The Durkheimers: From Jewish Pioneers to Oregon Merchants

The Durkheimers

Values Codes I – E – L – P


Kaufman Durkheimer


Kaufman Durkheimer was born in Baden, Germany in 1824.

He left Germany in 1824 to escape poverty and the draft, settling in Philadelphia.

In 1855, he married Caroline Steinheiser.


Along the way . . .

In 1862, drawn by word of a Gold Rush, the Durkheimers and their four children came by ship around the Horn.

They subsequently had three more children.


Portland, Oregon

Kaufman and Caroline Durkheimer arrived in Portland, Oregon.

They opened a second-hand furniture store and all the children went to work at an early age.

Kaufman was active in a variety of businesses, running a cigar, tobacco, and fruit stand, and working as an insurance agent.



Kaufman and Caroline Steinheiser had seven children.

Four of the boys were: Julius, Moses, Sam, and Sigmund.


Kaufman Durkheimer died in 1906.


Julius Durkheimer


Julius Durkheimer, son of Kaufman and Caroline Durkenheimer, was born in 1857.

He drove a horse-drawn express wagon after school each day in Portland, Oregon.

In 1878, he and two partners opened the firm of Kaufman, Haas, and Durkheimer, forwarding and commissioning merchants.

Julius subsequently opened The Red Front Storedealing in cattle, sheep, and grain, and another store in Prairie City.

In 1887, he opened another store in Canyon City.

That store prospered and Julius sent for his three brothers to help.

Moses Durkheimer, born in 1856, and Sam Durkheimer, born in1860, were placed in charge of the Prairie City store.

Sigmund, born in 1867, went to Canyon City to work with Julius.

Eventually, Julius opened yet another store in Burns, Oregon.

The Durkheimer Store in Burns, Oregon

The Durkheimer Store in Burns, Oregon


Julius Durkheimer served on the Burns School Board, in the Burns Volunteer Fire Department, and donated uniforms to the local band.

He was elected Mayor of Burns in 1895.

Wadhams Cheese


In 1896, Julius and his wife, Delia, moved to Portland. 

Delia Fried Durkheimer (courtesy of Celia Minkin)

Julius purchased an interest in Wadhams & Company, a wholesale grocery concern.

The Durkheimer family was associated with this firm for four generations, from 1896 to 1978.

Under the presidency of Julius and Delia’s son, Sylvan, Waldhams & Company became the Northwest Distributor of Olympia Beer.

Sylvan Durkheimer died in 1984. 

Dorothy Loewenson and Sylvan Durkheimer wedding, 1919 (courtesy of Celia Minkin)

Olympia Beer Tray

In 1899, Julius and Delia Durkheimer built a home in Portland that has been preserved as an Architectural Heritage Home.

The Durkheimer home in Portland, Oregon.

The Durkheimer home in Portland, Oregon.

Back: Leo Baruh; left to right: Sylvan Durkheimer, Olga, Julius Durkheimer, Delia Durkheimer (courtesy of Celia Minkin)

Gladys Sturman is curator for this Durkheimer Family exhibit.

Thanks to Rebecca Esau for correcting some family information.

Thanks to Celia Minkin for providing family photographs.