The Oltken Family History
by: Christopher Allen Harris
This project was undertaken for the Bruns family reunion in June of 1999. The compiler of this work is a descendant of this family. From generation of immigration to present here is his line:
Johann Gerhard Oeltjenbruns (1822-1898)
Anna Margaretha (Bruns) Schuchart (1881-1983)
Helen Alyce (Schuchart) Hughes (1908-1979)
Ruth Ann (Hughes) Harris (1949- )
Christopher Allen Harris (1972- )
The first part of this work is taken from memoirs written by the John Henry Bruns, eldest son of Johann Gerhard Oeltjenbruns. Other parts of it are the result of much hard work and research in both the United States and Aschhuaserfeld, Oldenburg, Germany. My thanks to: Don Bruns, Jim Bruns, Warren Bruns, Virginia Redhage, Ruth Harris, & Marc Oeltjenbruns for their contributions to this family history.
Setting: Oldenburg District, Germany
Legends of the Bruns Family
The first we know of the Oltken family is a widow with three sons and one daughter who lived near the Weser River not far from its mouth, where it flows into the North Sea or British Channel. Though they owned a small farm, some of the boys often went with the Whale Boats to the northern waters to hunt whale. The names of the boys were: Johann, Aeliert, and Gerhard, the girls name was Elizabeth. Aeliert was the strongest of the three boys, although all three were all very large and strong and as the custom they would practice certain feats and become very accomplished in the performance of strength. Aeliert practiced at raising heavy weights with one arm and became very apt at this performance in so much that he acquired fame in this art.
At one time a traveling athlete coming through the country heard of him and hunted him up. He found him near the North Sea plowing the sod from off of the turf so the turf could be spaded up and dried for fuel. He walked up to the man as he was plowing, not knowing he was Aeliert and asked him if he knew where he could locate Aeliert Oltken as he wanted to compete with him. Aeliert told him to follow him to the end of the field and he would show him where he lived. When they arrived at the end of the row, Aeliert unhitched the team, took hold of the plowbeam, raised it up and pointed it toward the house and said "This is where I live." The man turned and walked away.
On another occasion while the country was at war, soldiers were quartered a few at a place among the farmers to watch the mouth of the river to keep the enemy from coming up the river. It so happened the mother and daughter were at home when the soldiers came up and demanded to have their horses put up and something to eat for themselves. The old lady did not show very much concern and told them to sit down, the boys would be in directly and help them. The soldiers then forced their way into the house and ordered the woman to cook for them and made themselves very obtrusive until the three Oltken boys came in, then they became very meek and humble and begged pardon for their behavior. The boys told them they might go and feed their horses and they could have something to eat as soon as the family had finished their meal.
The boys were all large and very strong and often went into the North Sea on fishing trips with the boats that went out to hunt whale, and as they were young and strong they taught them to throw the harpoon. On one of these trips they were caught in storm of sleet and rain, the ropes and sails became a solid sheet of ice, the wind became so strong that it was dangerous to leave the sails up so they tried to take them in, but the ropes were all frozen and covered with ice so that the sailors could not get up into the rigging. Aeliert was not one of the sailors but the Captain came to him at last and said, "Aeliert, Aeliert, if you can not help us we will all be lost." So Aeliert took a large knife in his teeth and a small axe in his belt and worked his way up into the rigging, cut the fastening and the wind soon tore the sails and carried them away and thus saved the ship.
These and many other stories of the adventures of his ancestors Johann G. Oeltjenbruns delighted in telling. Whether we are the descendants of Johann or Gerhard Oltken, we are not sure, but Grandfather Johann said that Aeliert never married. Elizabeth Oltken was married and it is from her side that the Heinen family came. John Dederich Heinen married the second oldest girl of the Ueltzen family (Margaret Ueltzen) and their children were Mary, John, Louisa, Kathren, Will, Herman, Edward and Gertrude.
