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Orphaned at 13, John Bernhardt jumped a box-car to Oregon hoping to become a government surveyor. He returned home three years later to pursue a career as a timber cutter. After buying a sawmill he saw the opportunity to use timber to make solid oak bedroom furniture. Pretty soon folks in Chicago and New York City started buying this furniture for their homes. And so in 1889 the Bernhardt Furniture Company was born in North Carolina. Berhardt’s skill was in leveraging the area’s plentiful supply of beautiful timbers, and local woodworking skills. Never one to do things by halves, he opened his factory with 25 employees.