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The Reifel Estates
In Bern, Switzerland?

Collage of photos of Bern, Switzerland
Views of Bern, Switzerland

By Charles W. Niehaus, 1982

During World War II, a cousin of ours -- Dean Doenges -- was stationed in Italy in the U.S. military. He had heard from his family that much of the land Bern, Switzerland, was located on, was once "the Reifel Estates." The following are the remembrances of Dean Doenges in a letter to me dated January 20, 1982:

"The (Reifel) Estate in Switzerland is next. Sometime around 1912 or so -- I'm not sure of the year -- the Reifel Estate in Switzerland was up to be settled. It had to be cleared up by a certain time (7 years, I think) or it would all go back to the State. Dad's cousin, F. Arthur Hoover, had just graduated from Cincinnati University Law School and volunteered to do all the legal work free just for the experience.

"One of the things cousin Arthur had to do was get the signatures of all living relatives. This he achieved, except for one old gal who wouldn't sign nothing for any reason. She had to sign or die, and didn't do either before the time ran out.

"How big was it? I don't know, but cousin Arthur told my dad that it was 'so large' that if he could have completed the job and made distribution of the Estate, no Reifel would ever have to work ever, if they didn't want. Now that would be some kind of Estate!!!! And I understand a good part of it was in and around Bern, Switzerland. In fact, it included something over half of the city of Bern, Switzerland.

"I was in the Army during World War II, stationed in Basi, Italy, and had a chance to go to Switzerland after the War (September 1945). I did have a good trip around this most fascinating country, and when i got to Bern, I took out to see the city and I did. I talke to people, especially older people, and nearly everyone was familiar with the name Reifel. I would ask if they could point out any particular part of the city that was in the Estate. They would say, 'Nearly everything you look at was in the Estate at one time or another.' Well, that would be some kind of Estate."
Then on February 10, 1982, Dean's further recollections in a(nother) letter to me were as follows:
"My brother John (Doenges) and I were talking about the Estate in Switzerland. He agreed that, at least for the most part, the property was in Bern. Also, he said that our grandmother told him that the one person who would not sign the papers, or die, before the deadline date, was a man, and she referred to him as "Cooney" Reifel. He thinks it might have been a nickname rather than a real name. That was the first I heard that. For some reason I thought it was a woman. We were also wondering if Gordon or Norman Hoover might still have their Dad's records pertaining to his work on the Estate."

This, then, is the story circulated around some members of our family about "the Reifel Estates."

Pastoral view of Bern, Switzerland

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& Margaretha Reifel