Bergen, Minnesota

Welcome to Bergen

After a brief hiatus due to non-column related commitments, we are now back on track to start you on the tour of the German-named villages in Minnesota. We’ll start off with the first town on the list, which is more of a village than a town, but in any case it is worth a visit if one wants to take a small one mile detour off US Hwy. 71 going from Jackson north to Windom in southern Minnesota. Bergen is one of the smallest villages in Jackson County, yet it does have a unique history that is worth noting to the tourist. The village was founded by Norwegian immigrants in 1895 and became the center of dairy commerce in its own locality with the opening of the cremery in 1897. This meant that farmers in the northern and eastern part of the county could bring in their milk for processing and sale.  While it was in business for only 40 some years, the village became popular with the Bergen General Store, which started the same time as the cremery. It provided food and clothing to nearby farmers, and it later included a gas station and a post office. It was and still is to this day the only store in the village with a store-front window. It is still in business today as it now sells antiques and collectible items, something that would entice someone to turn off the main highway and stop in for a few minutes. After that, one can go across the county road going through the village heading north into Bergen Bar and Grill, a small tavern and restaurant that is a popular place for the 30+ inhabitants and nearby farmers to this day. While I have not been in there because it was closed at the time of my visit on a cold but blue December afternoon, one could imagine a nice meal with a glass of Grain Belt beer while sitting outside, talking to some friends, watching the cars pass by and having a nice view of the village and its small but noticeable stream meandering its way past the village to the south, Elm Creek.  That is- when it is in the summer time.

The Bergen Store: Photo taken in Dec. 2010

About a couple kilometers to the west of Bergen is the Bethany Lutheran Church, which can be seen from the highway looking west. While the brick building has existed since the late 1920s, the congregation was one of three in the locality that had existed since 1867, but eventually consolidated into one by 1920. The church still serves the village of Bergen and all points to the east to this day and provides one with a picturesque view of the landscape; especially along Elm Creek. Bergen is one of those forgotten villages that is tucked away in the valley where no one can see it. This is partly due to the fact that the main highway, US 71 was rerouted more than 60 years ago and what serves the village now are two county roads. However, follow the signs and head a couple kilometers down hill and you’ll see a village that is still intact and anchored with businesses one may never hear about unless you are told about it by some locals or you figure it out for yourself. In either case, this Norwegian town is one place that is worth a stop, even if it’s for a few minutes’ rest.

Bethany Lutheran Church: Photo taken in Dec., 2010

This leads to the first of many Richard Halliburton Geography Guessing Quizzes. A couple weeks ago, I posted a true and false question which stated: There is only one other Bergen in the world and that is the one in Norway.

The neighborhood of Bergen: Photo taken in Dec., 2010

If you answered false, you are right. There are 13 countries in the world where Bergen exists, apart from the most popular of them in Norway, which is the second largest city behind Oslo, with a population of 260,000 inhabitants. One can find a Bergen in Poland, Czech Republic, Canada, Belgium, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, and Canada, just to name some of the countries mentioned here. Interesting enough, one can find as many as 16 towns in Germany carrying the name Bergen. This includes five in Bavaria, two in Saxony and Lower Saxony respectively, and one near Frankfurt on the Main  in Hesse. The last one was the scene of the battle of Bergen, which took place between the French under Marshall de Contades and the Allies (British and the Kingdoms of Prussia and Brunswick) under Herzog Ferdinand on 13 April, 1759. Unfortunately, the Allies lost the war to the French but there would be many more battles to come as it was part of the 7-Year War between the French and the Allies. Bergen later merged with Enkheim and is now part of the city of Frankfurt with its main feature worth seeing being the Marktstrasse- with its typical old-fashion buildings- and the city hall. The Nazi Concentration Camp Bergen-Belsen, where Anne Frank died shortly before the British liberated the camp in 1945, was located near Bergen in the district of Celle in Lower Saxony. The largest of the 16 towns known in Germany is the one on the island of Rügen in Mecklenburg Pommerania. With the population of 23,000 inhabitants, it is one of the oldest in the state, dating as far back as 1232 when the Slavic tribes settled in the town on the island. After being conquered by the Danes, the Swedes, and the Prussians, Bergen became part of the German empire under Kaiser Wilhelm I when it unified in 1871, and despite being part of the German Democratic Republic during the Cold War, it is now part of Germany since 1990, together with the rest of the former East Germany. Much of its architecture dating back to 1200s exist today and it is one of the major stops enroute between Binz and Stralsund; especially thanks to the Stresalsund Bridge, which opened in 2004 to relieve the traffic congestion along the dam, located nearby.