Aschhauserfeld, Oldenburg, Germany
1822 - 1846
Records from the Evangelical Lutheran Church
Zwischenahn, Oldenburg, Germany
Johann Gerhard Oltjen Bruns, farmer and shoemaker,
legal son of Johann Oltjen Bruns, shoemaker
Born: September 19, 1794
Died: Oct. 20, 1836 (age 42 yrs, 1 month, 1 day)
Married: Helena Elisabeth Borchers - May 17, 1819
legal daughter of Harm Borches, shoemaker from Specken
Born: July 31, 1785
Died: January 25, 1832 (47 yrs, 5 months, 26 days)
Married: Anna Margaretha Junker - June 20, 1834
legal daughter of the formerly new settler, Gerd Junker of Kayhausen
Born: March 18, 1804
Died: January 16, 1867
Children: Wubke Helena
Born: April 24, 1820
Bapt. May 5, 1820
Parents: Johann Gerhard & Helena Elisabeth (Borchers) Oltjenbruns
Born: September 24, 1822
Bapt. September 29, 1822
Parents: Johann & Helena Oltjen-Bruns
Born: January 16, 1825
Bapt. January 30, 1825
Parents: Johann & Helena Oltjen-Bruns
Born: August 11, 1834
Bapt. September 5, 1834
Parents: Johann & Gerhard & Anna Margareta (Junker) Oeltjenbruns
Property Owners of #50 Aschhausen (the family farm)
in the year 1681 Brun Oltken owned the farm
in the year 1693 Brun Oltjen owned the farm
in the year 1716 Gerd Oltjen owned the farm
1780 Johann Oltjenbruns
1825 - Johann Oltjenbruns - the son of Johann G. Oltjenbruns;
1879 - Friderich Wilhelm Schneider;
The history of our family traces through two brothers, Johann & Hermann Oeltjenbruns. You see above the record of their birth and the record of their parents. The Church in which this is recorded has a very long history and the Oeltjenbruns family is included in that history. The oldest part of the Church was built in the 1400's. Inside on the balcony rail there are carved names of members of the church who have made contributions to the building. The name Oeltjenbruns is among those names. Also there are Oeltjenbruns headstones in the cemetery near the Church.
Before we get on with the story, here is the direct descendancy from the original family until the generation of the two brothers who immigrated.
Johann Oltken ( - ) Hallerstedt, Oldenburg, Germany
Brun Oltjen (1626- ) x Grete Ficken
Gerd Oeltjenbruns (1698-1753) x Thalke Bohlen
Johann Oeltjenbruns (1734-1777) x Talke M. Oltmanns
Johann Oeltjenbruns (1764- ) x Anna M. Oltmanns
Johann G. Oeltjenbruns (1794-1836) x Helena E. Borchers, Anna M. Junker
Anna M. Oeltjenbruns (1820- )
JOHANN GERHARD OELTJENBRUNS (1822-1898)
HERMANN OELTJENBRUNS (1825-1901)
Wubke H. Oeltjenbruns (1834- )
The boys father, Johann Gerhard Oeltjenbruns married Helena E. Borchers, she died before she was 50 yrs of age, all of a sudden. The father had gone into the timber a mile or so from the house to get a piece of wood for a shoe last, he being a shoemaker by trade. When he returned home he found his wife had died, probably of a heart attack. The children were put out among other people for a time as was custom until the father remarried. Johann being the oldest male fell heir to the homestead to keep up the family name as the name was attached to the farm. If there was no male to inherit the farm the oldest daughter, when married had the farm's name attached to the husbands last name or when property was sold without a male heir the same rule applied and in this manner the name Oltken became Oeltjenbruns.
The family that the children were put out with was the Ficken family. The father of the Ficken family came to America before the Oeltjenbruns boys did. He was the father of Louis, Gerhard, Dieterich, Anna, and Lena Ficken. Anna married Fred Rolf and Lena married Fritz Ludeman.
St. Louis & Dittmer, Missouri
Hermann Oeltjenbruns immigrated before Johann, around the year 1844 or so. It was very hard for a young man to leave Germany without serving three years in the German Army first. Johann, by his twenty-first birthday had saved up enough money he could afford the fare to America. He could not leave though without serving in the Army or unless he paid a fine of around $300 (in that days money). There was also a Lottery going on then for Military Service. Each young man could spin a wheel in hopes of the wheel stopping on the free pass section. If a man was lucky to get this, he was able to not serve and did not have to pay the fine. Johann got this fortunate spin and gave his pass to his brother Hermann. A couple of years later when the draft came around again, Johann again had saved enough money and came on to America before the draft hit his area.
