Heilner, Sigmund, 1834-1917
- Existence: 1834 - 1917
Sigmund Heilner (1834-1917) was a German Jewish immigrant and an entrepreneur.
Sigmund Heilner was born on August 13, 1834. Sigmund Heilner was the second son born to parents Aron and Magdalene Heilner in Urspringen, Germany. Aron Heilner believed that Sigmund would be the one to go to America and extract the Heilner family out of poverty. At the age of 19 Sigmund left to travel to America and eventually meet up with his older brother Seligmann who was already there. Sigmund set sail to America in July of 1853. Shortly after arriving in New York City, Sigmund moved to Washington, D.C where he worked until his brother Seligmann was able to send Sigmund $200.00, the amount needed to make the journey to the West coast. Sigmund boarded a steamship travelling a route that took him around the tip of South America, Cape Horn, and into the port of San Francisco where he proceeded directly onto Crescent City, California to meet Seligmann.
The two brothers worked hard to send money back to their family in Germany. Sigmund quickly learned that selling goods to the miners was more advantageous than standing in cold creeks prospecting for gold. Sigmund immediately settled in Browntown, Oregon where he opened a small store. Retailing became the main thrust of his business life. In 1860, Sigmund briefly entered the freight forwarding business in Crescent City. As goods began to be delayed and hard to forward due to winter storms at sea, the business began to fall. In December 1860, Sigmund abandoned the trade and returned to his store in Browntown. In 1865 Seligmann and Sigmund bought a gold mine in Jackson County, Oregon (now Oakland, CA). However by February 18, 1867 the mine had completely failed and resulted in the brothers declaring bankruptcy. Sigmund began peddling and selling goods along with his own paintings. He then went to Portland, Oregon where he worked for the Alaska Fur company. Shortly after, he moved to Brooklyn, California where he put together the means to build a little store which later burned down. For a brief time Sigmund returned to Germany to see if there was a place for him there. However, Sigmund quickly learned that like Seligmann, the brothers did not want to share their business, the very businesses Sigmund and Seligmann had, in great part, funded. In addition, Sigmund realized that he was now accustomed to the unrestricted life of America and after a month returned to Portland. Sigmund met Clara Neuberger in Portland and were married on June 14, 1874.
In 1872 Sigmund and his brother Seligmann reunited to build a stone store in Sparta, Oregon. The two brothers, once again, sold goods and supplies to miners. In 1876 Sigmund left the Sparta store to Seligmann and Clara and Sigmund moved to Baker City, Oregon. It was there where Sigmund and Clara settled. Sigmund opened one of Baker’s first stores and became a generous means of support for his family. In addition to operating his retail business, Sigmund became heavily involved in real estate, buying and selling extensive property in the town and county of Baker. He became the Baker banker. In addition, he was a State insurance agent, rancher, owner of Mammoth mine, built and owned the Baker theater, a fine artist, owned and ran timberland. He was elected mayor of Baker. Sigmund and Clara together had four children, Jesse Seligmann Heilner (1875), Joseph Jacob Heilner (1877), Mildred Heilner (1879), and Sanford Heilner (1883). Although Sigmund died on September 7, 1917, his success was passed on to his children as his son and two nephews continued running the Heilner store.
Citation:UPB files, August 2012 (born August, 13, 1834, immigrant to US, entrepreneur, at 19 went to America to meet up with brother Seligmann; took steamship from D.C to California to meet brother; saved money to send to family in Germany; sold goods and supplies to miners; entered freight forwarding business; returned to selling goods to miners; bought gold mine; gold mine failed; married to Clara Neuberger in 1874; built store in Sparta, Oregon; Moved and opened store in Baker City, Oregon; became heavily involved in Baker City, Oregon; had 4 children; elected mayor of Baker, Oregon; died September 7, 1917)
Jewish Museum of the American West, via WWW, May 1, 2021 (Sigmund Aron Heilner & Family; pioneer Jewish merchant in Oregon; born in 1834 in Urspringen, Bavaria, Germany; came to United States in 1853; joined brother Seligmann in Crescent City, California; operated dry goods store until early 1860s; set up mercantile store and banking business under the name E.D. Cohn & Co. in Sparta, Union County, Oregon in 1872; settled in Baker City, Oregon; established Heilner's Department Store) http://www.jmaw.org/heilner-jewish-oregon/
Found in 7 Collections and/or Records:
Materials include personal letters written between American family members and associates. Also includes documents interwoven throughout the letters that give context to the subjects discussed, such as photocopies of documents from other series, clippings and articles, and books about Baker City, Oregon. Materials date from approximately 1860 to 2009.
Sanford Joseph Heilner and Claire Heilner Freedman historical background on Heilner family, approximately 1813-2010
Materials include photographs, maps, genealogy, and other collected documents and publications, including written historical narrative on Germany and the family of Aron Heilner. Dated from approximately 1813 to 2009.