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Welcome to Tenacious Genealogy! This is another post for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge that I’m participating in this year. It is a challenge hosted by Amy Johnson Crow every year and I figured I’d get in on the fun.
This is the week 9 prompt (which you can already tell I’m lagging behind on) and it is: ‘At the Courthouse’. My focus on for this post is on the younger brother of my great-great-great grandfather – Judge Louis Bruemmer.
I’ll be honest, this post was a head scratcher for me. As far as I knew for a long time, we didn’t have many people dealing with courthouses. Now I know that that will likely change as research goes on, but for now, I haven’t found too many ancestors in or around courthouses.
That said, I knew of a story from my mother’s side recalling the fact that a Bruemmer ancestor was a judge in the 1800s. The story also mentioned that he was a Civil War veteran and that may have been part of his campaign strategy – Vote for Me! I fought for the Union!
So I decided to research this story and figured one way or another I’d find out if it was true.
Which it was. And that’s how I found out about Judge Louis Bruemmer.
The Life and Times of Louis Bruemmer
Louis was born on March 14, 1841, in what is now Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Volpommern, Germany. At the time of his birth, however, it was part of Prussia. His full name (according to his baptismal record) was: Friederich Ludwig Theodor Bruemmer. However, it seems that he went by Ludwig and then the English version of his name – Louis. In 1853, he arrived in New York City with his parents, Christian and Sophia Bruemmer. More specifically, there is a passenger list for a ship arriving from Hamburg, Germany to New York City on December 5, 1853, with their German names on it – Louis is noted as Ludwig Bruemmer. Given that Ludwig is a German variation of Louis, as well as the Ludwig in the record being roughly the right age, it is likely that Ludwig became Louis when he arrived in America. This date also corresponds with the year of his immigration given in the 1900 census. Initially, the family lived in Trenton, New Jersey, but by 1854, they were settled in Mishicot, Wisconsin with much of their extended family.
In August of 1861, he was recorded as living in Mishicot, Wisconsin where he enlisted as a Union soldier during the American Civil War. He served for eighteen months in Company G of the 1st Wisconsin Infantry. Injured in the Battle of Perryville (aka the Battle of Chaplin Hills) in October of 1862, he was discharged and returned home to Mishicot where he served in a variety of public positions including town clerk and school teacher.
In 1866, he married Amalia/Amelia Weilep and soon after the couple moved to Ahnapee and then Kewaunee. In each place, Louis either started a variety of businesses (brewery, hotel, sawmill, and a gristmill, to name a few) and/or served in public positions.
Between 1868 and 1891, he and his wife became parents to ten children – seven sons and three daughters. Of those ten children, eight lived to adulthood and two – daughters Alma and Louisa, passed away before the age of ten.
It seems that Louis, his wife and their family lived a fairly prosperous life. The ‘Bruemmer House’ was well known in Kewaunee and is now a historic property. In 1933, Louis’s still living children and their descendants had a reunion at the house of which was noted in the local newspaper. By the late 1890s, he had worked his way up from being a town clerk to being elected as a county judge. It also seems that he was a social and well-connected individual. In the news article reporting on his death, he was noted as ‘a Mason, an Odd Fellow, and Grand Army veteran and a prominent Democrat.’
That said, by the turn of the century, it seems that Louis was dealing with depression or some other mental illness. In 1904, he was living at the Milwaukee Sanitarium in nearby Wauwatosa, having been committed there due to suffering from ‘melancholia’. According to the book, ‘Wisconsin’s Historic Courthouses’, after promising not to commit suicide, he ‘wandered away’ and did just that. Soon after his death, there is a brief newspaper article mentioning his escape from the said institution (referred to as Dr. Dewey’s Sanitarium) and the subsequent finding of his body ‘hanging from a tree limb on the Van Vechten property near the sanitarium’. The article states suicide as the cause of death and mentions that his son Arno C. Bruemmer was the family member notified and who dealt with the funeral details.
As to why he suffered from ‘melancholia’, there seems to be no solid answer. Likely because at that time, mental illness was far from understood. However, given the fact that he was a Civil War veteran, there is a possibility that he dealt with PTSD or some other form of trauma because of his service and that may have been triggered his melancholia as he got older. It is worth noting that his older brother who also fought for the Union, came home with lingering physical ailments due to his service.
That said, it’s interesting to know and find out more about my relatives. In browsing the above-mentioned book ‘Wisconsin’s Historic Courthouses’, it sounds like Louis and his children made a lasting impact on both Kewaunee and the county. Which in the end, makes me want to find out more about my Bruemmer ancestors.
Questions or comments?
Questions or comments about this post? Have any courthouse stories in your family? Any judges, lawyers, or other judicial workers? Curious about the 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks challenge? Let me know in the comments! And if you like what you’ve been seeing on Tenacious Genealogy – please subscribe to our email list. Not only will you stay up to date with the latest blog posts, but you’ll also get freebies such as ‘10 Tips For Starting your Genealogy’ and other fun ‘subscriber-only’ items.