Working on the Steamboats was about the only way for a young man to get any cash in those days. While Johann was working on one of the boats that ran between the upper ports of the Mississippi, such as LaCross, Wisconsin; Minneapolis, Dubuque, St. Louis, Cairo, Memphis, and New Orleans, he was watching the new immigrants arrive in New Orleans. Out of the blue he spotted Mr. Heinen (of the same family mentioned earlier) getting of the boat. He was not expecting Mr. Heinen to be there, in fact he was only slightly aquainted with him in Germany. He too him to St. Louis and soon found work for him. Deck hands on the Steamboats were usually illiterate. Many times cargo was loaded and unloaded several times because the crew could not understand the markings on the boxes. After working on the same boat for over a year, Johann soon learned the different markings and the ports they were to go to. One day he refused to take out a crate to the landing because he realized that it was the wrong port. A ship's mate came up and wanted to know why the box had not been moved and Johann said that it did not belong at this port. When the mate saw that Johann was right he promoted him to 2nd Mate and had him stand at the head of the gang plank to inspect all boxes and crates leaving the steamboat.
During the years in St. Louis that Johann and Herman worked on the river, there was a large lake with a mill on what is now 17th and 18th streets belonging to Charles P. Cheateau. Johann often spent Sunday afternoons fishing in that pond. Along about this same time, that is, in the early 1860's that there came one of the longest and hardest winters this country has ever experienced. The Mississippi River froze over at St. Louis about Christmas time. The ice was over two feet thick and wagons were able to cross the river on the ice.
Money was very scarce. A young man working on a farm at that time worked so many months for a horse or cow as payment. The clothing was all woven and made up on the farm by the housewife and her daughters, cotton and wool and flax was carded and hackeled and spun into thread and woven into cloth and knitted into socks. Consequently the demand for ready cash was not as necessary as now. Johann and Hermann worked on the steamboats on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers for ten years and as the banking system was not very well developed in those days they loaned their money to their German friends who wanted to buy land and start farming. After the ten years they had saved enough money to buy their own farm. They purchased land in Jefferson County near the town of Dittmer.
Jefferson County, Missouri Farm Location of the Oeltjenbruns brothers
Township 41 North, Range 3 East of the 5th Principal Meridian
Section 5 - Johann G. Oltjenbruns (98.36 acres)
Section 4 - Hermann O. Bruns (80 acres)
Section 3 - Hermann O. Bruns (100 acres)
Township 42 North, Range 2 & 3 East of the 5th Principal Meridian
Section 32 - Johann also had 42 acres (adjoining his 98.36 acres)
This farm of Johann's was bought from John McDaniel, the farm had a previous owner of the name Reumine. Mr. McDaniel had four sons, Joe, Matt, John, and William. "Uncle" Bill McDaniel, as William was called when he was an old man visited the Bruns family often and reminisced about the old days of his childhood. He had very fond memories of the first German settlers in the area. Some of them started farming without a horse to their name. They would clear small patches of land and then hire Uncle Bill who was then a boy in his teens and Mr. Frederick Dryer, the father of Ernest, Rudolf, and Lewis Dryer to break new ground. Uncle Bill was a good hand to drive oxen and Mr. Dryer was a strong young man to handle the old jumping shovel as the breaking plows of the day were called. They had so much work that it kept them busy for several weeks at a time. Sometimes Uncle Bill would be so tired that when Saturday came he wanted a rest so he would remove the key from the ox-yoke so one of the oxen would run of and if he ever got in the timber he would hide, meanwhile Bill would rest.
The country was more timbered in those days with few roads and very little travel as there were but few wagons nearly all the traveling was done on foot or horseback. Several times Johann said that he had to go out and hunt up some of the new folks in the area because they would loose their way in the thick timber and not know which way to go to get back to their farm.
Cattle and hogs were turned out in the timber to make their own living and often when they would not come home for a time the owners would have to go out and hunt them up. While Johann was working on the steamboat he came out to visit some of his old friends on Big River. He said there was a wagon road from St. Louis to Fenton to the Old Maddox Mill as the Mill at Clear Hill was then called. They had ferry boats to take wagons across the river but no bridges at the Merimac or Big River. The road from Cedar Hill then led South and West to the pinery or Rich Woods at the Old Dutch mines as the Post Office was afterwards called. There was a French Settlement at the Old Dutch Mine and at Patosi and these places were connected by wagon road especially the saw mill at the Pinery where they all had to go for lumber.
