Nearly one hundred years ago, five Lewis County brothers from the little town of Harmony made matrimonial history when they married five sisters.
The first chapter of their extraordinary love story started in the early 1920s when brothers Matt and Louie Hadaller packed their bags and traveled over 300 miles to help with the grain harvest in Eastern Washington.
The young men were no strangers to hard work. They came from a large farming family with several boys. Their father, Anton Hadaller, had immigrated from Germany in the late 1890s and eventually moved to Lewis County with his wife Maria, settling first in Winlock and later in Harmony, where he established a farm on a hill near present-day Ike Kinswa State Park.
The brothers had worked at the Tono mine before deciding to try their luck across the mountains in Colton. Little did they know their trip east would turn out to be profitable in more ways than one.
Love Blooms in Colton
While in Colton, the young men became acquainted with the Kirpes family, another large German family with several daughters. It wasn’t long before their acquaintance blossomed into romance. The two Hadaller brothers chose two Kirpes sisters, Elizabeth and Minnie, for their future brides.
“The brides are daughters of Mr. and Mrs. John Kirpes and have lived (in Colton) all their lives. They are both estimable young ladies and will make comfortable homes for the husbands,” reported the Colton newspaper. Matt and Elizabeth and Louie and Minnie were married in a “unique and pretty” double wedding ceremony on May 23, 1923. They eventually settled in Salkum and Onalaska, respectively, not too far from their family’s homestead in Harmony.
But that was not the end of the sweet love story. It was just the beginning. Perhaps inspired by their older brothers’ good fortune, Bill, Otto and Lawrence Hadaller also headed across the mountains for work. The same family of girls that had captivated the hearts of their older brothers now caught their attention. Within a few years, each of these three younger brothers ended up with a Kirpes sister as a bride of his own.
Bill married Josephine Kirpes on June 18, 1924. The following year, Otto married Anna Kirpes in August 1925. After spending time with her four married, older sisters in Lewis County, Gertrude, the youngest Kirpes sister, met and married a Hadaller brother of her own. Lawrence and Gertrude’s wedding in Harmony on December 27, 1930, completed the union of the Hadaller and Kirpes families. The five couples are believed to have set a matrimonial record unequaled in the Northwest and perhaps in the United States at that time.
Hadaller Marriages Make Fox Movietone News
It did not take long for the media to pick up the unusual story. In 1931, a year after the fifth and last Hadaller-Kirpes wedding, “talking picture” cameraman Al Brick and sound technician Ben Jackson of Fox Movietone News arrived in Chehalis to interview the five couples. Their presence caused quite a stir in Lewis County when folks heard that the five Hadaller couples from their hometown would be on the movie screen! The interview, titled “Sisters Marry Brothers,” was recorded as Fox Movietone News Story 11-657 and was logged into the newsreel library in 1931.
Settling Down in Lewis County
The five Hadaller brothers and their wives made their homes east of Chehalis in Ethel, Onalaska, Green Mountain, Salkum, and Silver Creek. Hundreds of their descendants still reside in and around Lewis County today.
Matt and Elizabeth started farming and raising cattle in Harmony. They later settled in Salkum, where Matt ran a sawmill. Together they had nine children and raised them along with three sons from Matt’s first marriage.
Louie and Minnie made their home in Onalaska and later in Salkum, where Louie was a dairy farmer and rancher for a number of years. The couple had four children. After Louie died in 1958, Minnie remarried Ed Maurin.
Bill and Josephine lived above Mossyrock on Green Mountain and raised dairy cattle. They had seven children. A week after celebrating 65 years of marriage, Bill and Josephine Hadaller made the news one last time when they died within a day of each other, literally just hours apart. An article in the local newspaper a few days after their deaths paid tribute to the Hadallers’ loving marriage and the special impact they had on their community.
Otto and Anna Hadaller made their home in Salkum and Winston Creek. Otto built, owned, and operated the Salkum Garage for three decades. Their family later moved near Mayfield Lake to farm and raise beef cattle. They had eight children.
Lawrence and Gertrude first settled in Silver Creek and later moved to Idaho in 1940, where Lawrence farmed, logged, raised dairy cattle, operated a sawmill, and worked as an auto mechanic for several years. The couple later divorced.
Harmony is Still in Their Hearts
Today, the descendants of these five Hadaller brothers and their four other siblings number in the hundreds. The children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren of nine of the original Hadaller children gather together every five years. At their last family reunion held in Onalaska in 2018, close to 450 people attended.
For many years, the family gathered at the original Hadaller homestead in Harmony. However, as the number of descendants grew, they moved the reunion to a family member’s farm in Onalaska. The gathering is a huge production that includes three days of camping, a live and silent auction and a dance. According to Bill Newcomer, a descendant of Paul Hadaller, planning for the reunion begins well over a year in advance and takes thousands of dollars to pull off. Newcomer, who has helped organize the event in the past, said 2023 would be even bigger as the family celebrates 50 years since the first reunion in 1973.
While the town of Harmony has mostly faded into Lewis County history, the Hadaller-Kirpes love story that began in that small farming community continues to live on in the hearts of their many descendants.
The five Hadaller-Kirpes marriages never officially made it into the Guinness Book of Records, but they very well could have! The number of their marriages matches the current record for “Most siblings to marry siblings from another family,” a record set in 1996 by five sisters who married five brothers in Bangladesh.