The Biography of Michael Ernest and Charlotte Rotike Brauer
By Oscar Leo Brauer, Grandson Most of the information was supplied by Oscar Gustav Brauer, father of the writer [Link to scan of cover of book]
[Page 1] In the early part of the nineteenth century there lived a family by the name of Brauer near the German city of Danzig in the north east corner of Prussia. Danzig, at that time, was a fortress and an important seaport 253 miles north east of Berlin at the mouth of the Vistula River. The city was surrounded by fortifications. In it were many grand old houses, with lofty ornamental gables and balconies. The old gates of the city were modeled after the triumphal arches of the Romans. Danzig was a port for shipping corn, timber and sugar. In this Brauer family there were one girl and two boys. The first name of the girl seems to have been forgotten, but this we do know, that she married a man named Schusky. One boy presumably the oldest of the children was named Jacob. Jacob hurt his leg when a small boy, and remained a cripple the rest of his life. The youngest child was named Michael Ernest. Why he had two names and Jacob only one was never explained. Michael was born in 1818. When he was too young to remember his father, the latter ran away, presumably to America. The mother had to support the family by running the farm: the German women were very tough. She probably did the man’s work until the children were old enough to carry some of the burden. Because of his crippled knee Jacob was practically useless on the farm. When about eleven years old he was apprenticed to a merchant tailor to learn the trade. While an apprentice, a boy got only board and room for about 8 years before he could hire out for Journeyman’s wages. The farm work was left to the mother, daughter and the young son, Michael. The largest part of their cash income came from raising geese. Geese were raised for goose bacon and feathers. In their beds the mattresses were filled with goose feathers. The covering of the beds, also, was similar to bed ticks filled with feathers. They seldom had quilts and blankets as we know them. Instead of a Christmas turkey, it was a Christmas goose. The rest of the diet of the East German peasants was principally cabbage, potatoes, and corn in season. In one year of food scarcity they began eating the young potatoes before they were grown. Many people were poisoned by the green potatoes, which contain a poisonous substance.
[Page 2] When Jacob Brauer began to earn what was good wages for that day Michael became dissatisfied with farm life, which offered no future. The mother saw his point of view, and apprenticed Michael to a merchant tailor also. At this time the merchant tailor was the aristocrat of the tradesmen. The industrial revolution had not taken place yet. The stores did not sell ready made men’s suits. These all had to be made by the merchant tailor. Most of the peasants wore wooden shoes. These were durable and could be whittled out by the peasants themselves during the long winter evenings. Jacob Brauer never married. Michael, however, after he had become a journeyman merchant tailor, and had saved up some money and married a Polish girl named Charlotte Rotike. He was 26 years old at the time of his marriage. Three children were born while they were in Germany, Caroline, in 1845, Carl in 1846 and Gustav July 14, 1851. Carl died while an infant. During this time Jacob, who had some of his father’s wanderlust in his veins, emigrated to America with a group of his neighbors and set up his merchant tailor business in Toledo, Ohio. Previous to the middle of the nineteenth century, the common people of Europe had practically no political power. In the 1840’s there developed great unrest all over Europe. Bismark came to power in Prussia to solve the problem in some way. There was no German Empire yet. Instead there was a very loose confederacy of practically independent kingdoms, grand duchies, and the Austrian Empire. Austria was the nominal leader, but Prussia was beginning to strive for the leadership. Bismark put through a compulsory military training law, and began to raise an army of 300,000. Michael and his near relatives were strictly pacifists. They wanted to get out of Germany before any of them were drafted into the German army. At this time Jacob was writing glowing letters about America. He said that the common farmer or laborer had as much voice in the government as the rich man. He further said that America was the land of opportunity. Many a poor man rises from rags to riches. The Schusky family now had a daughter named Adelia. Charlotte Brauer had a sister, who had married a Polish man named Philipuffsky. She also had a half brother named Carl Voss. All of the relatives that could afford the trip and a number of their neighbors prepared to start for America the spring of 1852. The baby, Gustav, was only 9 months old. Carl Voss did not have money enough to go. One can imagine him making his brother-in-law promise to send him the money as soon as he got rich in the new country. In American the Philipuffskys changed the name to Phillips. Although Michael Brauer did not change the spelling of his name he did change the pronunciation. He Anglicized the pronunciation and called it “Brewer,” the English equivalent of the word Brauer. This pronunciation held until his grandchildren changed it back to the original Brauer.
