The trip from Switzerland to the Gallatin Valley almost ended in disaster for the family of Mary Flora Kopp and her husband Josef Hagen. They and their children, ranging in age from nine years to nine months, boarded the French ship Paris in 1882. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the ship’s boiler broke down, forcing the vessel to travel at half-speed. When the passengers ran out of drinking water, many became ill, including the Hagen’s baby Mary.
After twenty-two days, the exhausted immigrants arrived in New York City, took the train to Salt Lake City, then to Dillon, and on to Virginia City by stage. Mary Flora’s brother, Joseph Kopp Jr., brought them into Bozeman by wagon. Their father had established the Kopp Brothers Meat Market in town. Mary’s husband Josef found work as a laborer during the construction of Hawthorne School in 1883. The family was forced to move from their first home near the McAdow mill when the new railroad preempted the land.
Eventually, the Hagens bought four acres near Sourdough Creek and moved into a little house on Church Avenue. Soon cattle roamed their small farm; flocks of chickens and a large garden supported the growing family of eight small Hagens. Josef Hagen yearned to move farther west, however, and took his family to Astoria, Oregon. He died there in 1888, leaving Mary Flora with eight children to support.
The widow returned to her family in Bozeman, where she operated a dressmaking shop with her daughter Lena. Mary Flora’s next business venture was to cook for a large number of bachelor coal miners in Chestnut. In 1900, Mary Flora, with tailor Henry Topel as partner, opened the Bozeman Steam laundry, the first of its kind in Montana. When the laundry machines arrived from the East, the two men charged with installing the equipment decided to run the widow out and take over the business themselves. Mary Flora figured out their intentions and fired them; before they left, however, the men sabotaged some of the parts. With help from her family, she got the machines running smoothly and developed a thriving business that sill operates today as the Gallatin Laundry.