Monday, March 14, 2011

Abraham Bagley

As I am often going on and on about ancestry and genealogy, I thought I’d share a little bit of my own. This is my maternal great-great-grandfather, Abraham Bagely.

Born on January 2, 1870, “Abe” Bagely came to the United States in 1889 from the “Munsterberg” settlement in Switzerland. Abe settled in Berne, Indiana where his uncle, Laban, started the first sawmill and was one of the founders of the first brick yard. In 1893 Abe married Bertha Clara Gilliom who was born in Hickory County Missouri. Her relative, Simon, owned a prominent lumber company in Berne.

Abraham Bagely became an architect, civil engineer, and builder after completing courses for such in the United States circa 1905. “About all the business blocks and residences built in Berne since that time that required the plans of an architect were drawn up by him and many of them were built by him, especially the business blocks……He has planned in all twenty-two churches, sixteen school houses, residences he doesn’t know how many, and Lincoln Hall of Bluffton, Ohio, College.”[1] He is attributed with the design and construction supervision of the First Mennonite Church in 1921 in Berne also, which is a well-known architectural treasure, and of which Abraham was a member. It is a large Gothic style church clad in brick which survives to this day, has been added onto, and has a large thriving congregation. It has seating for 2,000, a choir loft capacity of 175, and a clear-span design (meaning no interior columns).

As if he wasn’t busy enough, Abe started a company which manufactured cement blocks in 1903, today known as The Artificial Stone Co. In 1924 he became a United States citizen.

I was not one of those people who knew they wanted to become an architect since their childhood years but rather organically found my way to the profession. Once there however, it was somehow comforting to know that maybe it had been in my genes, or a part of my destiny, all along.

[1] Thirtieth Anniversary Souvenir Edition of the Witness, 1926


  1. Abraham Bagley was my great grandfather's Uncle and he also designed Moser Motor Sales in Berne Indiana. The building and business are solid, I am the 5th generation to work there. The church pictured is the one I attend.

  2. My mother is Michale Habegger, born and raised in Berne. Perhaps you know of the family?

  3. There are quite a few Habeggers, are these the ones of furniture fame? I don't know people back too far, I didn't even exist until '88. What year did your mother graduate HS?

    Did you know that poor A. Bagley met his demise in a Fort Wayne jail cell after getting involved in a saloon fight in Berne?

  4. I didn't come on the scene until '88 but my parents or grandparents might know of your mother. What year did she graduate High school? Are these the Habeggers of furniture fame? We have a good many Habeggers. Did you know that poor A. Bagely met his demise in a Fort Wayne jail cell after involving himself in a saloon fight in Berne?

  5. I did not! Wow. I didn't exist till '68, so that tells you my mother is older. But yes, the Habeggers of the furniture fame. Her sister married an Augsburger. They go to their class reunions every year and still visit Berne regularly.