Storyteller Romaine Brumleve's Story

A Brumleve Story
by Romaine Brumleve
©2001 E. Romaine Brumleve
(Story written for Reunion -- July 2001)

Many, many years ago in a little village in Germany called Lengerich, there lived a wagon maker named Bernard Johann Brumleve (he called himself "Bernd Jan"). He and his wife, Helena, had 13 children. Bernd Jan had a small farm, some animals, a house, and his business. He and his family were not poor, but they were not rich, either. He knew that the farm was too small to divide and that when he died there would not be very much to leave to his children. So one day he gathered all his children (they were between 14 years old and 33 years old at this time) and explained this to them. "Children," he said, "you need to know these things so that you can decide now what you want to do, where you want to live, and how you want to make a living. Your mother and I love all of you and we have tried to do our best for you. You have all been to school and can read and write, and I have taught all of you a trade so that you can earn a living. But when your mother and I die there won't be very much of anything to leave you. Only one of you can inherit the farm because it is so small, so you all need to talk about this and decide what you want to do and begin to make your plans."

After their parents talked to them about this, the 10 young people (three of the children had died when they were still very young) discussed the problem among themselves. For some, the solutions were easy. Benedict, the oldest boy, was married and he would be a baker like his father-in-law and inherit that business. Maria Anna and Anna Franziska, the two girls, were married and lived with their husbands. Johann Bernard, the next oldest boy after Benedict, would get the farm and his father's business as the town's wagon maker. Johann Philipp, the baby, was still too young to have to decide what to do. He would eventually marry a local girl and stay in Lengerich where he, too, would inherit his wife's property. That left five of the brothers with serious decisions to make.

These five brothers: Bernard Albert (Ben), Johann Anton (Anton), Johann Heinrich Clemens (Clem), Leo, and Aloysius (Al) started talking to their friends. Their first idea was to move into some of the nearby villages and start businesses and buy land there. However, their friends all told them that the families in those towns were having the same problems. There was no land to buy and all the villages already had enough bakers, carpenters, wagon makers, grocers, and blacksmiths. When the boys asked what the other families were doing, they were told that a lot of the young people were going to other countries, mostly to America.

The boys visited some of the neighboring villages and found out that what their friends said was true. They asked a lot of questions and talked to the families of some of the people who had left for America. They were told that the news from America was very good. They were also told to contact a Karl Sasse. Herr Sasse was a man whose job was to help young people who wanted to go to America. He would tell them how much money the trip would probably cost them and what they needed to take with them. He would help them buy their passage on a ship from Bremen to America. He would tell them about the different places in America where people from their part of Germany were settling.

After he had done all of this, his job was still not finished. He would often gather a group of immigrants together and walk with them to Bremen where they would board their ships. Sometimes he would even make the trip to America with them and help them make connections to their final destinations. He acted as their translator since most of them did not speak any English. When he actually came to America with them, he would bring letters and packages to some of the families that were already in America and take money and letters back to Germany to the people at home. Herr Sasse told the young men that several people from Lengerich and some of the other villages around Lengerich were going to Louisville in Kentucky and to Cincinnati in Ohio and St. Louis in Missouri. There were growing German communities, in these cities and since these towns were growing so fast, there was plenty of work for people with trades. Bakers, carpenters, furniture makers, wagon makers, pipe fitters, farmers, blacksmiths and dairymen were in great demand and were making successful careers in these places.

After doing all their homework these five Brumleve brothers talked to their family again and decided that going to America was what they would do. It must have been very hard for them all. It was pretty sure that if they went to America that they would never see their Mom and Dad or their brothers or sisters again. Sure, they could still write letters and send gifts (Herr Sasse took care of this all the time), but to leave so much of their family and so many friends behind and go to a strange country must have been really scary.

Eventually (in the winter of 1842), Bernard Albert (Ben) decided that he would be the first to go. He was just married and his wife Dina was going to have a baby. She had relatives who had already gone to Louisville. So she and Ben figured they should go before the baby was born and get settled. Ben could get work as a blacksmith or pipe fitter and once they were settled the other four brothers could start coming to America too. They gathered together all te papers they would need, paid for their ship passage, packed their trunks (they were each allowed only one steamer size trunk) and joined Herr Sasse on the trek to Bremen. In Bremen they bought straw mattresses and blankets to sleep on, some food to add to what the ship provided, and some old clothes they could wear on the ship and throw away when they arrived in America. Since their destination was Louisville they would take a ship from Bremen to New Orleans and then a steamer up the Mississippi River to Cairo Illinois. From there they would go by riverboat to on the Ohio River to Louisville. The sea voyage was supposed to take about 4-5 weeks and the baby was supposed to be born in Louisville where Dina's relatives could help her, but this trip ran into bad weather and took almost eight weeks. Dina had her baby on the ship in the Gulf of Mexico while they waited to land in New Orleans. Now besides all the normal work involved in getting himself and Dina from New Orleans to Louisville, Ben had a new daughter, Caroline, to take care of. His trip to America was even more of an adventure than he had planned for. He and Dina and their growing family settled into their new lives in Louisville. Ben found work and soon purchased a house. As soon as he knew that he really could be a success in America and that it was a good place to live and raise a family, he sent word back to Lengerich to his brothers telling them to make their plans and come. America was a great place.