The Scullbone School was organized about four or five years before the Civil War, the German Settlers had their Church and their German School before then, but there was no public school. This move for public education was met with resistance. Some of the old Germans did not want their children to learn how to read and write English for fear that they would mingle with the American people too much and intermarry among them so they fought against the movement. Johann and Hermann had worked at public work so much that they saw how much better off those were who could read and write in English that they favored the move and worked for it. All public questions were brought up at their church meetings and consequently the school question was brought up again at a meeting in the old log church that served as both church and school house with two rooms at the back for the minister and teacher to live in. Old man John Weaver, the father of Mrs. Herman Brummelow and Mrs. Willie Herman, was chairman of the meeting. He did not favor the school movement and so he did not want any discussion. He stated that Herman and Gerhart Bruns (referring to Johann) were there with a proposition to break up the church and all those who favored this move to stand up. Hermann at once rose to his feet and said "If you folks think that I would champion a move that I thought would break up this church do not count me as one of your number any longer!" and the two brothers withdrew at once and another meeting was called at a log house that was empty at the time on what was long known as the Henry Eggers farm. the house stood about three or four hundred yards North West of the present school house known as Maple Grove.
This building served as the first school house for five or six years. the logs of the first building grew in the little flat south of the present school house on land owned by John Fox or Hannas Fuchs as the Germans called him in their language. He cut the timbers enough for the school in one day. They grew so close together that sometimes he had three and four trees lodged in one another before he could get them to the ground. A man by the name of Kristian Luckie dragged the logs up to the place where they were building. Eventually the school was finished but not after it had been a controversy for over two years.
With the building of the Rock Road from Fenton to Morse's Mill it became easier for the farmers to make the trip to St. Louis which before had taken more than three days, now only took two days. The mail that came into Dittmer twice a week now came every day. The two extremely hard pulls one on the Entire Hill the other on Medley Hill had been so graded as to make it much easier on the teams. Before this the Big River farmers always helped one another by doubling teams on these large hills. Consequently they generally drove to St. Louis in groups from two to seven wagons together. Whiskey sold at .$0.25 to $0.30 a gallon and there was always more or less drinking and Johann said many times he slipped quietly away from the yard in the City in order to get away from the lot of drunken men in order not to be with them on the road.
Johann and Herman often saw Ulysses S. Grant while he was living near St. Louis. They observed him hauling cord-wood to the city for the Steamboats before they used coal as fuel.
When the Oeltjenbruns boys came to Jefferson County, Missouri there were quite a few deer and wild turkey, the wild pigeons would come in such droves that they would break the limbs of the trees where they settled. The area was very plentiful. Consequently the meat question did not bother those early settlers very much. But flour and meal was not as easily obtained as the mills were few and far between, the old Maddox Mill for a long time was the only mill in the county that ground both wheat and corn on the same old home made burs without bolting and the farmers sifted the bran from the flour and meal to suit themselves. The wheat was tramped out by horses or beat out with a flail. There were no large packing houses in St. Louis, the farmers butchered their hogs and hauled them to the city and sold them at four or five cents per pound. Farm implements were owned in partnership, mowers and reapers did not find their way into the county until about the year 1875 but all grass was cut with the scythe and raked with the wooden hand rake. Plows and wagons were made by the local blacksmith and such a thing as a buggy or spring wagon was seldom seen outside the city until after the Rock road was built
Johann married a girl by the name of Margaret Gherken. She was ten or eleven years old when her father and step mother brought their family to America from Hannover, Germany. She had two brothers and two sisters, one of the sisters stayed in Germany, the other sister married a man in New Orleans and never came up to St. Louis. John Henry Gherken, Margaret's brother, married and moved to Shobernier, Illinois. The other brother, Herman, married a girl from near High Ridge by the name of Anna Miller, they lived on the old homestead in Dittmer for a long time, but finally he also bought land near Shobernier and moved all of his family closer to his brother in Illinois.
Dittmer & St. Clair, Missouri
(1881 - )
In 1883 Johann moved his family to a new farm outside of St. Clair, Franklin County, Missouri. His wife passed away shortly after the birth of their tenth and last child, Anna in 1881. Margaret is buried in St Martin's Church Cemetery at Dittmer, Missouri along with Johann and Hermann and many cousins. The farm that Johann bought in St. Clair is still owned by the family and now is around 750 acres which the original was only 169 acres. The farm is located on the Meramec River just across from the Old Cove School house and Cemetery. When Johann moved the started attending Bethel Baptist Church and have been outstanding members of the church from the first day. Both St. Martin's and Bethel have Bruns relatives buried in their respective cemeteries.
