A Houston Family Business Legacy

A Little Piece of History by The Heritage Society

75th logo goldIn 1836, the new Republic of Texas needed to raise funds for their economically struggling young government. Immigration was encouraged through land grants, and a large group of Germans came to Texas between 1844 and 1847. Among this group of industrious German immigrants was John Bering, his wife Anna Margaret and their children who arrived in Texas in 1846. Although John died of yellow fever just two years later, his offspring would go on to found several thriving businesses in Houston.

A Houston Family Business Legacy JPG*The original copy of this blog post written by The Heritage Society.

Shortly after settling in Houston, John Bering’s sons, August (1827-1920) and Conrad (1830-1915), founded A. Bering and Bros., a lumber mill and retail lumber yard. According to an analysis of the industrial advantages of Houston published in 1898, lumber was “only second in importance to cotton. A moderate estimate of the lumber handled, sold and made up into house material by the dealers and mills of Houston would be about 100,000,000 feet.”

The Bering’s owned about 2,000 acres of land west of town, and the site of the saw mill was near the current location of Duchesne School. Lumber was plentiful and in high demand, making the Bering brothers quite successful.

Before the turn of the 20th century, Houston’s population was growing rapidly, causing an increase in the demand for housing. As the suburbs of Houston rapidly filled up with “tasteful homes for the masses,” two of Conrad and August’s nephews established C.L. & Theo Bering, Jr., Inc. (1870-1932), sold all sorts of products including mantels and tile, furniture, dishes, crockery and hardware. They would import items such as Haviland china sets from Limoges, France and then, stamp the store’s name next to the manufacturer.

Bering Letter 2013.4.1 (2)

By 1898, Conrad branched off with his son to open the Bering Manufacturing Company, “makers of sash, doors, blinds, rough and dressed lumber, etc.” The executive officers of the business were Conrad Bering, President; F.C. Bering, Secretary and Treasurer; A. Teichman, Manager and A.C. Bering (Conrad’s son), Assistant Manager. It was located on German Street, near Texas Western R.R. Depot and covered an area of four city blocks. It included machinery and carpentry departments, a warehouse, a boiler house, an office building, a shaving house and numerous lumber sheds. They employed more than 100 men and produced cypress doors, sashes and blinds, frames, tongued grooved lumber for exterior and interior finishes, brackets and mantels. Bering Manufacturing Co. was noted for “turning out work promptly and in the best manner.”

August’s son, Julius C. Bering (1864-1935), co-founded the Bering-Cortes Hardware Company in about 1885 with H.W. Cortes. The Iron Tradesman magazine’s profile of the company in April of 1918 described the business’s founders as having “enough ambition and energy to make up for their lack of finances.” Bering-Cortes sold everything from electrical and automotive supplies to sporting goods, agricultural tools, stoves and cutlery. Their “remarkable record of success” was due in large part to paying “close attention to every detail of the business.” After just five years, “These young men found themselves the owners of a prosperous and rapidly growing store.”

Many members of the Bering family lived in what was known as the “Bering Settlement” along Louisiana and Milam. The present-day residential neighborhood, Tanglewood, is located on the vast acreage once owned by the Berings. Today, Bering’s Hardware is a full-service department store for the home and is owned by the descendants of Conrad Bering.

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Berings.com

6102 Westheimer • 3900 Bissonnet • Houston, Texas • 1-800-237-4647

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