Grover Cleveland Bergdoll Collection

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Collection Title: Grover Cleveland Bergdoll Collection

Collection Number: 185

Dates of Collection: 1921-1942

Box Numbers: 1 box, 14 folders

Repositiory: Chester County Historical Society

Language: English and German

Project Archivist: Shannon Steel

Biography:

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Biography: 

Grover Cleveland Bergdoll was born in the Bergdoll "Castle" in West Philadelphia on October 17, 1893; he was the third of five children. His father, millionaire Louis Bergdoll Jr., was a brewer and when he died in 1896, his wife Emma Bergdoll took over the brewery. As a youth Bergdoll and his brother Erwin enjoyed racing cars, which resulted in several speeding tickets. In 1911 Bergdoll was fined $350 for concealed weapons. In 1912 Bergdoll bought a Wright Brothers' airplane and terrorized the area with it; the airplane in now in the Franklin Institute. On July 20, 1917 Bergdoll received a notice to report for the draft and he disappeared. He was found hiding in the "castle" on January 7, 1920 and was sentenced to five years injail for draft evasion. Just two months later he escaped while leading military officials to an area in which he said he had buried gold. Erwin Bergdoll was also a draft dodger, but turned himself in in 1920 and served two years and ten months in Leavenworth.


Bergdoll made his was into Germany by way of Canada. While in Germany in 1921 he escaped from a kidnapping attempt and in 1923 he shot and killed another attempted kidnapper. In 1926 he entered a German sanitarium and married the gardener's daughter, Berta Francks in Russia. The couple had five children while in Germany; Alfred, Emma, Mina, Bubi, and Vega. In 1935 Berta arrived in the United States and pled for clemency for her husband. Bergdoll arrived back in the U.S. in 1939 and was court marshaled. After 19 years on the run, Bergdoll was sentenced to eight years in Fort Leavenworth for desertion and escape. While Bergdoll was in Fort
Leavenworth, Berta gave birth to their sixth child, Berta. Bergdoll was granted an early release in February of 1944 due to good behavior.


After his release, Bergdoll and his wife had their final child, Grover. The Bergdoll family lived on their Harmony Hill farm in Downingtown; however several years after he was released the family moved to the Richmond, Virginia area. Bergdoll died on January 27, 1966 at Westbrook Psychiatric Hospital of "chronic degenerative brain disease."


Resources Used:
CCHS Newspaper Clippings

Collection Scope:

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Collection Scope: 

The collection consists of personal letters from Bergdoll to his wife and correspondences between Bergdoll's former lawyers in Germany. There are copies of the letters in German and some of the letters are translated into English. The collection also contains legal documents concerning several cases in which Bergdoll was involved and one legal document pertaining to Erwin Bergdoll. A scrapbook of newspaper clippings about Bergdoll is also included. The years of the collection range between 1921 and 1942.

Collection Arrangement:

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Collection Arrangement: 

Arranged by date.

Related Material:

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Collection Contents:

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