A Virtual Walk Through Jacksonville History

Stop 7: John and Amanda Bilger House

 

Let’s head over to 540 Blackstone Alley, the site of the beautiful Bilger House. This is a private residence, so we’ll be sure to respect the privacy of the current occupants. You might say they won’t even know we’re here.

Amanda and John Bilger. Photo credit: Historic Jacksonville, Inc.

As you can see from the photographs, this home is a two-story of brick construction, one of the first brick private homes in Jacksonville, and was completed about 1863 by Patrick Fehley and our old friend, David Linn. It displays features of the Federalist style, with its rectangular floor plan and symmetrical design.

Photo credit: “A Walk Through Time Walking Tour of Historic Jacksonville Oregon,”
Evans, Gail E.H., photograph by Francis Seufert

Photo credit: https://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMJTJM_John_Bilger_House_Jacksonville_Historic_District_Jacksonville_Oregon

John (Johannes) Bilger was born in Trossingen, Aperant Tuttingen, Wurttenburg, Germany on July 31, 1831. He arrived in Jacksonville no later than 1856 where he married fellow German immigrant Amanda Scheck in 1861. Jacksonville’s semi-weekly Gazette noted that construction of their home started that same year.

Bilger operated a successful tin shop (primarily plate and sheet iron products) in partnership with John Love on California Street near Third. When Love died in 1867 from tuberculosis, Bilger continued with the business, expanding his line of goods into hardware and farming implements.   By 1868, Bilger had an annual reported income of $1,000, making him the wealthiest resident of Jacksonville. By 1877, Bilger’s annual income was over $24,000, second in Jackson County only to that of R.B. Hargadine.  

As the owner of one of the primary hardware stores in town, Bilger was the source of materials and fittings for county projects going back to at least 1863, including bridges, the courthouse, jail, judges’ offices, the pest house, and more. His name appears as a payee in the County Commissioner’s records up until the time of his death. Bilger also had mining interests, holding shares in both the Timber Gulch and Shively Gulch quartz claims.

John Bilger. Photo Credit: Southern Oregon Historical Society

In addition to being a government supplier, Bilger held government posts. In 1863, he was elected Street Commissioner. He was Jackson County Treasurer from 1872 to 1874, a position in which he earned $150 every three months.  In 1873, he was appointed the first postmaster of Brownsboro, an unincorporated community along Little Butte Creek about four miles east of Eagle Point.

Bilger died suddenly in the cholera epidemic of 1877 at the age of 46.   With eight children to support, Amanda took over the hardware store and renamed it “Pioneer Hardware.” In 1881 she partnered with Aaron Maegly and the shop became “Bilger and Maegly.”   This shop was considered one of the three leading manufacturers of agricultural machinery and implements in Jacksonville.   The firm of Bilger and Maegly was dissolved by mutual consent in July of 1885, with Maegly taking over the business.

Amanda died on June 8, 1926. John and Amanda Bilger, three of their eight children, and a daughter-in-law are buried in the Jacksonville Cemetery. As a member of both the Masons and the Odd Fellows, the Italian marble obelisk that marks their graves bears both the Masonic ruler and compass and the Odd Fellows linked circles. The hand pointing upward anticipates the Bilgers’ heavenly reward, and the draped urn at the top is believed to symbolize the soul having departed its shrouded body.

Bilger family plot, Jacksonville Cemetery. Photo credit: : Carolyn Kingsnorth

Join us next week when we visit the Benjamin Franklin Dowell House!

 


Sources and References:

Oregon Sentinel, 26 Sept. 1877, pp. 2–2.

Knight, W. H. Hand-Book Almanac for the Pacific States: an Official Register and Business Directory … H.H. Bancroft, 1864.

State of Oregon Inventory of Historic Properties, John Bilger House. Evans, Gail E. H. (March 1980) and Beckham, Stephen Dow (August 1976)

Carolyn, Kingsnorth. “Bilger House.”

Meunier, Anna, and Sarah Flora. Growing Oregon.

Evans, Gail E.H. A Walk Through Time.

Powell, Kimberly. Learn the Meanings and See Photos of Common Tombstone Symbols. www.thoughtco.com/photo-gallery-of-cemetery-symbolism-4123061.

 

 

 


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