[Page 3] The trip across the ocean was remarkably slow for sailing vessels. It required nine weeks whereas some vessels could make it in three. We picture a small sailing boat bobbing like a cork on the stormy ocean. We imagine it blown for days off the course. We see the frightened and miserable emigrants huddled together on the thrashing ship, wondering if they would arrive. We picture the women wringing their hands and wailing: “Why did we ever leave our homes?” At Toledo Michael Brauer joined his brother in the tailor business. Phillips, who was a pottery maker, went into business also. Another boy, John Lewis Brauer was born in Toledo in 1855. With the introduction of ready made suits the tailoring business of the Brauers began to dwindle. Michael was again afflicted with wanderlust; purchased an ox team and moved to Des Moines Iowa, having lived four years in Toledo. The family seems to have failed to pass on any details of this trip. Apparently it was relatively uneventful. With the coming of ready made men’s suits the business of the merchant tailors kept on dwindling, since they could not compete with the machines in the factories. Jacob Brauer saw the handwriting on the wall and decided to go into some other business that could be carried on in a sitting position. He chose watch making. When Michael moved away they finally ceased to hear any more from Jacob. The earliest memory that the child, Gustav, had of America, was one night when the child had been put to bed a group of friends of the Brauers arrived from Germany. There was a great deal of loud talking. The noise awakened the child and frightened him so much that he remembered it all the rest of his life. Des Moines was under the spell of the gold rush to California. Michael Brauer caught the fever, not gold fever in particular, but the fever to go to a new land to begin life anew. Perhaps he was tired of the tailor business. While in Des Moines, tragedy struck the Brauer family again. Caroline caught diphtheria, and in spite of all the town doctor could do, died. They were lucky that the boys did not catch the disease. Caroline was 14 when she died. During the four years they were in Iowa two more boys, Henry and George were born. Finally Michael got another ox team and covered wagon and drove to Council Bluffs where the caravans were making up for the trip to California. This trip took one week. Here they loaded up with flour to last for nine months, bacon, lard, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and potatoes; enough for the same length of time. One thing that stuck in the memory of the nine year old boy was that in Council Bluffs he climbed into an empty sugar barred and ate lumps of sugar sticking to its sides. Ferrying across to Omaha, they joined a caravan of 75 wagons. Most of the wagons were drawn by oxen, but there were a few pulled by horses and mules. Milk cows were led behind about half of the wagons. A captain was elected to command the caravan. Several horsemen rode along to serve as messengers, scouts, and hunters. All of the men carried guns to use in case of trouble with the Indians.
[Page 4] The road followed the north bank of the Platte River for 700 miles. They started in the latter part of April in 1860. The road consisted of fifteen to twenty parallel ruts through the prairie. Outside of the road the open prairie was carpeted with wild flowers, sweet peas, violets, purple flag and wild phlox. All of the streams and gulches were forested with hardwood. In the morning the air was ringing with the songs of countless birds. Ox teams travel very slow, not ten miles per hour but ten miles per day. The men walked by the side of the oxen and women and small children rode. The larger children could jump out of the wagons, run back and forth along the caravan, pick flowers, or play with the other children. At night the wagons were arranged in a compact circle. The cattle were turned out to graze, while the horses were hobbled. One night guard was on duty until midnight, and another took over until morning. The first Indians they met were the friendly Pawnee Indians. But since there were rumors of Indians stealing horses from the caravans, it seemed best for them to be on guard. After they had been on the way for two and a half weeks some friendly Indians told of a herd of buffaloes not far away. Soon they were able to see a herd of 200 buffaloes. The women and children being travel weary, it was decided to lay over a day and let the young men go hunting. The buffalo hunt was fairly successful in that they killed enough buffalo to supply every wagon with what they could use without spoiling. There was a long island in the Platte River known as Grand