Elm Creek south of Bergen: Photo taken in Dec., 2010

Bergen is one of the most popular used names for a town in the world. However, these towns vary in their history and population and they are worth visiting when you get a chance. While there is a theory that stated that Bergen is associated with the Norwegian or even Scandinavian culture and their influence, based on the historic background and in the case of Germany and the Benelux Region (Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands), the geographical location to their northern neighbors, more research is needed to confirm that the Scandinavians had their influence on the region, even though some of that is proven already; especially with the one in Minnesota.

RICHARD HALLIBURTON GUESSING QUIZ ON THE NEXT VILLAGE TO VISIT ON THE TOUR: NEW TRIER

Question 2. Which country sought to conquer the city of Trier (in Germany) many times and eventually suceeded? Please include the year it happened!

a. Poland

b. France

c. Denmark

d. Spain

e. None of the above

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

24 Comments

  • Kristin says:

    Hello!
    Brian and I once visited Trier about 10 years ago. Very cool city. It has been a city conquered a billion times over by various countries but it seems France held onto it the longest starting in the 1600′s if I am correct???

    Kristin

  • Brad says:

    How can you write an article about Bergen, MN without experiencing the Bergen Bar or even mentioning Bergen meats?

  • Pete Byam says:

    Ja sure you betcha! Bergen, Germany? I think not….try BERGEN, NORWAY. The Bergen Bar was built by Bennie Leverenz but the town was full of Norskies Holmans, Amundsons, Ingbritsons, Elness, Flatgards, Berges, Paulsons and etc.

    • Paul says:

      I didn’t know that Ben had the Bergen bar and grill but I knew him and his wife Berty or Birdy. Ben was one of my grandfathers best friends and Ben and my grandpa used to take me ice fishing with them. That was back in the early 1960′s. They have all been gone for years but what a nice couple, and what a forgotten gem Bergen Minnesota is! I wish they would have a big Syttende Mai celebration or parade it would be a fun thing to do with the family, my dad’s family lived right outside of town on a farm.

      • ilene says:

        Paul,
        You are so right. Bergen, Minnesota, is truly a gem. It’s too bad that it’s become such a ghost town. Bethany Lutheran Church still has an annual Norwegian fest. I think it’s in the fall. Since I no longer live there, I don’t really keep up with that. Please see my note to Pete and respond to that if you have any knowledge of those events. Thank you very much. ilenewls@aol.com

      • Douglas J. Leverenz says:

        Hello – I was aware that there was some kind of a celebration in Bergen – I think that it was held with something to do with the 100th Birthday or something like that. I did not make it to Bergen for that but heard that there were a lot of people that did turn out for that. When I lived there – 1940 – 1960, it was a quite thriving community and had an overall population of about 75 people. Now, I believe it is down to around 15. Back in the 1940′s and 1950′s, there was a Gas Station, Locker Plant, Bergen Store, County Shop, Blacksmith Shop, Creamery, Ice Cream Parlor, Lumber Yard, etc and there were many small farmers who were always coming to town (Village). The Bergen Fast Pitch Softball Team was also a very well known sport team, made of of local farmers, etc. who were always the best in the area. The 4H Organization was also fairly large with a lot of participation in the local and State Fairs. I should not forget the Johnson Livestock Organization, which handled the purchase and sale of cattle, pigs, etc. I should also mention that Bennie Leverenz had a Stockyard and Trucking Business in Bergen that is no longer there.

    • ilene says:

      Pete,
      It sounds as if you are a Bergen-lover. So am I. I’m an Ingbritson. Just this week I learned that my great, great, great, grandmother was murdered in Bergen. The year 1914. Her name was Sigrid Fredricksdaughter Rosseth Solem. Do you have any knowledge of that? Or of the dugout that she lived in when she first arrived from Norway? I’m told that it is on the boundary between the Borsgard-Flatgard properties and that it is still there. Thanks for your help. I’m amazed that nobody in my family has been told of this murder. Please contact me. ilenewls@aol.com

  • @Brad: Well Brad, perhaps you can add your two cents on the Bar and Meat store to add to the history. I mentioned a little bit about the bar, but if you want to chime in, be my guest. ;-)

    • ilene says:

      How long does my comment have to wait for moderation?

      • Not long. Just approved it. As much knowledge as I have on Bergen, let alone the county, the news of the murder is brand new. However, I’m sure that when others read the article they might shed some light on the subject. One can try the museum or library to see if they have something about that. Just a little advice. ;-)

  • You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

  • We stumbled over here from a different web address and thought I may as well check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to looking at your web page again.

  • Kellie says:

    It is sad that you wrote an article on Bergen, MN and didn’t even mention Bergen Meats which has been in operation since 1979 and has won both state and national awards for the products they sell.

  • ilene says:

    Jason,
    Thank you. I’m eager to see what kind of replies I receive.

  • ilene says:

    Brian,
    I love the photo of the Bergen sign. May I use it? I’ll give you photo credits.

