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Berne, Indiana
Muensterberg Plaza & Clock Tower
Muensterberg Plaza & Clock Tower
Flag of Berne, Indiana
Furniture Capital of Indiana
Location of Berne in Adams County, Indiana.
Location of Berne in Adams County, Indiana.
Country United States
State Indiana
County Adams
Township Monroe, Wabash
Founded 1852
Village plat recorded 1872
Incorporated (city) 1887
 • Total 2.33 sq mi (6.03 km2)
 • Land 2.31 sq mi (5.99 km2)
 • Water 0.01 sq mi (0.04 km2)
843 ft (257 m)
 • Total 4,173
 • Density 1,804.15/sq mi (696.69/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
46711, 46769
Area code 260
FIPS code 18-04888
GNIS ID 430849

Berne (English: [bɜːn]) is a city in Monroe and Wabash townships, Adams County, Indiana, United States, located 35 miles (56 km) south of Fort Wayne. The population was 4,173 at the 2020 Census. Berne is widely known for its Swiss heritage, architecture and culture, and for its status as the "Furniture Capital of Indiana." Bloomberg Businessweek rated Berne the 2nd "Best Place to Raise Your Kids" in Indiana in 2011.

Berne and the surrounding area have also become known for their large Amish population (the 5th largest Amish community in the USA), who speak Bernese German (a Swiss German dialect), as opposed to Pennsylvania Dutch.


Berne was settled in 1852 by Mennonite immigrants who came directly from Switzerland, and named the community for the capital of Switzerland. They began the chore of preparing for farming by clearing the land. However, farm markets were severely limited because of treacherous mud roads and distant trade centers. The advent of the railroad was soon to be the answer to the immigrant's prayers. When the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad laid plans to construct a rail line through Adams County, two farmers, the Hilty brothers, offered a proposition: they would donate land to the railroad in exchange for the building of a rail depot in the small community. The railroad companies agreed, and the farmers quickly plotted 10 building lots in anticipation of what was to come - more settlers. On Christmas Day, 1871, the first train arrived. This historical event marked the beginning of Berne, which was officially recorded as a community soon after. A post office was established in Berne in 1872.

A steady stream of Swiss and German people came into the area from that train, as did English-speaking migrants, some of whom became successful businessmen in the new community. They contributed immensely in the growth of Berne.

Berne, Indiana
Photo from Small Town Indiana photo survey.


Berne is located in northeastern Indiana at 40°39′29″N 84°57′15″W / 40.65806°N 84.95417°W / 40.65806; -84.95417 (40.658146, -84.954256).

According to the 2010 census, Berne has a total area of 2.08 square miles (5.39 km2), all land.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 544
1900 1,037 90.6%
1910 1,316 26.9%
1920 1,537 16.8%
1930 1,883 22.5%
1940 2,075 10.2%
1950 2,277 9.7%
1960 2,644 16.1%
1970 2,988 13.0%
1980 3,300 10.4%
1990 3,559 7.8%
2000 4,150 16.6%
2010 3,999 −3.6%
2020 4,173 4.4%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 3,999 people, 1,620 households, and 1,078 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,922.6 inhabitants per square mile (742.3/km2). There were 1,797 housing units at an average density of 863.9 per square mile (333.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.5% White, 0.5% African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 1.4% from other races, and 1.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.0% of the population.

There were 1,620 households, out of which 29.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.4% were married couples living together, 9.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 33.5% were non-families. 31.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.94.

The median age in the city was 42 years. 24.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.4% were from 25 to 44; 22.6% were from 45 to 64; and 24% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 46.1% male and 53.9% female.


Furniture Manufacturing

Gehrig Furniture (1877-1905)

Ulrich Gehrig (1825-1898), an 1852 Mennonite immigrant from Switzerland, opened the first furniture store in Berne in 1877, which was then carried on by his son Louis Gehrig (1870-1927) until 1905, "both of whom manufactured considerable of the furniture which they sold." Ulrich had previously been drafted during the American Civil War, serving as a Private in Co. I, 12th Indiana Infantry Regiment (December 1, 1864 - July 6, 1865). The Gehrig Furniture store was located on the southeast corner of Water & Behring Streets.