Island. When the company arrived at the end of the Island they found a sign which informed them that there would be no wood in the next 200 miles. This called for a layover of a day to pack all of the wood possible in the loads. Some men even tied a log under the axle of the wagon. This two hundred miles was characterized by clouds of dust by day and clouds of mosquitoes by night. There were innumerable prairie dogs, and many horned toads and rattlesnakes. The cold biting winds of April gave way to the sunny warmth of May, and then to the scorching heat of early summer. Mirages were frequent much to the bewilderment of those who had never seen them before. Before the woodless 200 miles were passed they ran out of wood and had to cook over “buffalo chips.” Following up the Platte River, the road led them from the Territory of Nebraska into the Territory of Wyoming. One day one of the men wanted Gustav Brauer to hold his horse for a moment. Not remembering his name he said: “Here Oscar will you hold my horse?” That tickled the other boys, who now began to call him Oscar. Soon the adults were calling him Oscar. After a while he began to like the name. His parents did not object to it, so they enlarged his name to Oscar Gustav Brauer. From then on the family and all of his other friends called him Oscar. The caravan now reached the place where the Overland Route and the Oregon Trail joined. The Overland Route came up from Kansas to the south bank of the Platte River in Nebraska. For several hundred miles the two roads were often sight of each other separated only by the river. From there on it was the Oregon Trail.
[Page 5] On entering the territory of the Sioux Indians, rumors of Indian depredations began to increase. One day the guide, who was riding ahead of the string of wagons, saw a column of 200 Indians on horseback coming up the road. He raced back to the caravan. The wagons were quickly bunched, and the men armed to repel an attack if it should occur. However, as soon as the Indians saw the wagons they detoured way around them. By July 4 they had begun to climb towards the Continental Divide. Occasionally there were articles of furniture along the road, which had been discarded by previous emigrants in order to lighten the load. One day a shotgun was accidentally discharged from one of the wagons. A boy walking behind the wagon received the full charge of buckshot which killed him. That afternoon another fresh grave was added to those which had appeared from time to time along the way. Tragedy befell one of the mules also. That night they had camped near a sizeable stream. One of the more venturesome mules had been hobbled with his head tied to the hobble also. This mule tried to cross the stream, but because his head was tied so low he drowned. The descent of the Rockies was very precipitous at one place. The wagon wheels had to be locked. Even then they had to tie a rope from the wagon axle to the yoke of the oxen so they could ease the wagon down. By the middle of July the caravan was rounding the northern side of Great Salt Lake. Occasionally the lake was in sight. The trail then led in a south westerly direction to the head of the Humboldt River. The road through what is now Nevada was very monotonous to the travel weary emigrants. It seemed to be an endless succession of desert flats and ridges. Just before entering the valley of the Humboldt River they had to cross Emigrant Gap, a pass of about 6100 feet over the highest desert range. This side of the present town of Winnemucca where Highway 40 turns sharply southward, the Oregon Trail diagonaled northward over the flat desert to Goose Lake. The California branch of the trail turned sharply south to Mount Lassen. The terrain now became much different. Soon pine trees came into view. Snow covered Mt. Shasta was visible in the far northwest. Nearing Mt. Lassen they came into forests of trees the likes of which they had never seen. One thing that stood out in the memory of the nine-year-old Oscar was seeing the men measure the circumference of a large sugar pine by joining hands around it. Coming through Nevada, the hunters in the group could kill nothing but jack rabbits. Jack rabbit was better than no fresh meat but it was getting monotonous. As they approached the Sierras deer seemed to be everywhere. Soon they were enjoying the choicest venison. At Mount Lassen the trail divided again. One branch kept on down to Deer Creek and on down the edge of the Sacramento Valley. A few wagons, which included the Brauers turned off just north of the mountain and came into the valley down the ridge between South Cow Creek and Bear Creek. The first town they came to in California was Cottonwood.
