W.A.G. von Breyman, Around the Cape to California! 1849

The Obituary:

The Daily Colusa Sun
Wednesday, April 17, 1901

CORTINA POSTMASTER PASSES AWAY
Wm. A. Von Breyman, an old and respected citizen of Cortina, died suddenly Tuesday morning. The deceased has been the Cortina postmaster for years. He was 65 years of age.

The Story:

Wow!  Two sentences for a man who left Germany, traveled around the Cape to California, spoke Spanish, English and German fluently, had a profitable business traveling from Los Angeles to Stockton to sell supplies to Gold Miners, was the father of nine children . . . . and I could go on and on in this sentence!  . . . but I’ll reserve my great-grandfather’s story for the rest of this blog!

von Breyman family crest taken from a sheet of Bertha von Breyman Lindgren's stationery

von Breyman family crest taken from a sheet of Bertha von Breyman Lindgren's stationery

William Adolphus George von Breyman was born in Harburg, Hanover, Germany, the youngest son of Frederike Caroline Breymann and Adolph Ludwig Ferdinand von Breymann.

Page from Family Bible

Page from Family Bible

Family legend has it that his sisters, not wanting him to go into military service, secured a position for him as a carpenter on a sailing ship bound for America.  The ship sailed around the tip of South America eventually arriving in the Port of what is now Los Angeles, California.

In 1860 he is found in Placer County as a Packer, which indeed he was.  I’ll get in to that later.  He was 25 and born in Argentina with his personal property being $2000.  It is unknown why his birthplace is listed as Argentina, perhaps he spoke in Spanish to the census taker!  $2000 is a rather high personal worth for that time period, but not when you know how he earned his living.  He did need money to purchase supplies to turn around and sell, so that figure probably took that into account.

WAG von Breyman’s eldest son, George, was a prolific letter writer and sent many letters chronicling his father’s early days in California.  A lot of the information I have comes from copies of these letters, which others in the family have been kind enough to share with me.

According to these letters his father jumped ship in San Francisco.  It was the height of the gold rush.  He made his way to Sacramento and eventually up to Placerville where he mined for a while.  He had a log cabin on the Yuba River which he called home.  Somewhere around this time he bought a pack train and made his living by packing groceries in and out to the miners.  Since they also need meat he would go down to Los Angeles and buy a herd of long horn cattle which he paid $5 a head.  He hired Mexican Vaqueros and packed what provisions they needed for the cattle drive from Los Angeles to Stockton.  The letters are very descriptive as to what the men experienced on these drives.

William Adolphus George von Breyman, entrapuner exordinaire

William Adolphus George von Breyman, entrepreneur extraordinary

Shortly after he arrived in California, his bride-to-be was born in New York City.  Their paths would not cross for another 20 or so years.

He eventually ended up in Sacramento where an advertisement was found for a fencing company he owned.   The von Breymans married in Sacramento on 24 August 1877.  After his marriage the family lived in Woodland, California, eventually moving to Cortina Valley where he was a Veterinarian, Post Master in Cortina,  and a Farmer.  The marriage produced nine children, three sons and six daughters, with my grandmother, Bertha Emma, being the second to the youngest.

WAG (my nickname for my great-grandfather) died on 17 April in 1901 in Cortina, California.  He is buried in Arbuckle Cemetery, just north of Dunnigan. He was only 66 years old.

After his death, his oldest son, George, the letter writer, took on the responsibility of supporting the family.  The house that they lived in still exists in Dunnigan.  The town of Cortina, however, does not.

Wilhemine "Minnie" Sophia Goda von Breyman

Wilhemine "Minnie" Sophia Goda von Breyman

His wife did not die for another 33 years.  She never remarried.  She is buried in Ventura, California.

Published in: on September 27, 2008 at 10:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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