Learning From the Past: An Adventure in Farm History, Part 2

| 1/21/2011 9:39:21 AM

This is Part Two of a four-part series, read the beginning on how the author began tracing the history of her farm.  

Immigration Stories: The Bruchmillers Come to Kansas

August Otto Bruchmüller and Augusta Henrietta Fredericka Sparr were born in Prussian villages on either side of the Oder River. Otto was born in 1843 in Zehden, now Cedynia in western Poland,Augusta Bruchmiller on the east side of the Oder. The name Bruchmüller means a miller of grain, living in or near the marsh. Zehden is on a hill overlooking low flat fields along the river. Frederick the Great actually drained the nearby Oderbruch marsh, creating arable fields, called polders, where once there was water. The low-lying areas had been home to malaria, and there were frequent floods.

Augusta Sparr was born in Stolpe, Angermunde, on the west bank of the Oder. Stolpe is not only across the river and its polders from Zehden, but is a few kilometers north. It is unlikely that Otto and Augusta knew each other in Prussia, as he was fourteen and she three when the Sparr family emigrated. As was often the case when whole families left, one member went before the others to find a place to live and get established. Augusta's uncle had already settled in Ohio, married, and then moved to Kansas by the time the rest of the family set out. The family sailed on the ship Kosmos, arriving in New York on June 22, 1857 and reaching Kansas in September.

Otto apparently traveled on his own. He sailed from Hamburg on the Saxonia, arriving in May of 1868. He must have proceeded fairly directly to Kansas, because he declared his intention to become naturalized in the court in Lawrence in November of that same year. H e soon Americanized his last name to Bruchmiller.

Augusta's uncle was running a hotel in Lawrence, and it is quite possible that Otto stayed there, or perhaps took his meals there, after arriving. In 1870, less than two years after his arrival, Otto and Augusta were married. Otto was twenty-six and Augusta was one day shy of her sixteenth birthday. In the only surviving photo of Augusta, from the time of their marriage, she is a well-dressed, demure young woman (above right). Otto, in later photos, is a tall, slim man, with a thick shock of dark hair, an immense moustache, bright blue eyes and prominent ears (which he often covered with a hat, shown below left).

Otto BruchmillerThe newlyweds likely had little to start out with, and initially worked on someone else's farm about a mile south of our farm. The children began to arrive, starting with Anna in 1871 and then Carl in 1874. In 1875, the family was renting a farm nearby. And in September of 1877, now with three children and a fourth on the way, the Bruchmillers bought their own farm — forty acres of high, rolling prairie land with few trees, little water, deep soil and a great view. There was either a cabin or a small house on the farm, and maybe a well. The property cost $475. Four months later, their fourth child was born.

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