[Page 6] The reason the Brauers wanted to come this way was that they wanted to get to Humboldt Bay. Some place in the Midwest Michael had met a man who had been to Humboldt Bay. This man described it as a beautiful country, along the shore of a beautiful ocean. The climate was mild. The mountains were near and covered with enormous redwoods. The grass was almost perpetually green, and cattle grew with little attention. The wonderful timber and pasture land could be purchased for a song. One other family who came into Shasta County with the Brauers was named Dollarhide. This was the only name my father could remember. I believe that the Dollarhides settled in Fall River. Imagine the disappointment when Michael learned that there was no road from the Sacramento Valley to Humboldt Bay. It was now the middle of September. It was unthinkable to try to cross three mountain ranges so late in the season. Inquiring around where a farm could be bought to best advantage, he was directed to the Bald Hills beyond Ono. On the way they crossed a mining ditch. Brauer asked the ditch tender where they got gold. The ditch tender took his shovel and panned out a little dirt in the ditch, and showed them a few colors of gold. Evidently Michael Brauer never tried mining. Perhaps it appeared to be too much hard work. Arriving at Ono, Brauer found a man with a house and pasture land and several hundred sheep. This man was anxious to sell out. He told Grandpa Brauer that sheep could be sold to the butchers in Shasta at a good price. Grandpa bought the house and land for three hundred dollars. He also bought the sheep. True to the man’s prediction, they began to make money with the sheep. Moreover, some of the finest pasture land in the country around them could be purchased from the government for one dollar and fifty cents per acre. He eventually bought two other ranches in the Bald Hills. In 1861 Mary Brauer was born. The next year tragedy struck the family for the third time. George, who was now about three years old died from eating raw peas. To us, this may seem a needless death. We must remember that there was no doctor in the little village of Ono, and besides the doctors in those days had very little training in what little medical knowledge there was. There being no undertaker and no undertaking service available, Grandpa Brauer had to make a box and bury the boy out in the field as was usually done in those days. There today, out on the rolling hills, the child sleeps in an unmarked grave. Life was primitive and tragic in those days. With two boys old enough to herd sheep, and plenty of the luxuriant pasture that grows on the naturally rich adobe land, Grandpa Brauer began to make money right away. A bare existence was all that they demanded of life, so the savings accumulated rapidly. By 1870 he was able to keep his promise to his brother-in-law, Carl Voss. He sent Voss 1000 dollars with which to bring his family to California.
[Page 7] Voss at that time had three boys and three girls. When the Voss family arrived there was much pow wow. In the confusion the parents paid little attention to what the children were doing. The boys got to playing with a rifle. It was accidentally discharged, and the bullet passed entirely through the body of Hannah Voss. The girl, however, lived with little apparent permanent injury. She later married a baker in Redding by the name of Grittner. Grittner later became well-to-do. He was killed in an auto accident. Hannah lived to be 90 years old. She had three daughters. The Voss boys paid back the 1000 dollars by herding sheep for Grandpa Brauer. One of the other Voss girls married a barber named Lange. Elmer Lange, her son, lived up on the Klamath River. When my sister, May, was teaching up at Hamburg she got acquainted with him. The third girl married a dancing teacher. Of the Voss boys, Theodore died, and left no children. Carl married and had one daughter. He later went insane. Albert died over on the coast. I never learned what became of Emil. My father told one story about Emil Voss. He and Emil lassoed a wild horse in the Bald Hills. They finally got a saddle on the animal. Emil led it and Oscar rode it home. After having raised sheep for ten years, the boys were getting tired of herding sheep. The father probably never thought of trying to make the boys contented by paying them for there work. They sold the ranch and the sheep. Grandpa now bought a store at Roaring River near the juncture of the two branches of Cottonwood Creek. Grandpa tended the store while Oscar, who was now 19, drove stage. Walter, the last child was born in 1870 while they were at the store. In 1872 they traded the store for a sawmill up on Eagle Creek above Ono. According to descriptions this was a beautiful place. Grandpa Brauer retired to his garden. Oscar with the aid of Henry ran the sawmill while John hauled the lumber to market, principally to Cottonwood and Shasta. One day Henry did not feel well. He walked to the mill pond to try to cool his forehead. When he did not come back in a reasonable length of time, Oscar went to look for him and found him drowned in the mill pond. Henry was 16 years old at the time. Having no picture of Henry, they had one taken on the slab. Igo by this time had some burying facilities and an established graveyard: I do not know if the grave is marked, probably not. In 1877 the sawmill was traded for 480 acres at the lower end of Burney Valley. The place was mortgaged for two thousand five hundred dollars. Oscar paid off the mortgage and was given 80 acres of the land. The next year, 1878, the family moved to Burney Valley. Oscar collected some bills owed him for lumber. With this money he bought cattle to stock the pasture land. In 1883 Oscar Brauer married Martha Crews, and John married Maleta, Martha’s younger sister. Oscar bought 18 acres of land in Burney Valley just south of the Cornaz place. The house at this time consisted of only a log cabin. Their first child, Oscar Leo, was born in the log cabin. Then Oscar built a two-story house on the place, and also a new barn, which later burned down. Then Roswell and Elaine were born in rapid succession. Both died in infancy.
