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The Mystery of Carrie Birhl and the 115 lb. Ham

Hello and welcome to Bill’s History Corner, where we discuss all things Coppes. This week we are still looking at receipts from the treasure trove of company records. Sometimes we find things that make us scratch our heads and sometimes we find things that make us smile. This is one of those smile items.

I love it when we find personal items; when Frank, John, Albert, Daniel, or Charles did something that is not related to company business. For example, when Dan Zook wanted a speedometer for his fancy new car, he went to Kauffman’s in Nappanee; or if Frank wanted a new suite of clothing, where did he go to purchase it?

The receipts we found this week are for HAMS – yes, the kind of tasty hams that grow on pigs. It seems that the Coppes personelle liked ham. So far, we found ten receipts from the H. H. MYER Co. of Cincinnati, OHIO. H. H. Myers Co. is/was a meatpacking house. PARTRIDGE BRAND is the brand name of their line of products. Here is a postcard picture of the H. H. MYER Co.

The  1st receipt I want to show you, dated 8-31-1911, is addressed to Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. Nappanee, Ind. and is for 9 CANV 12 # (pounds) hams at a cost of $18.90.  I assume that is canned hams. We also have the B & O train freight receipt for this shipment which weighed 115 pounds. That’s a lot of ham. Were they planning a company party? Possibly a company picnic? Were they giving a ham to retirees?  Inquiring minds want to know.

The 2nd receipt I want to show is dated 9-15-1910 and addressed to C,Z & M Co. in, SYRACUSE, IND.  This order was for six “Burlap Partridge Hams” and one “Burlap Select Partridge Wide Bacon” at a cost of $16.25. This shipping crate weighed in at 100 pounds, as you can read on the B. & O. RR freight receipt. I’m thinking that the six Burlap Partridge Hams was a kind of smoked ham that did not need refrigeration.

If the Syracuse address is confusing you it is because of PICKWICK PARK on the lake. Several of the influential families of Nappanee, Including Frank, John & Daniel, had summer houses on the lake in Pickwick Park in Syracuse. So, this order was sent directly to Syracuse. How it was divided is unclear.

The 3rd receipt I want to show is like the others, this one is for 5 -12-pound HAMS. But someone has written on the receipt “Please pay this will find out how to divide”. This receipt is also addressed to C, Z & M Co. and at the SYRACUSE address.

The last Part of this story is this piece of paper. Sorry, it does not have a date and I cannot find a direct connection to any one of the H. H. MYER  receipts. So, there must be more order receipts somewhere. At first this paper looks like a bunch of jumbled up writing, but when connected with the receipts for hams from the H. H. Myer Co. it makes better sense.  

At some point, the company must have ordered 10 large hams and divided them between these 8 people. Carrie Birhl got 1- 11 1/2 # ham at a cost of $2.12, less .05 which was the share of the cost of freight. Who was Carrie Birhl? How was she connected to the company?

The other hams were divided among Irwin Coppes, J. D. Coppes, Frank Coppes, C. Mutschler, D. Zook, Marvin Coppes, and A. Mutschler. It appears that Frank Coppes got 3 hams, 2 @ 12 ½ # and one @ 10 ½ #. He also paid for that larger share or at least was charged for a larger amount. 

All this begs the question, what was the reason they purchased hams from a Cincinnati company instead of purchasing locally? Surely there were local butchers that could provide fresh meats, or was the purpose to purchase preserved meats that would not need refrigeration? As I said inquiring minds want to know. Boy, that is a lot of HAMS. I’m getting hungry for a nice ham sandwich. Thanks, be sure to come back next week, maybe we will find they purchased eggs from Cleveland. That was a joke. Hope it made you smile.

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Early Sawmill Labor Force

This week we are looking at a picture titled Coppes “Employees, Nappanee.” There isn’t a date printed on or associated with this photo. But just look at those smiling faces, someone must have just said a joke or else they are so cold they want to get the picture over with as soon as possible.


