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Bickner offspring all played their parts in early Oswego

Boys formed the town's first family orchestra

SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Bickner family poses for a photo in 1894. Front row from left: Joseph Sr. and his wife, Victoria. Back row from left: Will, Lilly, John, Henry, Joe, Charlie and Mary.  Although the Bickners as a family played a major role in Oswego’s commerce in the early 1900s, the offspring of Joseph Sr. and Victoria also made significant individual contributions.

Mary, the oldest, taught school at the Grange Hall and was a principal at Oswego School.

Joe was one of the brothers who co-owned J. Bickner & Sons General Store on State Street. When the store was sold to Safeway in 1938, Joe

retired to pursue his interest in a gold mine in southern

Oregon. He married Carrie Wells.

Henry played the violin in the Bickner family orchestra. No information is available about his vocation or marital status, though.

William was also a co-owner of J. Bickner & Sons. He died in an automobile accident near McMinnville in 1931 when his car skidded in loose gravel and flipped over twice. His wife, the former Edna Kingkade, taught third and fourth grade in Oswego’s Grange Hall; she also led the drive to organize the Congregational Church located at Fourth Street and D Avenue, where the Lake Oswego Public Library is currently located. Will and Edna lived at the corner of Second Street and B Avenue.

John, another co-owner of J. Bickner & Sons, married Pearl Nida. He built their home on the two lots just north of the store in 1903. Originally, the house faced State Street. But in 1938, John repositioned the house to face B Avenue. John also built a Texaco station at the front of the two lots on State Street. He was also the second mayor of Oswego and president of Oswego State Bank.

Lillian loved canoeing on the lake and taught music for several years. Her home was on Evergreen Street. She was a charter member and past matron of the Waluga chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. She was also a past noble grand of Dena Rebekah Lodge. She never married.

Charles was the last of the co-owners of J. Bickner & Sons. After the store was sold, he and his family moved to Florida. Charles married Marie Jarisch in 1916. After Marie’s death in 1945, he married Agda Benson.SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Bickner boys family orchestra featured Will on coronet, Joe on trombone, Charles on bass viola and John and Henry on violins.

All five of the Bickner boys taught themselves to play musical instruments and formed Oswego’s first family orchestra. Sister Lillian served as the brothers’ pianist, but it’s not clear if she was also self-taught.

“From Our Vault” is written by Nancy Dunis for the Oswego Heritage Council, using materials she’s found in the council’s archives; look for it on the third Thursday of every month. Have something you’d like to add to the vault? Leave a message for Dunis at 503-635-6373 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..