[Page 8] At the approach of the next child, Lloyd, they moved to Redding for the winter to be under a doctor’s care. Martha, the wife, was seriously afflicted with asthma. Some supposed that the rigorous climate of Burney might be the cause. So Oscar traded his 18 acres and new house for 320 acres on Cow Creek plus a mortgage of 2000 dollars. This place was 13 miles east of Millville. Here Ernest, May and Vivian were born. Sidney and Irma were born at the Oak Run place. John at first bought a ranch across Burney Creek from his father. Maude and Leslie were born here. John didn’ t like the cold task of feeding cattle all winter, especially one winter there was an unusually heavy snow, which almost crushed the barns with the cattle. He sold out and took up a homestead near Montgomery Creek. Here Easton, Carrol and Clyde were born. Then Mary, the daughter, married a baker named Wickert, and moved to Redding. This left only Walter and the old folks to run the large ranch, which meant harvesting the hay in the summer, and feeding the cattle all through the frigid winter. The Wickert family consisted of Bessie, Fritz (who was drowned in the Sacramento River), Lottie, Mary, Vera, Emil, Byron, Chris and Eva. In 1890 Grandpa Brauer traded the Burney ranch for a ranch on Oak Run three miles north of Millville. For his part of the Burney ranch Oscar was given the south half of the Oak Run ranch. Oscar and his father each had 120 acres. Today the Burney land is probably worth four times what the Oak Run land is worth. Relative values were not the same as they were in 1890. Now cattle sell for fabulous prices, while they were dirt cheap, and the work was hard. Grandpa and Grandma Brauer spent the rest of their lives on the Oak Run place. They raised chickens, cows, pigs and hay enough to carry the cattle and what horses they needed through the winter. Although there was no irrigation on the place they had a fair orchard of grapes, French prunes, plums, apples and persimmons. The longest time I ever stayed with Grandpa and Grandma Brauer was about four days. My father had come over from Cow Creek to bale the hay on his part of the place. He took me along and we boarded with my grandparents. Grandpa drove the team on the hay press. The grandparents lived in a very old house set in a ring of locust trees. The house faced the road which was on the west. In front of the house there were two large oleander bushes, which bloomed abundantly in spite of the fact that they received no water all summer. Between the yard fence and the road there was a trough hued out of an oak log. This was used for salting the cattle.