    Thank you,
    Ilene

  • ilene says:

    Jason,
    Sorry, I meant Jason, not Brian.
    Mea culpa,
    Ilene

  • ilene says:

    Thank you Jason,
    I plan to write a book about my great great grandmother’s murder.
    Hope to use it in there.
    Wish me luck.
    Ilene

  • lyle e davis says:

    Many, many happy memories of Bergen.

    My cousin, and my best friend, Doug Leverenz was born, lived, and grew up in Bergen. I had been born in Windom but moved to Omaha when I was about three. My mom and Doug’s mom, Bernice, were twin sisters.

    When we would drive to Grandma Tollefson’s farm the first thing I would do is ring up on the old hand crank telephone (three long two short) to the Leverenz house in Bergen . . . then either Doug would come over to Grandma’s farm or we’d head to Bergen and we’d play our little hearts out.

    Many a day we would catch minnows in one of the irrigation ditches . . . we would play in the hay mow in the barn . . . swim in the stock tank . . . go fishing (can’t remember the name of the lake; more of a slough than a lake, close to Bergen. Hardly ever caught anything but skeeter bites).

    Today, it’s the place to go for the best steaks in the world. The Bergen Bar used to be known as Slattery’s. Just a pool hall and beer bar. Today, folks come from miles around for the superb steaks.

    The meat locker is located, I believe, in what used to be the Creamery. Doug would know better. We just ordered some special beef jerky from them. Doug ordered 4 lbs for himself and his kids; not knowing any better, I also ordered 4 lbs. There’s only me and my girl friend . . . so we’ll be eating beef jerky for some time to come.

    I knew the Flatgard family quite well . . . Leatrice is, I believe, retired from a Windom bank. Lost touch with David but I think Doug told me he became a pastor? Another sister, was it Diane? A red-head, as I recall. Have spent money at the Flatgard gas station, sodas, candies, as well as the Bergen store.

    To the right of the Bergen store is the old Leverenz house . . . I remember many days when Doug and I would go to visit Grandma Leverenz and she would give us “nectar” (which was really Kool-Aid.) Doug worshipped that woman. When she died it just tore him apart. He felt toward her as I felt toward my beloved Grandma Tollefson. They’ve both been dead for a good 50 years or so but not a month goes by but what pleasant thoughts and memories of Grandma Tollefson come racing back. I hope after I die that people think as much of me as I think of her. A special woman in a very special part of a very special state.

    Doug and I live about an hour apart now, out in California. He’s in the Long Beach area, I’m in Escondido, north of San Diego, where I publish a weekly newspaper.

    Thanks for stimulating some great memories.

    For such a small village, Bergen, Minnesota really holds a lot of very special memories for me.

  • Douglas J. Leverenz says:

    I enjoyed reading the article on Bergen, Minnesota as that is exactly where I grew up and would not trade that life for anything.There are a couple of comments under this that list Bennie Leverenz as building what is now the Berger Bar & Grill. Richard Leverenz was the person who had the building built and who owned it up until his death in 1964. He often, in his earlier days, was the official Bar Tender there. The building was rented out to several others, including Gorden Sommerland, Slatz Shultz, Verlon Hanson and maybe some others. They had teams of Whist Players from Bergen, Windom, Jackson, Lakefield, Kimball Corner, Alpha, etc and would move from town to town to play each other. I remember that they always had a lunch – usually Barbeque Sandwiches after the games. Some excellent Pool Players came out of Bergen also, with the best probably being Duane Sogge.

    Would also like to note that the Bergen Creamery, which is where Bergen Meats is now, used to make all of the Land of Lakes Butter that was shipped to the East Coast. I appreciate your writing this up and can surely understand that in the middle of Winter, you would not notice many places that were open.

    Ralph and Dick Elness were offered a Cities Service Station right outside of Bergen when they were building the re-route of Highway 71, but decided against it. Looking back, I would think that that would have turned out to be a good idea as the traffic pretty much died when the new Highway opened. During the building of the Highway, the Elness Brothers did have the contract to fix all of the tires for the equipment used to build the road. What work they were.

  • ilene says:

    Jason, I’ve given you photo credits for the photo of the Bergen sign. I was hopeful that it would make the cover because I loved the gorgeous blue color, but it didn’t. The cover photo now has Norwegian and American flags with a photo of Severin and Signe Holmen’s wedding which took place in 1908. They had 300 people at that wedding with a sit-down dinner. The photo on the cover is the entire group. Anyway, my book is published, printed and ready to order or download. The name of the book is “Murder in my Family” by Ilene Ingbritson Wilson. It can be ordered from Barnes and Noble or Amazon. My, what a journey this has been! It seems that I may have serial killers on both sides of my family. And Bergen is such a quiet place!
    I’m not sure if that web site is up and running yet but it should be shortly. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>