Around 1880 the two families decided to change the name to make it easier to spell. We do not know if it was legally changed or just changed.... But they now were called the Bruns family which is the way it is today. Below are listed the first three generations of the Bruns family inside of the United States:
Johann Oeltjenbruns * Margaret Gherkin
Mary H. Bruns * John H. Ueltzen
Emma H. Ueltzen
Edward J. Ueltzen
Carolyn M. Ueltzen
Anna E. Ueltzen
Rosa Lena Ueltzen
Effie Mary Ueltzen * Robert D. Belew
Bertha M. Ueltzen * Michael W. Dwyer
Anna E. Bruns * James F. Pierce
Edwin J. Pierce * Marietta Gill, Blanch Gill
John G. Pierce * May Cheatam
Walter J. Pierce * Clare Cole
Alma Pierce * Carroll Garrish
Emma Pierce * Jack Gossage
John Henry Bruns * Florence R. Pierce
John J. Bruns * Helen E. McCrary
William Arthur Bruns * Elizabeth L. Cordell
Emma M. Bruns
Ella R. Bruns * John Hoffman
Edna R. Bruns * Edwin C. Redhage
Charles E. Bruns * Nina E. Brown
Robert H. Bruns * Mary E. Hill
Henry G. Bruns * Minnie Rowland
Henry Lee Bruns * Jean Violet Williams
Elma M. Bruns * Walter M Koch
Alva R. Bruns * Lois Roberts
Mable Bruns * John Kelley
Walter Bruns * Estelle
Herman L. Bruns * Emma Owens
George E. Bruns * Selma Weber
Louis H. Bruns * Priscilla Miles
Margaret Bruns * George Price
Pearl Bruns * James Coman
William J. Bruns * Anna Miller, Almira Jurnagin
William Jesse Bruns
Helena E. Bruns * Allen R. Moore
Marian M. Moore * Fred D. Massar
Harold E. Moore * Bertha Reeder
William C. Moore * Edith B. Welts
John Gerhart Moore
Glen A. Moore * Helen A. McMaster
Reba Moore * Kenneth F. Goodale
Helen E. Moore * Van E. Nutley
Fred Edward Bruns * Fidelia Ennis, Carrie Wade
George E. Bruns
Emma A. Bruns * Carl H. Lippert
Helen Lippert * Max Smith
Roy H. Lippert * Bernice S. Burroughs
Theodore G. Lippert * Elizabeth O. Wanamaker
Carl H. Lippert, Jr. * Florence E. Noelley
Anna Margaretha Bruns * Robert Bartholomew Schuchart
Helen Alyce Schuchart * Dewey C. Hughes
Bertha Schuchart * Edward Horneker
Florence May Schuchart * John Highsmith
Hermann Oeltjenbruns * Anna Karsten
John G. Bruns * Louis Dresden
Arthur Bruns * Anna Kommer
Cora Bruns * ?
Emma Bruns * ?
Harry Bruns * Katie Long
Julia Bruns * Harry Rabenort
Rosie Bruns * Fred Reitzer
William Bruns * Margaret Winer
George H. Bruns * Bertha Meyer
Herbert G. Bruns * Bernice McDermott
Edgar Bruns * Mildred Fisher
Ella Bruns * William Weber
Hulda Bruns * Otto Kramme
Warren G. Bruns * Peggy Richter
Amelia Bruns * Alfred Hollandt
Louisa Hollandt * Albert Kramme
Eliza Bruns * Alfred Torbitzky
Emma Bruns * Wilhelm C. Eime
Karl Eime * Johanna L. Dreyer
Elizabeth Eime * Edward C. Junge
Herman C. Eime * Hulda Mueller
Hulda Eime * William H. Ploesser
Emilie E. Eime & Frederick Dreyer
Wilhelm Eime, Jr. * Marguerite Kober, Jennie Rathert
Henry Bruns * Ludie
Anna Bruns * A. H. Blake
Louis H. Bruns * Hannah Meyer
Bertha Bruns * Lewis J. Laffoon
Edward Bruns * Lottie Brewster
Herman H. Bruns
Lydia Bruns * Howard McCulloch
Vida Bruns * Fred May
William Bruns * Alta Harness.