“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Cumberland Gap in Claiborne County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)

Russell Berkau 1867 - 1936

32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason

— Russell Berkau Memorial Park —

Russell Berkau Memorial Park Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Doda, July 27, 2020
1. Russell Berkau Memorial Park Marker
Russell Berkau Shops & Ford Dealership
Pinnacle Wagon Mfg. Co. (c. 1920)
Dr. Stone House On Right (c. 1890)

Russell Berkau Family
Paul, Kluck, Phil, Addie, Russell
247 Colwyn Ave (Mid 1930's)
Insets: Joanna, Addie (early 1920's)

Pinnacle Wagon Manufacturing Company
Pinnacle Wagons were manufactured in Cumberland Gap from 1907 until the 1940's. The original employees were: Marshal Whiteaker Foreman, Walter Essary - Wheels, Jim Burchett - Ironwork, Jim Croushorn - Bed, Russell Berkau - Painting.

Surviving Pinnacle Wagon
Owned by Bobby & Libby Harmon (Arthur, TN)
Passengers: Dallard Estep & Kluck Berkau
Driver: Ernie Douglas

Kluck Berkau with his son,
Gene Berkau, taken in a Pinnacle Wagon
in 1996

Cumberland Gap - Pass into History
Wagon to Ford - Sage Grass to Clover
With Middlesboro a thriving young mining center to her west and Lincoln Memorial University a young and promising seat of learning to her south and two railroads passing through her, Cumberland Gap was bound
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to attract attention. Anyway, that's what Russell Berkau thought when he came here from Kansas about 1902.

Mr. Berkau married a Miss Deane of Ewing, and in 1905 bought an old wagon works at Cumberland Gap.

Another wagon builder of Cumberland Gap was J.S. Whitaker, who has long been a prosperous and hardworking citizen of Cumberland Gap. When the time was ripe for-discarding that wagon and buggy, like Mr. Berkau, Mr. Whitaker gave up his trade for one more modern and more profitable. They both went into the automobile business.

Russell Berkau was the first Ford dealer in this section. In 1914 he placed an order for ten Fords. The new road across the mountain to Middlesboro had been completed in 1913-14. The man who made and sold wagons now said he must put that world aside. A rapid change was coming, and he was enterprising enough to see it. Many people predicted Russell Berkau to go broke. It was a venture, but it made him rich.

The ten cars soon went. The first car Mr. Berkau sold was to a man in Ewing. He also sold the first car that was sold in Tazewell.

The Payne Motor Company, which has been the vast distributing machine for Lizzies over this country, sold its first car through a sub contract received from Mr. Berkau.

Mr. Berkau was the pioneer distributor of fertilizer in this country.
Russell Berkau Memorial Park Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Doda, July 27, 2020
2. Russell Berkau Memorial Park Marker
One day while riding to Ewing, Va., with a native of this part, Mr. Berkau asked why the people didn't plow the old sage fields the he saw along the road. His companion answered that the land had been worn out a long time. Mr. Berkau knew what it needed. It needed fertilizer that contained the proper plant food constituents. He started talking this to people and that year, 1905, he bought and sold one 15-ton car of fertilizer. His fertilizers sales grew from that time until, by 1914, he was selling twenty to twenty-five cars a year.

Now many of the old fields that people thought were worn out are producing well, and often where twenty-five years ago you would see a crop of sage grass and saw briers you now see clover or RED (?) People have learned the value of crop rotation and correct fertilization.

The old pioneer wagon maker, land builder, Ford dealer, is now a hardware man in his little town. The Berkau Hardware Company is a well known firm hereabouts.

*Laura Dean died during childbirth on July 19, 1907. Russell later married Addie Lenore Thacker on October 6, 1907 whose home plaçe was located across from the shops at 601 PennlynAve.
*Berkau Hardware was located at 525 ColwynAve.
Erected by Berkau and Thacker Families.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic
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lists: Industry & CommerceParks & Recreational AreasRoads & Vehicles. A significant historical date for this entry is July 19, 1907.
Location. 36° 36.017′ N, 83° 40.067′ W. Marker is in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, in Claiborne County. Marker is at the intersection of Pennlyn Avenue and Brooklyn Street, on the right when traveling west on Pennlyn Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 601 Pennlyn Avenue, Cumberland Gap TN 37724, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Three States Cornerstone (within shouting distance of this marker); Iron Furnace (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line in Virginia); On Guard in Cumberland Gap (about 500 feet away in Virginia); Gateway to Kaintuck (about 500 feet away in Virginia); Hiking in the Gap (about 500 feet away in Virginia); Cumberland Gap (about 600 feet away); Warriors' Path (approx. 0.2 miles away in Virginia); Gap Cave (approx. 0.2 miles away in Virginia).
Credits. This page was last revised on January 21, 2022. It was originally submitted on December 11, 2020, by Craig Doda of Napoleon, Ohio. This page has been viewed 376 times since then and 45 times this year. Last updated on January 21, 2022, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on December 11, 2020, by Craig Doda of Napoleon, Ohio. • J. Makali Bruton was the editor who published this page.

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Jun. 8, 2023