Dunbar Furniture Manufacturing Company (1919-1993)

Berne's national reputation for furniture manufacturing began with Leander Dunbar (1850-1934), a native of the Linn Grove area of Adams County. By 1882 Dunbar had left his father's farm to be a wagon and buggy-maker in Linn Grove. Following the invention of the automobile and Henry Ford's assembly line, Dunbar saw the writing on the wall and transitioned into furniture making (by 1916). Finally, in April 1919 the "Dunbar Furniture Manufacturing Company" was incorporated with a capital investment of $25,000 and Leander Dunbar and Homer Niederhauser (1886-1973) - also a Linn Grove native - as directors. It consisted of 23 employees working in a single room factory, with sales of $8,000 that first year. Within a few months (October 1919), Dunbar moved its headquarters to Berne to take advantage of its railroad line and highways. Within seven years (1926), Dunbar was operating a 36,000 sq. ft. facility with sales of $1.5 million - the largest upholstery plant in Indiana and the 4th largest in output in the country.

By 1931 Niederhauser had taken over as President, and was actively searching for a designer to update their line of furniture. He found one in Edward J. Wormley, who just happened to be job-hunting at the time due to the Depression (and who would become one of the top modernist designers of the century). Wormley accepted, and began designing furniture that made the Dunbar company internationally famous. At its height, Dunbar furniture made in Berne was in government buildings and embassies, museums, and on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (the conical swivel chairs). As a mark of its popularity, the critically acclaimed TV show Mad Men (set in the 1960s) references Dunbar furniture in Season 3, Episode 7 ("Seven Twenty Three" at about the 2:23 mark). Wormley continued to design furniture for Dunbar until his retirement in 1968. Following his retirement and the sale of the company to new owners, Dunbar fell on hard times, eventually ceasing operations in 1993. However, it had inspired and spawned a series of new furniture companies in Berne before it folded. Antique Dunbar furniture continues to be highly sought after today.

(In 2002 the Company's intellectual property was bought by a new corporation in North Carolina - DUNBAR Furniture, LLC - which has revived a few of Wormley's designs).

Berne Furniture Company (1925-2008)

Berne Furniture Company was incorporated on June 12, 1925 by Lawrence L. Yager, with Yager as the first President, Noah Luginbill as Secretary-Treasurer, and Alvin Neuenschwander as Business Manager. That first year they had 15 employees. By 1951 total annual sales exceeded $950,000. After several decades of success as family-owned, mid-priced furniture manufacturer, with a workforce that reached 125, Berne Furniture Company closed its doors in 2008.

Smith Brothers of Berne, Inc. (1926-Present)

"Homer Manufacturing Company" was incorporated on November 22, 1926 with Homer Niederhauser (1886-1973) as its first President (he was also President of Dunbar Furniture). "It began as a manufacturer of lower price point chairs to supplement the high-end furniture being produced by Dunbar in Berne." This chair factory was based in a 12,000 sq. ft. facility. After the company was purchased by brothers Orva "Orv" N. Smith (1890-1961) and Leslie "Les" B. Smith (1899-1969) in 1936, they renamed it "Smith Brothers Furniture Manufacturing Company" (November 23, 1936) and expanded its production into higher-end custom furniture. By 1951 total annual sales reached $1 million. When the Smith Brothers retired in 1960, they sold the company to Les' son-in-law, Carl Muselman and his brother Arthur "Art" Muselman. The Muselmans kept the company name but simplified it to "Smith Brothers of Berne, Inc." as of January 16, 1967. Due to Smith Brothers running into difficulty in the late '60s, the Muselman brothers brought in Fred A. Lehman as President in 1970 with a 50% ownership interest. Fred helped lead the company back to prosperity before stepping back in the mid-1980s to have his younger brother Steve W. Lehman take over as President. Smith Brothers currently employs over 525 people in a roughly 500,000 sq. ft. facility in Berne, producing over 2,100 upholstered pieces a week, with its products sold in over 30 states and Canada. For continuing to manufacture its furniture in Berne, Indiana instead of outsourcing its manufacturing to other countries, Smith Brothers was recognized with an appearance on the Discovery Channel show In View with Larry King in 2014. Smith Brothers is the only remaining company of the original "Big Three" furniture manufacturers in Berne.

Berne Post Office
Berne Post Office
First Bank of Berne
First Bank of Berne

Local Businesses

In terms of furniture stores, the City of Berne has the following:

  • Yager Furniture, Inc. (1910-Present) - Around 1883 Joel and Daniel Welty opened the "Welty Brothers" Furniture store in Berne. This business was sold several times between 1890-1910, finally landing in the hands of Eli C. Bierie and Lawrence L. Yager in 1910. These two men formally incorporated the business as "Bierie & Yager, Inc." on February 2, 1931. It was later renamed "Yager Furniture Company, Inc." on December 9, 1937. It remains family-owned to this day.
  • Habegger Furniture, Inc. (1938-Present) - The four Habegger brothers (Sylvan, Clinton, Arley - "Pete" and Milo - "Mike") incorporated "Habegger Furniture, Inc." on May 26, 1938, and opened their US-27 / High Street location on August 25th of that same year, where the store has remained ever since. Their business started as a small re-upholstery shop in a two-car garage. It remains family-owned to this day, and offers a large selection of local Smith Brothers furniture.
  • Clauser Furniture, Inc. (1949-Present) - Alfred E. "Tuck" Clauser (who worked at Dunbar for 25 years) and his friend Hobart "Hobie" Myers opened "Clauser & Myers Furniture" on Labor Day, 1949. Following Myers' untimely death in 1952, Clauser bought his share of the business, which was formally incorporated as "Clauser Furniture, Inc." on January 26, 1970. It remains family-owned to this day.
  • Bernhaus Furniture, Inc. (2003-Present) - Bob and Madelyn Wurster (née Clauser), along with sons Curt and Brad, incorporated "Berne Home Furnishings, Inc." on March 21, 2003. Shortly thereafter, the name was changed to "Bernhaus Furniture, Inc." They opened at their current location on US-27 in November 2003.

Outside of furniture, the City of Berne is home to many additional local businesses. These include:

  • Affolder Implement Sales, Inc. - tractor, farm and construction equipment dealer (since 1930).
  • Berne Ready Mix - producer of concrete, hard building supplies and precast products.
  • DRG, Inc. - having two main divisions: Annie's Publishing - based in Berne, and Strategic Fulfillment Group (SFG) - located in Big Sandy, TX.
  • Edelweiss, Inc. - florist.
  • E.P. Graphics, Inc. - commercial printer. Family-owned since 1925.
  • FCC (Adams), LLC - a manufacturer of automatic transmission clutches. It is a subsidiary of the Japanese company, FCC Co. Ltd., and serves automotive customers such as Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Honda R&D Co. and Ford.
  • Fear Powersports, LLC - off-road vehicle dealership.
  • First Bank of Berne - locally-owned and operated community bank, founded in 1891.
  • Habegger's Ace Hardware - hardware store that has been family-owned since 1956 (formerly "Habegger Building & Supply").
  • Key Fastener's Corporation - manufacturer of fasteners for the automotive industry.
  • Micromatic LLC - a designer and manufacturer of rotary actuators and automated assembly equipment.
  • Moser Motor Sales Inc. - founded in 1904, a family-owned Ford dealership since 1914 - the oldest in Indiana.
  • Poseidon Barge, Ltd. - a global supplier of portable sectional barges.

The "Berne Overall & Shirt Company," formed in 1915 by E.T. Haecker and his son Vilas Haecker, was later renamed "Berne Apparel Company" and moved to New Haven, and then Ossian in 2010. It pays homage to its legacy by continuing to use the Berne name and bear logo on its products (durable workwear).



K-12 public education in Berne is provided by South Adams Schools. South Adams Jr./Sr. High School shares its building with the Elementary and Middle Schools. Their mascot is the "Starfire."

Four area schools (former rivals) consolidated into "South Adams" just prior to the 1966-67 school year. They were the "Berne Bears", the "Geneva Cardinals", the "Hartford Gorillas", and the "Jefferson Indians." Though the consolidated school was located in Berne, as a compromise the school took a new name and mascot - "The South Adams Starfires" - ostensibly named after the first principal/superintendent's car (an "Oldsmobile Starfire").


The Berne Public Library, which opened its doors in 1935 and is currently located in the former city auditorium, serves the city of Berne. The library provides information services to all ages and holds over 60,000 titles, including print, digital, audio, and visual forms. The Heritage Room of the Berne Public Library contains local history and genealogical information.

Notable people

  • Mary Butcher - All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player.
  • The Dilley sextuplets - the USA's first surviving sextuplets.
  • Bob Dro (Berne HS '37) - who played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers and basketball on the Indianapolis Kautskys. From 1957 to 1976, he was an assistant athletic director at Indiana University.
  • Les Habegger (Berne HS '43) - former General Manager of the NBA's Seattle Supersonics (1983-85); prior to that was Assistant Coach during their 1979 NBA Championship season. From 1957-74 he head-coached the Seattle Pacific University Basketball team. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.
  • Peter Luginbill - early founder and settler of Berne.
  • Donald Neuen (Berne HS '52) - former Professor and Director of Choral Conducting & Choral Studies at UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music.
  • Dr. Richard R. Schrock - (born in Berne in 1945). Winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in the area of olefin metathesis, an organic synthesis technique. Formerly Professor of Chemistry at MIT (1975-2018) and currently the Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Riverside. Son of Noah J. Schrock (1911-1980) and Martha A. Habegger (1913-2008).
  • Dr. Ernie Steury - missionary doctor who established the Tenwek Hospital in Kenya.

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