[Page 9] My remembrance of the house was that the living room was heated only by the fireplace. The fire furnished most of the light in the winter. It was raining a great deal of the time in winter when the daylight was not very strong. Only a small part of that filtered through the locust trees and the two small windows. The inside of the room reminds me of what is now called a studio. But instead of being decorated with fine paintings, antiques, and bric-a- brac, it was decorated with old lanterns, steel traps, horse shoes, fish hooks, fish spears, iron washers, buckles and scraps of leather. Grandpa didn’t believe in throwing anything that might come in handy some time. As a small boy, the traps, fish hooks and spears intrigued me. One time my father came over from the Cow Creek place (15 miles) to visit his parents, and he brought Lloyd and me along. Uncle John and his family were over at our place getting ready to rent it. We expected to build a house on our half of the Oak Run place and move over there. Grandma Brauer wanted to know how many turkeys John was going to keep for breeding stock and asked: “How many turkeys kept John?” When we told that to Aunt Leta, she thinking what a heavy eater John was, replied: “It would take quite a few turkeys to keep John.” While Lloyd was at the grandparents’ place, he caught his overalls on the barbed wire and ripped one leg from the knee to the foot. When Grandma Brauer saw it, she advised: “Take a rag string and tie the boy around.” Another time one of the relatives visited the old folks one day on which Walter had butchered a pig. Grandma related it in these words: “A hog killed Walter today.” Grandpa Brauer had a reputation with the neighbors for being very generous, but Grandma Brauer was thought just the opposite. It was told that he liked to give the school children fruit, but Grandma Brauer wouldn’t stand for it. Grandpa thought of the scheme of appearing in the upper filed by the fence close to the road about the time school children were due. He would give the children a little small change to buy fruit from Grandma. She probably gave him the money, so everybody was happy. For much about the last years of Grandpa and Grandma Brauer I am indebted to two of their granddaughters, Lottie and Mary Wickert. Aunt Mary and her children would spend a week with the children’s grandparents every summer. Lottie: “I know I sued to enjoy going out there for a visit. I remember the smoky fire place, the pretty dishes and the feather beds. We all would be down on the floor on a feather mattress, and have another feather bed for a covering. “I remember Grandpa sitting in the corner near the fireplace smoking a long pipe. At the last he was very bent over with arthritis of the spine. I often think about them now, and wonder if they ever had any fun, or if they were happy. The people of that generation seemed so very stern and dignified.” Mary: “Of course my mother being the only girl in the family was her father’s favorite. She always spoke of him with loving sympathy. She said that while he was in the money that every time he went to Red Bluff he would bring her something nice, once a velvet dress. Oscar bought the organ from a traveling salesman and gave it to Mary who learned to play it. My mother had an organ and was given organ lessons, which was something at that time in that wild country.
[Page 10] “Grandpa Brauer was a poor business man. While in Ono they were prosperous, but he had the old horse trading fever in his blood, but every time he made a trade he lost. By the time they traded into Oak Run they were plain poor. “We never heard anything too flattering about Grandma Brauer, but I don’t think she could have been so bad, since she produced four gentle children. If the boys in the family were as good clear through as my mother, they must have had a good mother. Never an evil thought entered my mother’s head. All of her children will testify to this. “I was at the Oak Run home when Grandpa passed away. He was in a coma when we arrived. “I remember what I thought were such pretty dishes in the old kitchen. I have often wondered if they were as pretty as I thought the were, and where they came from. They seemed to have pink flowers on them. “They had no extra bed at the home, and we always slept on the floor on a big feather mattress. Their whole household furniture consisted of one bed, maybe two chairs, plus the old fireplace that smoked like everything, and yet it seemed very romantic to me. In the kitchen there were benches made of old wood and a long table of boards. “My mother took care of her mother for 6 months before her death. We all remember her well then, but she was not herself at that late date and was an awful care. Looking back on it now, I wonder how my mother was able to do it with a house full of children. Old Doctor White told her that she shouldn’t let us children come near her mother as he said she had tuberculosis.” Grandpa Brauer was good to his family as he understood goodness. He sent money home to his mother in Germany as long as she lived. His life had been entirely without luxuries. He rated everything in terms of materialistic practical value. Of the arts with the partial exception of music he knew nothing. Once in Burney he came to our house and saw my mother’s flowers blooming in the yard. He pointed in turn to each kind and said: “Das is for nodings, das is for nodings, unt das is for nodings.” After Christmas in the year 1900 Michael Ernest Brauer became ill. Near the end of the year he lapsed into coma and died quietly on New Year’s Day, 1901. He was in his 82nd year. The ranch property had been deeded to Walter, the youngest child. He lived there and cared for his mother until near her death at the age of 84 in 1908. After the death of the grandfather, my picture of the grandmother was an extremely wrinkled old woman sitting in a rocking chair. She rocked perpetually with a far-away look in her eyes, probably dreaming of long ago. Grandpa and Grandma Brauer now rest side by side in the Masonic Cemetery near Millville.