Original Zimmerman house featuring Gabriel Zimmerman and his family.
The Zimmerman family arrived in the United States sometime around 1795. We do not know the year or the location of their arrival, but we do know that our ancestor, Michael Zimmerman, was born in North Carolina in the year 1799.
After moving westward the Zimmermans settled in Ohio, and later, in Iowa. According to family historical accounts, in the year 1871 Michael’s son, Gabriel, sold the farm and he and his family boarded a train bound for the city of San Francisco, California. They spent that winter waiting for conditions to improve before sailing north to the Columbia River and Fort Vancouver which was part of the Washington Territory.
After arriving in Vancouver, Gabriel Zimmerman purchased 180 acres of land and buildings from Gottlieb Wagonblast, who was the original homesteader. This parcel contained some of the same ground that is being farmed today. The original borders are approximated by 119th Street on the south, 87th Avenue on the west, 134th Street on the north and the Chelatchie Prairie Rail Road on the east. They named the farm “Leaning Oaks” because of the large number of oak trees on the property along 87th Avenue. The original homestead is no longer in existence, but it was located at the corner of 119th Street and 87th Avenue.
Both the farm and the family continued to grow throughout the end of the 19th century and three additional houses were built to support the expanding family.
The farm had cows, pigs, horses and chickens and they grew their own hay and grain for the animals. They also harvested a lot of the timber that was located on the property.
Sometime around the turn of the 20th century Gabriel Zimmerman gave ownership of the farm to his son Edward Gabriel Zimmerman. Edward had been born in Wright County, Iowa in 1866 and had married Martha Higdon of Manor (Orchards), Washington, in 1888. It was Edward and Martha who began changing the farm into one that specialized in chicken production and became the Zimmerman Hatchery.
In the early 20th century Bills grandmother Zimmerman, Martha Higdon Zimmerman, started raising chicks. Sometime shortly after she started the hatchery, producing thousands of baby chicks each year. This hatchery later became known as "Zimmermans Hatchery" 'home of the sturdy chicks'"
The house was built in 1922 with the hatchery in mind. The basement was built so that the incubators could be placed in it for easy monitoring. The ventilator shafts in the foundation walls allowed air to reach the basement while still keeping it warm. A few years ago the shafts were plugged with concrete to keep mice out of the house.
During the time of the hatchery there were many chicken houses built. These chicken houses incorporated all of the newest and most innovative designs of the time. All of these utilized ideas such as passive ventilation systems, automatic watering, and trolley systems to carry out and dump the manure waste. Some of these ideas were complete failures.
The hatchery continued for many years and produced tens of thousands of White Leghorn laying hens for the growers in Clark County. The end of the hatchery came during the "Columbus Day windstorm". A batch of chicks were scheduled to hatch out that night and the next day, but the power went out and there was a decision to be made. Without any power the incubators couldn't work and the chicks would freeze, this meant keeping all doors and ventilator shafts closed. But without the doors or ventilator shafts open the chicks would suffocate. Bills father made the decision to open the doors and ventilator shafts so the chicks had air, but this left them very vulnerable. Many piled up in the corners of the incubators and in the room. When too many chicks pile up on top of each other they suffocate the ones on the bottom of the pile, but without piling up they would've died from the cold. Those that survived the night were still very difficult to keep alive without any power to supply heat lamps or heaters with. Chicks need extra heat to survive because they don't have any feathers. This caused the Zimmermans Hatchery to lose approximately 1500-2500 chicks. This was the final straw for the Zimmermans Hatchery and they called it quits in 1962.
Martha Higdon Zimmerman feeding her chicks.
Original Zimmerman's Hatchery building running along 119th St.
Bi-Zi Farms Beginnings
The farm market that is currently operating was actually begun in 1990 by a very industrious 12 year old, Doug Zimmerman. He began as a teenager wanting to earn some money and grew three fourths of an acre of sweet corn. Our early customers met Doug selling corn off the front porch of our mobile home that sat close to where the sales building sits today. After a successful beginning, Doug enlarged the second year to one a half acres of sweet corn and did very well. His father, Bill Zimmerman, then approached him with the idea of forming a partnership to grow other vegetables. This included broccoli, cauliflower, squash and even berries. They also toyed with the idea of a pumpkin patch to have fun at the end of a long summer. From such humble beginnings, our adventure began.
Bill posed for a news article in about 1985.
Doug bringing in his first crop of corn.
Generation 6 helping out in the farm store selling strawberries.
Bill posed for a news article in about 1985.