ETCETERA - ‘Hamburger' has direct ties to Walla Walla


In 1882, a group of 16 German families from Russia arrived in Washington Territory, according to information I gleaned on the North Dakota State University Libraries Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.

Their historical migration aims to one root of the word hamburger and its ties to Walla Walla. I've happily trotted out variations on this tale several times as another reader discovers its local connection.

In this case, an unattributed item appeared on my desk that says " ... in 1889 a hamburger (named after the German city of Hamburg) was first offered at a restaurant in Walla Walla, Washington."

The ground meat patty we're familiar appears to go back to nomadic Tatars who roamed the Russian steppes in the 13th and 14th centuries, according to . Over time, their recipe of ground meat mixed with spices and eaten raw, made its way across Europe and to Hamburg, Germany, ergo Hamburg steak and steak tartare.

Some of those Germans moved to Russia at the invitation of Tsarina Catherine, but that was an utter disaster for the settlers in every imaginable way - a story unto itself. Many of those Germans then immigrated to North America in search of the jobs, food, housing, work and education unavailable in Russia.

Some of them traveled by rail from North Platte, Neb., to Ogden, Utah, where they formed a train of 40 wagons and followed the Oregon Trail to Walla Walla, reports.

Arriving here in late summer 1882, the families included surnames Amen, Bastrom, Bauer, Dewald, Kranzler, Kembel, Kiehn, Michel, Miller, Oestreich, Rosenoff, Shaefer, Schoessler, Thiel, Wagner and Wolsborn.

Some of the settlers moved on to Ritzville, Wash., in spring 1883. The website adds that by 1891 all original wagon train members moved to Ritzville.

An annual reunion of the descendants of the wagon train is held there on Memorial Day weekend. Occasionally some of the Harting/Hardung family, who have ties to Russia and Germany, hold reunions here at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds.

Well, enough of the pioneers and more about the gastronomic contribution attributed to their German roots.

Podcaster Charles Hodgson on Sept. 13, 2006, said on Podictionary at, (a podcast for word lovers), that the word du jour was "hamburger."

"When the word hamburger first appeared in English no one was firing up their grills or slicing tomatoes or pickles; Shakespeare was on his deathbed; and the word was spelled the way you might expect Inspector Clouseau to pronounce it in the Pink Panther. The word at first didn't refer to a patty of ground meat, but to a person who came from the German town of Hamburg," Charles said.

"Evidently German immigrants to America brought along this favorite of theirs. It is a little unclear if at first this was a sausage or if the meat was ground or simply tenderized or if additional spicing was also part of the mix. Whatever the case, the resulting serving was called Hamburg Steak, then Hamburger Steak."

These sources say the first English citation of the word hamburger comes from our own Jan. 5, 1889, Walla Walla Union newspaper, Hodgson added.

I dispute the date, however, because a week ago I pored over the tiny print in the Jan. 5, 1889, Walla Walla Union via the microfilm at Whitman College's Penrose Library until my eyes were bleary. The reference wasn't in that issue. I looked at Jan. 7 and finally - eureka! - found it in the Jan. 4 issue. I had to wade through "The Barbary Coast, Pen Pictures by a ‘Union' Scribe" column on Page 1 to find the reference. Said scribe cruised in and out of the saloons on Main Street to acquaint more refined Union readers with the seedier side of Walla Walla's downtown.

My editor, Rick Doyle, likened the Scribe's writing style to that of a folksy Mark Twain.

The hamburger reference Scribe makes is while in an unidentified "cheap restaurant ... The waiter approaches you with an expression of countenance which betrays an experience with a cold and unsympathetic woeld (and I can't find a definition for this word, a'tall. Perhaps the scribe meant mien or demeanor). "You are asked if you will have "pork chop, beefsteak, hamandeggs (sic) sausage hamburger steakor (sic) liver and bacon."

The said the Tatars' chopped meat mixed with spices became known in the German town of Hamburg as beefsteak tartare, uncooked ground beef served with onions and spices." This website also attributes the term "hamburger steak" as first showing up in the Walla Walla Union on Jan. 5, 1889. Washington became the 42nd state in the union later that year on Nov. 11.

"The steak was soon dropped but it wasn't until the 1930s that the word cheeseburger appeared and by 1939 hamburger had been shortened to burger," courtesy of Dr. Goodword himself at . notes in its history of the word that "The large numbers of Germans who migrated to North America during this time probably brought the dish and its name along with them. The entre may have appeared on an American menu as early as 1836, although the first recorded use of Hamburg steak is not found until 1884. The variant form hamburger steak, using the German adjective Hamburger meaning ‘from Hamburg,' first appears in a Walla Walla, Washington, newspaper in 1889."

By now we should be noticing a trend.

And, "During World War I, the name hamburger was changed to Salisbury steak, because hamburgers sounded too German," the mystery clipping I have in my hand said. Dr. Salisbury, the dish's namesake, eschewed starches and promoted lean beef.

So Jan. 4, 1889, turns out to be the auspicious day for the venerable hamburger sobriquet, evidently born smack dab in Walla Walla.