We think that while Ben and Dina were getting settled in Louisville that they were sending messages back to their friends and especially back to Ben's brothers telling them how well they were doing. The news was mostly good news. There was work for anyone with a trade and the willingness to work hard. There was land to buy. There was a growing German community not only in Louisville but also in Cincinnati and St. Louis and in parts of Illinois. The German Catholic parishes were thriving along with the German immigrants. America was an exciting place to be. When Anton, Clem, Leo, and Al read these letters, they were convinced that going to America was their destiny.

The next brothers to leave for America were Anton and Clem. We think they traveled to New Orleans together. Anton was engaged and Helena may have gone on the same ship as the two brothers.  Clem was engaged too, and we think his fiancé Franziska and some of her family were also on the ship with Clem, Anton and Helena. Franziska and her family were on their way to Cincinnati and Clem would also eventually go there. So in 1845 Anton and Clem started their trip. They traveled to Louisville first where Anton married Helena and started working as a carpenter. Clem stayed in Louisville until after the wedding and then went to Cincinnati where he married Franziska. He worked there as a carpenter for a while. Then he and his wife and her family heard about a community in Illinois that some of the Cincinnati Germans were starting to build. It was going to be a German community modeled on the villages they had all left in Europe. It would be mostly German-speaking; there would be a German school and a German Catholic Church and a German newspaper. There were acres and acres of land and each settler would be able to purchase a lot in town to build a home and a lot outside of town to grow crops and keep animals. It sounded to Clem and Franziska and his in-laws like an ideal place to start their new lives as Americans. So they packed up their possessions and moved to illinois to a little town named Teutopolis (which means "German Town"). Now three of the Brumleve brothers were in America.

The letters continued to go back to Germany from Ben and Anton in Louisville and from Clem in Teutopolis to their family and friends. These letters told of the good lives they were building and of the opportunities that were available. Leo and Al were still bachelors and were even more determined to go to America. Philipp by now was working as a wagonmaker in Lengerich and didn't want to leave home. So it was decided that Philipp would stay in Germany but Leo and Al would go to America and join their brothers. In 1851 they left Lengerich and took passage to New Orleans where they boarded a steamer to Cairo Illinois. In Cairo Leo took passage on a riverboat to Loiusville where he joined his brothers, Ben and Anton. Al had decided to go to Teutopolis where Clem was living. Leo started working as a blacksmith and then later he owned a dairy. He married Maria Sophia and raised children in Louisville. Al met and married Dina Aumann and was a carpenter and furniture maker in Teutopolis. Now five Brumleve brothers were in America.

Several years later one of Benedict's sons and one of his daughters came to America too. Remember Benedict was the oldest brother and had stayed in Lengerich. Clemens Johann (Dutch John) came to Louisville where he became a grocer, and Anna Maria came to Waterloo Illinois where she got married and raised her family. Some Brumleve cousins from Lengerich came and settled in St. Louis where they were horse traders. All of these brothers, their niece and nephew and their cousins stayed in touch with each other and with their relatives back in Germany.

In Louisville
Ben and Dina had nine children.
Anton and Helena had one child. The baby and Helena both died within a few weeks of each other. Anton then married Maria Catherine and they had five children.
Leo and Maria Sophia had seven children.

In Teutopolis
Clem and Maria Franziska had eight children.
Al and Bernardina had fourteen children.

In Germany
Benedict and Christina had eight children.
Johann Bernard and Helena Maria Theresia had four children.
Philipp and Franziska had three children.

Dutch John, Anna Maria, and the St. Louis cousins all had children. There were soon many, many Brumleve cousins in both America and Germany. Over the years, many of them lost touch with each other and even forgot how big the family was. Several years ago some of the American cousins started wondering about all the Brumleves and how they were related and if there were any Brumleves left in Germany, so once again letters started going around this country (sometimes e-mail) and across the ocean. Today we are all here because of the curiosity of these people. We are all cousins. Most of us here are descendants of those five brothers who came to America and some are descendants of the three brothers who stayed in Germany. Some are related through the cousins who came to St. Louis, but we are all cousins...all family.

This story was written and told by Romain Brumleve 21 July 2001.
Romaine's immigrant ancestor was Aloysius Brumleve, youngest of the original immigrant brothers.

All text on this page Copyright 2001 E. Romaine Brumleve. All rights reserved.

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