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Kaspar Bruehlmeier-Meier, Beer Brewer and Theater Player (FT 124)

Beer Brewer, Kaspar Bruehlmeier-Meier, was the son of Kaspar Bruehlmeier-Steimer, who was Justice of the Peace and mayor of Wettingen for several years in the mid 19th century and also a member of the canton’s parliament. Kaspar ran a tavern in the building of the later Restaurant ‘Casino’, where he sold beer from his own brewery. This gave him the somewhat derogatory nickname, Guellesueder, [Swiss German, literally "one who boils sullage"] which is still used by some inhabitants of Wettingen, even today.

When Kaspar’s daughter died on February 26, 1954, Pastor Otto Schnetzler acquired some information about the deceased from the financial officer of the community, Sales Zehnder, but actually got to know more about her father. He wrote: "Hereafter some information concerning Emilia Verena Bruehlmeier, born February 20, 1864 as the third child of six, the daughter of Kaspar, 1836 - 1889 and Viktoria, maiden name Meier, of Oberehrendingen (died in Bern). Father Bruehlmeier, a beer brewer, owned the brewery in the village where the Casino is located today. He was a fervent and gifted theater actor, a talent which he also passed to his children. Father Bruehlmeier must have gotten into debt through suretyships but his children greatly helped to regain the family’s financial stability. Verena Bruehlmeier had several occupations, mostly in restaurants, and possessed an enviable memory, an undaunted spirit, and great love for the home. Cordial Greetings."

Perhaps Pastor Schnetzler would have been better off asking Teacher Spiegelberg who could have produced more elaborate information. Verena had already corresponded with Spiegelberg while living in Bern and also was in contact with him later, as an inhabitant of the St. Bernhard home for the elderly. The many details reported from her father and her sister stem from this personal acquaintanceship. At this point, I would like to reproduce parts of Spiegelberg’s stenographical notes, through which one can almost hear Verena speaking herself:

[The actual account is written in a very rich language, which I can only translate by meaning, but not in the original style.] "Caspar Leonz Bruehlmeier, beer brewer, was born on February 29, 1836 in Wettingen. He was in the prime of his life at 53 years of age when he died on February 21, 1889. His children had often teased him, because his year of birth was a leap year and he could only celebrate his birthday every four years. He was a true Wettinger, industrious and well regarded in his hometown.

The promotion of the amateur theater in Wettingen was Bruehlmeier’s vocation. However, his efforts caused a great deal of trouble, failures, and even derision. At the time, the Catholic priests were mainly against theater play, but then in 1885, Pastor Johann Jacob Marti came to Wettingen. Pastor Marti became active in the amateur theater play himself, and when he took over its direction, even the stubborn turned fain and participated. By that time, Kaspar Bruehlmeier had retreated but there is no doubt that he is to be credited for the promotion of the theater play in Wettingen. Kaspar played several roles during the early eighteen-fifties when the plays where still held in the Scharten-Trotte [Trotte is the house where the grapes were pressed, filled and stocked in barrels. Scharten is the name and location of this Trotte]. In the Drama "Der Wald bei Hermannstadt" ["The woods at Hermannstadt"], he played the role of the lover in an outstanding manner, along with his sister Alberika.

Curiously, he did not approve when his four daughters also began to share his love for the theater. Every summer during theater season, they commuted from the village to the town of Baden to visit the ‘Theater of Artists’ and to get training in dramatic arts. Therefore, their companions were usually the leading theater people of the village.

There were also plays during the carnival, one of which was a musical that was introduced as a premiere to the theater life of Wettingen, and done in cooperation with the mixed choir. It was quite a large crowd of young boys and girls who were summoned for the rehearsals of the mixed choir. Also the intermissions were enhanced with songs of the costumed singers. We can see that true theater blood existed in the veins of the young folks of Wettingen from early on. There was probably never a shortage of friends, players or singers."

 

Maria Bruehlmeier, child with a particular guardian angel (FT 426)

Eduard Spiegelberg must have listened to the aging Verena Bruehlmeier in the St. Bernhard’s home for the elderly with great interest and patience. Certainly, the following story is still preserved due to his skill of rapid stenography. He titled it: "Maria Bruehlmeier of Wettingen and the mysterious Madame Damelin, a girl trafficker 1876."