But then, colleague/reporter Andy Porter, not wont to leave any meat patty unturned, found that according to Wikipedia, the first printed American menu that listed hamburger was an 1826 menu from Delmonico's in New York. Between 1871-1884, "Hamburg Beefsteak" was on the "Breakfast and Supper Menu" of the Clipper Restaurant at 311/313 Pacific St. in San Fernando. It cost 10 cents-the same price as mutton chops, pig's feet in batter and stewed veal. It was not, however, on the dinner menu, only "Pig's Head" "Calf Tongue" and "Stewed Kidneys" were listed. Yum.


Prospective Eagle Scouts must complete a special project that they initiate, oversee and complete. Boy Scout Shane Roach is no exception. He tackled the construction of handicap-accessible ramp at The Little Theatre of Walla Walla. He wrapped up the project on April 24.

The idea came to the Walla Walla resident in January when younger brother Reilly was in "On Golden Pond" at the Little Theatre.

"Naturally all of our family wanted to see his play, but because of no ramp access, it seemed as though my grandpa, who is in a wheelchair, would be unable to attend."

They hauled a ramp from their house to the theater and attached a portable one to get grandpa to the play. "It was a hassle but worth it for my grandpa," Shane recalled.

"A few weeks later I spoke with the Little Theatre about doing the project. They were excited but needed a lot of details that I didn't quite know how to get.'

Shane I went to the city of Walla Walla and spoke with Dave Collette, a Development Services building official. He provided details about building handicap ramps and how to get them to code, as well as contact information for Larry Bayman, a local contractor who has built several of them.

The two met and Larry agreed to help "and told me stories of when he was in scouting, over 50 years ago." The 75-year-old "retired" contractor was very involved in Scouts and got his Eagle and then joined the U.S. Army," Shane said.

"It was a big project, and I had a lot to do." Larry drew up plans, which Shane presented to the Little Theatre. "They loved it." They provided him with a budget of $3,000 and a complete date of April 30.

Shane obtained the work permit in early January and his crew of Boy Scouts immediately began clearing the land and got it ready. They dug post holes and poured concrete for the footing. Over the next several weekends, Shane worked with Larry in in building the ramp, aided by several of Shane's friends and Boy Scouts.

Once the base framework was done Shane got gravel donated from Konen Rock for underneath.

Doug Majerus and his employee, Matt, came out for a weekend to help speed up the process so we would be done on time. Without Larry's expertise and helpfulness, "there is no way that I could have done this Eagle project," Shane recalled.

The new ramp will better the community in so many ways, Shane said. "Now people in wheelchairs as well as the elderly, can finally attend plays at the Little Theatre and enjoy great productions as well as fun entertainment." The project cost roughly $3,000, so if anyone would like to donate to offset the costs, it would be greatly appreciated, he added.


Each year, Fort Walla Walla Museum receives visitors from all 50 states and last year from a record 47 countries, said Paul Franzmann, communications manager.

In recent years, the Museum has garnered national attention for itself and the community, including last year as the only organization to merit two grants from the National Park Service Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail.

That pair of 2009 grants, totaling $10,000, allowed the Museum to install in its new Entry Hall & Exhibit Galleries, Lewis & Clark period material culture exhibits, a five-language translation effort that occurred at the time of the gifting between Capt. Clark and Yellept of the Wallah Wallah Indian people, and commission a new mural of the Columbia Gap area by acclaimed landscape artist Leslie Cain.

"This granting agency works out of its headquarters in Omaha, Neb.," Paul said.

"You have to think that however nice it might be, the chance of meeting those folks gets fairly slim. That's a long way from here."

Nevertheless, when the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail decided to send some of its people into the field on the Lewis & Clark Trail along both sides of the Columbia River, it was Paul who Karla Sigala, interpretive specialist, contacted about making arrangements in this area. The group included Karla, Education Specialist Jill Hamilton-Anderson and Volunteer Program Manager Nichole McHenry.

En route from Portland, they visited Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts and Tamstslikt Cultural Institute in Mission, and Fort Walla Walla Museum.

James presented the visitors with copies of "Soldiers, Pioneers & Indian People," the Museum's recent publication; and a signed print of local artist Norman Adams' "a very eligant white horse." After dinner and a night's lodging at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center, the trio went to Pasco and the Sacajewea State Park.

For more details, contact 525-7703, e-mail or online see .


The University of Phoenix Eastern Washington campus in Spokane presented nearly 100 degrees to its fifth graduating class at commencement May 1 in the Spokane Convention Center. Walla Wallans Jedadiah R. Eslinger earned a bachelor's in psychology; and William Derek Brown earned a bachelor's in business/management.

Zoe Isabella Lindsay graduated summa cum laude with a master's in teaching English as a second language from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich. The daughter of Darya Tucker, literacy coordinator at Blue Mountain Action Council in Walla Walla, and niece of Trudy and Howard Ostby of Milton-Freewater, Zoe earned a bachelor's in history/modern languages in 1993 from the University of Scranton (Pa.). She earned her degree with scholarships from Walla Walla American Association of University Women Branch, Milton-Freewater PEO chapter and Ingle Chapel Church in Milton-Freewater. Zoe is currently an adjunct instructor of English as a second language and Spanish GED classes at Blue Mountain Community College in Milton-Freewater. She is also a paraprofessional at Freewater Elementary School.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at or afternoons at 526-8313.


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