Bruning family gathers for 100th family reunion July 10

Press Staff Writer

        The descendants of Hermann Heinrich Oberbruning and Anna Maria Caroline (Meier) Oberbruning got together at the Riverview Banquet Center in Pemberville to celebrate the 100th Bruning Family Reunion on July 10.
        The Oberbrunings emigrated from Linne, Germany to Pemberville in 1860. “Ober” was dropped from the family’s surname after they settled in the United States.
        Ninety-nine relatives representing five generations from nine branches responded to an emailed invitation to the reunion sent in June. In all, 82 people attended, ranging in age from 5-90.
        The family members came from Arkansas, California, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Texas and Washington, anxious to get together and catch up at the reunion, which was delayed for two years due to the pandemic.
        The celebration kicked off with a Sunday worship at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, where Brunings have worshipped since the congregation began in 1861.
        Afterward, attendees brought their favorite dishes – many of which were German/American – along with the recipes, to a noon potluck.
        The family members then posed for a group photo to commemorate the 100th reunion. Afterward, they were invited to review an updated family tree booklet and memorabilia, enjoy ice cream, go swimming, play shuffleboard or tennis and other activities.
        Family historians/genealogists Ruby (Bruning) Earl and Dale Bruning compiled a detailed family history in the late 1980s. Dale Bruning, a history teacher and coach at Eastwood High School for many years, traveled to Germany for his research and to meet family members. His research includes information back to the 1300s.
        Sailing to America
        Excerpts from Earl’s and Bruning’s research detailed that seven children were born to Hermann Heinrich Oberbruning and Anna Maria Caroline (Meier) Oberbruning. As the family grew in size, the couple realized that it would not be possible to subdivide their German farm among their sons.
        In addition, Hermann’s daughter, Anna Elisabeth, from his first marriage, had married Hermann Heinrich Niederbruning in December 1855. By law, she was entitled to a quarter of the Oberbruning property. Thus, the painful decision was made to dispose of their property and emigrate to America.
        Since they had been in contact with the Wegmann family in Pemberville, the decision of where to emigrate was relatively easy. Once the Oberbrunings were assured that a farm would be available, other necessary arrangements were taken care of.
        At that time, there was a network of 33 agents in the Kingdom of Hanover who helped emigrants with the purchase of tickets, housing at the port, and scheduling a ship. A binding contract was signed with the shipping company. The cost of a ticket to New York in the steerage was approximately $20.
        Packing for a family of nine was an enormous task. Since they were leaving home permanently, much of what they might wish to take along had to be left behind. A large oak trunk was made with the name “Oberbruning” painted on it. It also featured their destination, “Pemberville, Ohio,” and “Zwischen Deck,” to indicate that they were traveling in steerage.
        The trunk contained suitable clothing and bedding. The books they were able to bring were few – their Bible, catechism, a hymn book, and necessary birth and baptismal records were included.
        The most critical problem was the matter of food. Because a trip across the Atlantic might take as long as nine weeks, food had to be prepared which would not spoil. Thus, meat had to be smoked and very well salted. Rye bread was baked for the nine-week journey.
        Since the scheduled departure date of the sailing ship Laura was scheduled for April 1, 1860, the nine Oberbrunings and 15 other persons from Linne, Germany had to depart for Bremen somewhere around March 21, 1860.
        The Laura was a sailing ship of 470 tons, a relatively small ship, carrying 48 passengers – 24 from the Linne area, and 24 from another area. It departed from Bremen on April 1, 1860.
        The conditions in steerage were challenging, at best. The steerage was an area where ordinary cargo was stored and animals were kept – hardly a desirable place to live for nine weeks. On many ships, the steerage was not high enough for a man to stand erect. There was no light and ventilation was inadequate.
        On the Laura, 48 people were in this area, including babies and adults. Each family was allotted a small portion divided only by curtains, which meant little or no privacy. Sounds of babies crying and of frustration being displayed because of the cramped conditions were common on all sailing ships.
        Each sailing ship had a place for charcoal over which a grate was placed for preparation of food. There were always conflicts involving whose turn it was to cook. Meals usually were eaten on deck.
        Sickness was very common due to the unhealthy conditions in which they lived. Everyone felt the severity of travel in the steerage compartments. Except for the lamps, the area was totally dark, the smell was almost unbearable, and human excrement and varmints made almost everyone feel ill. Many also became seasick.
        Anyone who was weak became ill, and germs spread very rapidly. Death was a part of life on sailing ships, but there is no record of anyone dying during the voyage of the Laura.
        The Oberbrunings’ voyage across the Atlantic was quite out of the ordinary. The sea was calm, and all conditions were favorable that only five weeks were required in crossing the ocean. For a sailing ship, this was a very short time, but undoubtedly a relief for the passengers.
        The ship docked at Kessel Garden, New York on May 7, 1860. After clearing customs and immigration, the Oberbruning family boarded a train for Elmore, Ohio. They arrived there on Ascension Day (the 40th day after Easter), May 17, 1860. At the station, they were met by farmers who transferred them by horses and wagons to the Pemberville area.
        Hermann Heinrich Oberbruning, born April 13, 1809, died Nov. 17, 1894. Anna Maria Caroline, who was his third wife, died July 26, 1879 at the age of 61.


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