"Maria Bruehlmeier was born as the oldest daughter of the beer brewer, Kaspar Leonz Bruehlmeier, in February 1862 in Wettingen. She passed elementary school in the village and then went to high school in Baden, where she graduated with honors. In her spare time, she took piano lessons from the Wettinger teacher, Daniel Moser, who also led the church choir. Her piano plays and even more so, her poem recitations, were always highly acclaimed. After she had finished school in 1876, an advertisement was published in a local paper with the following text: ‘A lady from Paris is looking for a decent and upright daughter at her service, and will be offered the opportunity to learn the French language. Offers to Madame Damelin, Hotel Limmathof, Baden’. The responses to this advertisement were numerous but Maria Bruehlmeier was ultimately chosen. The Madame remained in Baden [the neighboring town] for some time because many details needed to be taken care of before her departure. During this time, she also came to Wettingen once in a while. Father Bruehlmeier, who was in charge of the brewery and restaurant and which was located where the ‘Casino’ stands today, always had her well served and cared for. People thought she was indeed, a distinguished woman. After she had commissioned Maria with different tasks and shopping orders, she defined the day of departure to Paris.

It was a beautiful summer day at the end of August in 1876, and the house of the family Bruehlmeier was filled with an almost wistful atmosphere. Father Bruehlmeier accompanied Maria on her train to Basel. Madame Damelin had taken a small trip to the lake of Lucerne before her final departure and arrived from Lucerne to Basel on time. Then, something unexpected happened. In the very moment, when Damelin was about to board the train to Paris with Maria, two detectives blocked her way and sternly demanded in a severe tone, ‘Where do you intend to go with this young girl?’

‘She is my travel companion’, was her response.

The police officers replied: ‘No, she is not your travel companion, she stays with her father. We know you and we know exactly who you are and what you are intending.’

The woman protested vigorously, threatening that the matter would not end there. She demanded in return, ‘What do you think the people in the Limmathof in Baden will say to this issue? I will go back to my hotel and we will see tomorrow what the judge’s opinion is.’

‘Go ahead’, was the reply of the two undercover policemen.

Father Bruehlmeier and his daughter spent the night in Basel to see how things would develop the next morning. But Madame Damelin was not to be found in Basel and had disappeared forever. At home, Mother Bruehlmeier and the siblings awaited the return of their father. One can imagine how surprised they were when he came back accompanied by Maria and when they learned what had happened in the meantime. The ‘Basler Nachrichten’ [a local newspaper of Basel] wrote an article about this incident and stressed the importance of collecting information before taking such important steps.

When the mother asked her returned daughter what she would have done if she had ended up in bad company in Paris, she declared: ‘It was not for nothing that I have prayed constantly and asked Mother Mary for her help and protection prior to my departure. If it had turned out to be very bad, I would have opened a vein with a hair pin or bit it open with my teeth.’ In Wettingen, people continued to talk about this story for a long time.

Maria finally went to Lausanne [near Geneva, in the French speaking part of Switzerland, at the lake of Geneva] to a widower called Benz, who was friends with the Bruehlmeiers. As a young boy, he had left for the Welschland, [Swiss German word for the French speaking part of Switzerland] had acquired the ability to speak French, and worked his way up in the hotel business until he finally became director of the ‘Cercle de Beau Sejour’ in Lausanne. This man warmly received Maria and treated her in a fatherly manner. It is not surprising that she always spoke of him with the greatest respect.