I think these 36 men represent the Coppes Bros. & Zook sawmill crew and the company’s teamsters. Around 1899, there were as many as 13-15 teamsters bringing wagon loads of logs to the mill in Nappanee. The Coppes Teamsters worked almost like what we would call “independent contractors” today. Each man oversaw the maintenance of the wagon or sled they used and the care of the horses in their charge. And by care, I mean feeding and watering morning and night and brushing and bedding down each horse each night. They also took care of things like having horseshoes replaced when they are lost or worn down. The company stable was the brick building to the east of Coppes Commons next to the parking lots. This is where the horses were housed, cared for and looked after.


The building that these men are in front of has the shiplap siding that was used on the sawmill buildings. I think this building is the 2nd sawmill building that was located behind the Coppes Commons buildings, south of Lincoln St. The log storage yard for this sawmill was where the parking lots are now located. That’s my reasoning for this group of men being the sawmill workers.

During times when there was an abundance of logs, the sawmill was operated 24 hours a day. Other times it cut back the schedule as needed. When the sawmill was working will, I would think a single log may take approx. 10-15 minutes to be cut into boards. 


Realistically there needed to be three crews working in and around the sawmill. One crew would be operating the mill itself, controlling the machinery and setting the carriage for each new cut. Another crew would be charged with bringing logs to the staging area where they can easily be rolled onto the carriage. This crew would need to keep up with the saw operators. In a 10-hour work shift, this crew may need to drag/haul/ push/pull as many as 40-50 or more logs from the storage yards, all the while being careful not to have a log roll over them. The third crew is the men that remove the cut boards and stack them in the yards for air drying. No forklifts for this crew, every green and heavy board was moved by hand. 


Notice how some of the men are dressed. Some with gloves, some with wide-brimmed hats (keeps the sawdust off their heads) and heavy shoes. Almost all have their shirts buttoned up to their necks if not their coat also. Was it the cold or were they just trying to keep the sawdust out? Whatever, it was hard tiring work, but this was also the business that the Coppes family of companies was built upon. For that we sayTHANK YOU and extend our gratitude to all former employees of the Coppes family of companies.

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Young & Widmoyer of Nappanee, IN

I’m guessing that most of today’s readers have never heard of this Nappanee Business. I know that I didn’t before we found this piece of paper. The YOUNG & WIDMOYER, DEALERS IN Fresh and Salted Meats, Sausages, Etc. was a butchering concern, supplying fresh and salted meats to the citizens of Nappanee.

tallow receipt

On Nov. 8th the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. purchased “Tallow for Fcty (factory) a @ $1.25”.

This receipt does not tell the amount of “Tallow” in this purchase, but my guess is a large amount, an amount as large as a barrel full of “Tallow”. My Dictionary says that tallow is animal fat, the hard-white fat rendered (to extract by heating), usually from cattle or sheep tissues and used especially in soap or lubricants.

I doubt that C, Z & M Co. was making soap, so using the tallow for a Lubricant is the logical conclusion. Line shaft bearings and machine bearings are some of the possible uses for tallow.

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Quality Control at Coppes Napanee in the 60’s

Welcome to Bill’s History Corner. Today’s Corner is written by guest writer, Dodie. Thanks for filling in.

Employee Monthly Progress Reports

Read the attached sample, how would you feel if you were being evaluated with this report?

employee evaluation

How would you like to have been a supervisor at Coppes, Inc. in 1964 and have to evaluate each of your subordinates on these five thought-provoking questions once a month?

Which of these five: Quality, Quantity, Human Supervision, Technical Supervision, Use of Equipment, would you regard as the number one priority or are they all equal importance?

This is a huge monthly observation for a Supervisor in every department.

So glad to see that the “Quality of employees work” section could have a “Normal number of mistakes” category, but sorry to see the fact that in the “Use of Company Supplies and Properties,” any employee could be marked as “Occasionally misuse tools, materials and machines. Sometimes careless”.

You should notice that the four different possible ratings in each section are not in descending order of workmanship. The supervisor needed to be very familiar with this “Progress Report”. Needing to do one of these reports for each employee every month would be a big job. We have found stacks of these “Monthly Reports” mixed in with employee records. I expect they intended to keep them all on file for the working span of each employee.

Coppes has a great reputation of providing perfect products and the employees have great pride in providing a quality product. 

*more information on Coppes Napanee and products being made today can be found on our New Kitchens & Restorations page.