Additional research and data collection by Emma Williams
Catharine Elizabeth Von Falde was born in Osnabruck, Germany, on Sept. 1, 1828, and were it not for love she might have remained there her entire life.
In her own words, she "pledged her heart and her hand to a young tailor of her native village" but this tailor, John Gerhard D. Linnemann (born March 22, 1827), had ambitions of emigrating from what is now Germany to the United States. Nonetheless, he promised to send for her as soon as he had raised enough money to pay for her passage over the Atlantic. And he did.
Catharine Linneman is buried with her husband, John, in Gresham Pioneer Cemetery, lot 123.
In 1851, she traveled to New Orleans and sailed up the Mississippi to the tiny town of Shasta, Illinois, where John had set up shop as a tailor. The two were married almost immediately upon her arrival, and departed for Oregon as soon as conditions permitted, less than a year after Catharine’s arrival.
They began their journey from Illinois as part of a large wagon-and-mule train. However, many party members had to stay behind at settlements along the route due to insufficient planning and supplies, and the group slowly dwindled down to only the Linnemans, one other man, and two oxen. They had only a single cart to carry their goods the last leg of the trip, and their companion was slowly succumbing to illness.
Catharine walked the last 800 miles of the trail alongside the cart, even pulling the cart with her husband after the oxen died. By the time they reached The Dalles, "her skirt was hanging in strings from the brambles and sage brush of the trail."
Tragically, their companion passed away from illness within view of their destination, making the Linnemans the only two from their original party to reach the end of the trail. From there it was a comparatively quick journey by foot and steamboat to Portland.
John set up shop as the town's first tailor in a small home they acquired on Third Avenue. At that time, Portland’s population only numbered about four hundred, and since John was the only tailor, it didn’t take long before their address became a significant local landmark. His skill and charm quickly won him many friends, and he became a valued member of the community for more than just his tailoring. He became a supervisor and school director for the district, and he was active in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, being a founding member of the organization’s first lodge in Portland.
They became particularly close with their neighbors, the McLaughlins, who arrived in Portland by oxen-drawn cart a few years after them, in 1855. The couple had recently had a baby, Iona, who by some accounts was born on the trail. That winter, Mrs. McLaughlin fell ill and died. She passed away, leaving Mr. McLaughlin a widower. With the understanding that single fatherhood was an incredibly difficult prospect in a frontier town during that time, the Linnemans offered to take care of Iona as their own.
Perhaps it was their hard-won sympathy with the hardships of the trail that inspired them to adopt the newborn Iona, or perhaps it stemmed from Catherine's lifelong affinity for children – she watched after the children on their Oregon Trail expedition, and in her elder years, her home in Gresham became a favorite visiting place for neighborhood children, who affectionately referred to her as "Grandma Linnemann." She took as vigorously to parenting as every adventure before it, finding the young Iona's presence to be a "great comfort" around the house.
Catharine found life in their small home somewhat constricting. She loved to garden, which the size of their property left very little space for even if it hadn't also served as her husband's office, workshop and storefront. As white colonizers who arrived in Oregon between 1850 and 1853, the Linneman’s qualified for a free plot of land through the Oregon Donation Land Act. They were given 320 acres, which covers what is now 181st to 202nd avenues from Division to SW 31st streets. They built a small log cabin there, tended crops, and lived uneventfully in the countryside for many years.
John split his time between their home in the countryside and his shop in the city, an arrangement his wife seemed not to mind much, reflecting years later that "there was too much to do to take any time for self-pity."
Always quick to make friends, Catharine became close with the neighboring Giese family, who moved to the area about a year after them. Rather remarkably, Ernest and Elizabeth Giese claimed a donation plot next to the Linnemans’ home. Elizabeth tended a garden and looked after their children while Ernest made weekly journeys on foot to Portland – where, by all indications, he was the city's second tailor, after John himself.
From this odd little synchronicity blossomed a deep friendship between the two families. The two tailors would commute together to and from Portland when possible, and their wives had each other's company to help them through the arduous double duty of raising children and tending to their crops.
Over time, their husbands began to pitch in to help with the agricultural work, and full-time farming gradually became a sustainable mode of living for both families, eliminating the need for the long journey on foot to and from their places of business in the city. The two families settled into the rhythms of rural life. Catharine was more than happy to school her husband and her new neighbors in the finer points of animal husbandry and tending crops, as doing so lightened her own hands considerably. The two families largely farmed cooperatively, keeping their animals together and sharing at least some of their mutual yield.
Mr. Giese, Mr. Linneman, and Mrs. Giese passed away in 1891, 1892, and 1894 respectively (Mr. and Mrs. Giese are currently buried together at Gresham Pioneer Cemetery, as is their son, Percy Giese, who distinguished himself as one of the country's foremost hazelnut entrepreneurs).
Catharine’s most storied contributions to the civic life and history of Gresham came after the death of her husband, whom she outlived by nearly three decades. Catharine moved from the now-empty farm to the intersection of Powell Boulevard and Miller Street in Gresham, where she lived out the last 25 of her nearly 100 years. During this time she tended to her garden, entertained neighborhood children (for whom she was a fixture of the local treat economy), and contributed to the construction of both Gresham's Linneman Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church and its electric rail – including a stop on her old property, which became known as Linneman Junction