During her two years stay, the man died. Out of gratitude and admiration for him, she held guard at his coffin for one whole night. Then she dedicated herself to the hotel business, worked in Lucerne, on the Rigi (a mountain in the centre of Switzerland) and in the Bernese Oberland. During a winter she spent in Central Switzerland, Maria caught a cold which caused her death at the age of 21 in 1883. Her early decease was deeply mourned in the whole village. The good pastor Josef Koch, who attended her during her illness and was with her when she died, found some consoling words: ‘Every young girl should be appointed to die as beautifully as Maria Bruehlmeier.’ "

 

Emilia Verena Bruehlmeier, the unknown poet (FT 391)

So far, we have only encountered Verena, the third daughter of the beer brewer, who died at the age of 90 in the St. Bernhard home for elderly people, as a source of information to Eduard Spiegelberg. In his legacy in Aarau, we can find a letter from her dated January 2, 1944, written in Bern, proving that she was in contact with him prior to moving into the home for the elderly in Wettingen. We can learn from the letter that Eduard Spiegelberg had sent her a notebook, obviously hoping that she would tell him as much as possible of old Wettingen. She promised at least, "I will fill in the notebook you kindly sent me later on, provided I am still alive." After all, she was blessed with 10 more years of life and we can assume that she wrote down quite a bit. However, the notebook cannot be found in the Bruehlmeier-file of Spiegelberg’s legacy. Provided she had indeed used it, it was probably discarded with all the other personal effects after her death.

A delightful poem left to Eduard Spiegelberg proves that not only Maria was very gifted, but also her sister Verena. It is not only technically correct, i.e. regarding rhyme and rhythm, but also reveals depth of soul and a strong bond towards her hometown. However, a translation into English would not make sense, because Verena constantly refers to specific locations of Wettingen, which are known only to natives of Wettingen

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Mathe Leonz Bruehlmeier-Wetzel, the famous politician (FT 43)

It would perhaps be most worthwhile to write a biography on the grandfather of Kaspar Leonz Bruehlmeier-Beetschen, Mathe Leonz Bruehlmeier-Wetzel, born in 1762 and probably the most important representative of our family. He must have been visionary, intelligent, politically apt, beneficent and probably religious. According to the tax register of 1803, he was the second richest of the roughly 150 Wettinger farmers, and after his death, the inventory of the legacy listed, besides two houses, a capital of 14,241 guilders, which was a very large sum at the time. There must not have been one important office which he hadn’t claimed at some time during his life. He had been the treasurer of the school fund and the fund for the impecunious, member of the local council, treasurer of the community, mayor, member of the canton’s council, justice of the peace, tax-collector on behalf of the abbey, community and county judge, treasurer and secretary of the Bruderschaftsrat [council of the brotherhood] of the brotherhood of Maria Meerstern for 37 years (1785 - 1822), and Rebmeister of the abbey of Wettingen. Besides these offices, he also worked as Kuefer [Barrel-producing craftsman]. He held the office of mayor during the politically extraordinarily difficult and uncertain time of the French occupation (around 1799).

Random fragment from his notebook

His notebook, which he started in 1798 when he was elected county judge and which also holds many notes regarding viticulture, proved to be an abundant resource for exploring his activities. It also shows that he himself made historical studies in a certain sense, because he has listed the prices of wine since 1719 at the beginning of his notebook. Unfortunately, his handwriting is hardly readable and many times nearly impossible to decipher, which is why I have to postpone the evaluation of this highly interesting document (or leave it to someone else).

 

Josef Getul Bruehlmeier,  afflict from the fate (FT 57)

Genealogy not only lets past greatness shine again, but may at the same time reveal dispiriting circumstances and sad events. When we have a closer look at the history of Josef Getul Bruehlmeier and his two wives, Anna Maria Meier and Theresia Fruetsch and their children, it quickly becomes clear that for these people, life had not been easy. Josef Getul married his first wife, Anna Maria, when he was 29 and she was 28 years old. His farmlands and meadows – more than a dozen – were widely dispersed (as for most farmers). It might not have been easy for him to bring up the interest for his land (nearly 120 kg grains, 1 chicken and 53 ˝ eggs), which he had to bring to 5 different Meierhof’s, according to the number and size of the pieces of land. In order to improve his income, he also worked as a butcher. Of course, this doesn’t mean he ran a butchery, but he was at the disposal of other farmers when it came to butchering cattle and pigs.

Only 3 years after the wedding, Anna Maria gave birth to his first son Philipp. One year later, another son was born and yet another one 1 ˝ years later, but both died the day they were born. In October 1818, at the age of 35, she gave birth to a girl, but then Maria herself passed away half a year later. This turned Josef Gretul at the age of 37 into a widower with two small children. It comes as no surprise that he remarried 8 months later.

