.

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