Theresia Fruetsch from Spreitenbach [a village close to Wettingen] became his new wife. She gave birth to three children in the years 1821, 1822 and 1823, but all of them died at birth. The girl that was born in 1824, Maria Elisabeth, survived, but later died at the age of two. Theresia was again pregnant by this time, but the child died in the womb two months after the death of Maria Elisabeth. This means that in 1826, Theresia Fruetsch had been married for six years, had had 5 births, but that none of her children had survived. One year later, she gave birth to Maria Magdalena, a girl who finally prospered, became a nun and later died at the ripe old age of 78. Four years after the birth of Maria Magdalena, she was slightly older than 40 by then, Theresia gave birth to another boy who also died at birth. She herself followed this last son to the grave one day later.

Josef Getul, now 49 and father of 3 children, became a widower for the second time. It must have been a great joy for this man so harshly treated by fate, when his only son Philipp married at the age of thirty and became the father of two children. But what a tragedy for the whole family - Philipp died just a few years later, at the age of only 36.

 

Josef Karl Bruehlmeier, the disliked one (FT 153)

Community archives have the innate tendency of growing too small, which is why they get cleaned up from time to time, to the great regret of historians. The Wanderbuch [literally: book of journeys, which will be explained later on] of the Kuefer-journeyman [barrel producer] Josef Bruehlmeier, might have been the victim of such a cleaning campaign. However, in the approximate year of 1959, when the community administration moved from the schoolhouse Laegern to the newly-erected town hall, my uncle, Walter Bruehlmeier, in his function as the school's caretaker, saved it from ending up in flames. After some time he passed it on to Sales Zehnder, who had a great interest in local history, and he, in turn, handed it back to our family a short time ago. Sincere thanks.

The tradition of journeyman and thus the importance of a Wanderbuch, is hardly common knowledge nowadays. I will explain why, briefly. A Wanderbuch was a passport that allowed a young fellow who had completed a craftsman apprenticeship to travel throughout the countries of Europe in order to take on work from different masters of his craft as a so-called journeyman and to build up his experience. The owner of such a Wanderbuch had to present it to all police stations and to every community police office during his journey and have it signed. In order to get the signature, the journeyman had to indicate the duration and reason for his stay, for instance work, sickness or something else, and he had to present a reference from his master and have the signatures certified by the local authorities. If the owner of a Wanderbuch had been traveling around for more than three months with no work and no convincing reason for not working, he was regarded as a loiterer or a vagabond. The authorities then confiscated his Wanderbuch, sent it to his home community and issued a so-called Laufpass, a paper that forced him to go home on the most direct route.

 

Second page

Personal Description

Age 28 Years (born 1833)

Height 5 Feet 6 Inches 7 Lines, Swiss
Measurement

Hair brown

Forehead open

Eyebrows brown

Nose strong

Mouth large

Teeth good

Beard blond

Chin round

Shape of Face oval

Special Characteristics

 

Signature of the Bearer:

Karl Josef Bruehlmeier

On page 2 of Josef Karl Bruehlmeier's Wanderbuch we can find a personal description. On page 3, the head of the county, Mr. Bopp-Weiss (a citizen of Wettingen) certifies that the passport was issued on the basis of a Lehrbrief [literally a ‘letter of apprenticeship’; the confirmation of a completed apprenticeship] dated June 25, 1851. He also certifies that this young man is now entitled to "domestic and international journeys" and that his journey would first lead him to Bern. According to stamps and short references in his Wanderbuch, we can learn that his journey led from Biel through Aubonne to Basel, then through Loerrach to Schaffhausen and finally through Winterthur to Zurich, where he was referred first to Basel, then to Bern.

At first I wondered how this Wanderbuch came to be stored in the community archive in the first place. I supposed that the fellow had not behaved very well and finally got a Laufpass from somewhere. However, the truth turned out to be quite different.

Josef Karl Bruehlmeier had been born in 1833 as an illegitimate child. He is the only person listed in the register of citizens of the community without an exact date of birth. For illegitimate children, register entries were obviously not considered so important. His mother was Maria Verena Bruehlmeier, a daughter of Johann Bruehlmeier (FT 55) and Anna Maria, whose maiden name was Suter. Back then, an "out-of-wedlock" pregnancy was always quite an event in a village, a scandal, which produced a lot of gossip and caused much pain and shame. As soon as the pregnancy became known, it became an issue to the local council. We can read in the protocol of the local council’s meeting of February 2, 1833: "Leonz Bruehlmeier Rebmeisters is proposed as curator for the pregnant Maria Verena Bruehlmeier." A guardian was thus assigned to her and her child who had to make sure everything was done in the proper manner. It comes as no surprise that, since it had to be a Bruehlmeier, that it could only be one from the Rebmeister-line, namely, the son of the famous Mathe Leonz and later mayor Leonz Bruehlmeier, brother of the known Kaspar Bruehlmeier-Steimer, who was previously mentioned.

It remains unknown where exactly Verena lived with the boy, but it seems as though she could no longer keep up with him in his puberty. Anyway, it was an issue at the Ortsbuergergemeindeversammlung [assembly of all citizens with their familial roots in Wettingen] and it was resolved on February 9, 1846, to pass the boy on to the tailor, Johann Bruehlmeier – of whom we will learn more later on. This appears to be a logical decision, because he was the brother of Josef Karl’s mother, Verena. However, considering that this Johann was impoverished and was declared incapacitated in the poverty list a few years later, it does not seem to be a very wise choice. I suppose that many of the members of the assembly toyed with the idea that the community would have to spend a bit less on welfare if the poor tailor got the 18 Francs (a year) for child care. Such a thought would be understandable if one considers that the community had built up massive debt by this time in order to support all the citizens willing to emigrate. Furthermore, the community had to cut down its most beautiful forest to cover the interests and pay back the debts with proceeds of the wood.

When the protocol was read at the next assembly on February 27, 1846, Johann Bruehlmeier stated that "it had been resolved at the last assembly that Verena Bruehlmeier had been ordered to pay 4 Francs towards the food cost incurred by her boy." The fact that the afflicted Johann had to claim help from the assembly in order to protect himself against the feared denial of support by his sister clearly shows that the familial situation was not exactly harmonious. The petition made by the Justice of the Peace Meier (right after Johann’s statement) proves that Josef Karl was obviously regarded as a Tunichtgut [a ‘useless person’ or a person that ‘does no good’]… "This son of Verena Bruehlmeier, of whom the worst expectations are to be anticipated, should be put under a strict supervision and therefore be left at the disposal of the community council and the guardian." A great majority passed the petition.

Obviously, he did not behave so badly after all. He started an apprenticeship, which he completed when he was eighteen, and then he must have done fairly well for the next 10 years, because otherwise, he would not have been issued a Wanderbuch, allowing him to look for work as a journeyman anywhere in Switzerland or abroad. His book thus confirms that he had always worked "uncomplainingly", which does not mean that he did not complain of his work, but rather that his masters did not complain of him. However, his journeymanship did not last very long: the last entry in his Wanderbuch dates from April 15, 1862.

 

Page Four

 

Roughly one year later, on July 19, 1863, Karl Josef Bruehlmeier, learned Kuefer, filed the following plea toward the community assembly: "The undersigned has resolved to emigrate to America and to exchange this home for the home there. One might think that, with my profession of Kuefer, I should be able to do well here. However, this profession demands everyday practice, a respectable fortune to buy tools and wood and also a spacious shop. In the absence of these means, a Kuefer is like a horseman without a horse. Every citizen knows that I cannot hold expectations for a better future. I’ve always been poor, despised and even persecuted and ran away in my younger years because I could not bear it. I am your co-citizen and a holder of a share of the community goods, which I am willing to disclaim for myself and my possible descendants, through my emigration, considering that out of a thousand emigrants, hardly one ever returns. The emigration will incur costs for the journey and equipment. Because I am indigent, I am entering the following plea:

  1. The community may resolve to contribute about 100 Francs towards my costs.

  2. Borrow 200 Francs against a suretyship, with an interest of 4 % and refundable in eight yearly installments. The suretyship shall be produced in Wettingen."

Spiegelberg, of whom I cited this quotation, added the following remarks (in his stenographical notes): "The plea did not seem to have success at first. Finally, on October 1, 1864, the assembly resolved to award 80 Francs in support towards the costs of his journey to North America. The plea was backed by former Mayor Leonz Bopp and County Judge Johann Meier."

Whether he actually undertook the journey remains subject to further investigation. Only one thing is certain: He died two years later, on December 28, 1866. The question remains as to why his passport ended up in the community archive. It is possible that it was sent to Wettingen from America, perhaps from a private person, with the message of his death. However, the fact that no evidence in the form of stamps or notes of a border crossing can be found in his passport speaks against this theory.

Apropos, in 1852, his mother Verena married the four years older Balthasar Albert Merkli at the age of 45.

 

Johann Baptist Bruehlmeier-Frei, the poor tailor (FT 61)

In mid 19th century, many inhabitants of Wettingen emigrated to countries beyond the ocean. In the year 1851 alone, more than 100 people entered a petition towards the local council for support. This shows that a large part of the population of Wettingen was impoverished. One example of a man and head of a family who was dependent on the support of the Armenkasse [community fund supporting the indigent] is the foster father of Josef Karl and brother of the previously mentioned, Verena, as well as Josef Getul Bruehlmeier. We can learn from the poverty list of 1850 that Johann Baptist was ill and six years later was declared incapacitated on the same list. His boy, Wilhelm, was sick as well and at times detained in Koenigsfelden [an institute for the mentally ill and retarded]. When we have a closer look at the poverty list of 1852, we can understand somewhat, the miserable circumstances in which our ancestors had to live:

To the Landjaeger [the policeman of the community] Liechti for the transport of Wilhelm Fr. 1.11

Mr. apothecary Stoll (26 Fr.) 11.80

Mr. apothecary Hager 6.40

Augustin Fischer for bread 1.30

to the Saekkelamt [the cash desc of the community] Wettingen for wood 6.00

Joh. Huser from the Geisswies [an area of Wettingen] for wood 6.00

Dr. Nieriker 9.80

bought a skirt from the widow Keller in Baden 5.00

to the administration of Koenigsfelden for the year 1851 38.85

Leonz Kaufmann for 1 pair of shoes 7.10

Alfons Deucher for 2 pairs of boy shoes 7.80

to the Saekkelamt, earnings for cutting wood, Ruetizins [the rent for a field] and Banholzlos [the price for wood] 8.43

to the heirs of Melchior Merkli, rent for 10 months 50.29

Mr. apothecary Stoll 1.50

Dr. Nieriker, still unsettled 80 Rappen [cents]

Basil Ursprung, still unsettled for rent 12.57 (DB)

 

Johann Bruehlmeier-Gueller/Suter, the seviour of the gender "Bruehlmeier" (FT 55)

I would like to write a few lines on Johann Bruehlmeier-Gueller/Suter because he is the common ancestor of all Swiss bearers of the name "Bruehlmeier", except for the very few descendants of his brother Peter (the "Rothenpeters" of the Binz). So far, we have talked about three of his children: Josef Getul (FT 57), Maria Verena (FT 62) as the mother of Josef Karl as well as Johann Baptist (FT 61). However, Johann had 14 children all in all, 4 by his first wife Maria Anna Gueller, who died at the age of 47, and 10 by Maria Anna Suter, who died roughly a month after the birth of her tenth child and only reached the age of 41. Of the first 4 children, one only lived 6 weeks, one died at the age of 10 and one at the age of 14 years. Only Josef Getul survived and became the progenitor of the "Hieronymus"-line. If we rely on the register entry, Johann remarried only 5 weeks after the death of his first wife. Of the 10 children to whom she gave birth, only 5 lived to become adults, 3 daughters and 2 sons. One son became a tailor, as previously mentioned, and the other, Josef, became a bricklayer. This Josef is the progenitor of the "Kuefer"-line of the Bruehlmeier’s. He is my grand-grand-grand-father.

 

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