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Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Bruns Girls of Napa

Quite a number of months ago, my aunt mentioned her aunt, and I suppose, my aunt too.  I never knew Aunt Della Vienop.  She was J.H. Vienop's first wife who passed away in 1956.

At the mention of Della and her death came out a quick anecdotal story about J.H.'s (Uncle Henry) second wife, Eva Cook Hunter.  She was apparently not the nicest person according to the family and was perceived as a bit of a gold digger at the time.  Uncle Henry was a successful contractor and businessman in Napa when he lost his first wife.

In came Eva and some unpleasant feelings from the family for sure.  My aunt wondered if Eva and Uncle Henry divorced or separated.  Eva ended up living further north in California the last part of her life.  I believe she actually lived in Scotia.  There was a time when my great grandmother, Mary Borchers, who was Uncle Henry's sister, and her friend were in the vicinity of Scotia.  Mary said that they should stop by to see her sister-in-law, Eva.  I guess her friend thought that was ridiculous yet it sounds like Mary got her way.  For whatever reason, Mary thought it appropriate to stop and see Eva.

Mary had a big heart and forgiveness was one her traits for sure.  She also was probably liked by Eva as Mary was liked by everyone.  I find this an interesting side story for my Vienop side of the family as information like this is not actually written down anywhere.  I am writing it down now.

My true goal with this post is to write about the Bruns sisters.  Adelheid Helena Bruns (Aunt Della) was married to John Henry Vienop, Jr. of Napa, California.  Her story along with her sister's starts earlier than this, however.

Adelheid Helena and Louise Marie Bruns were both born in Bethany, San Joaquin County, California in 1901 and 1902, respectively, about 21 months apart in age.  Based on census, there were older children too.  All of the older siblings were boys.

Home in 1900: Murray, Alameda, California

Household Members:
Name Age
John Brauns 43
Atilhiet Brauns 33
August H Brauns 8
John Brauns 7
Claus H Brauns 5
Detrick Brauns 3
Otto Brauns 6/1

As seen above, I actually found the family in the 1900 U.S. Census near this Bethany location.  This was before Della and Louise were born.  Knowing that the girls were born in a place called Bethany, California, I narrowed my search to anything that specifically indicated this place.  Two of the older brothers indicated on their military registrations later in life that they had been born in Bethany, San Joaquin County, California.  Bethany Reservoir near Tracy, California is what you can find on a map these days.  The census location in 1900 looks to be in Murray, Alameda County, California between Tracy and Livermore.

By 1910, they are all living in Napa, California with two more children (including Della and Louise) but their mother is no longer living and I don't find John, Jr.  By 1920, it looks like Louise is living with the Wentworth's as their maid and Della is living with the Deffners indicated as their daughter.  Their father, John Bruns, still lived in Napa with his son Harry (Claus).

You might ask how I know that I found the correct location of these young ladies.  Well, there's a story that goes along with this.

It seems definite that by 1910, John's wife had passed away leaving him with several children to care for.  He also needed to work by farming.  The men in the family seemed to have gone with him to work while the two youngest children who were girls remained at home.   By 1910, the girls were about seven and eight years old.  Left to their own devices, they were seen playing unsupervised and may have been getting themselves into a bit of trouble.

In a day were Napa was really starting to fill up with homesteads, families, and farmers, something like two girls running around unsupervised did not go unnoticed.  They also belonged to the local Lutheran Church.  As the story goes, each girl went to live with two different families in Napa.  By 1920, Della is with the Deffners and Louise is with the Wentworths.  It is even possible that Louise lived with the Deffners for a while too.  It is known that the girls were separated for a time.

I'm sure that the girls still saw their father and siblings.  What I find interesting is that Della is indicated as the daughter in the Deffner household in 1920 while Louise is indicated as the maid in the Wentworth household in 1920.  I'm sure that there are other details to this story but these are the basics.  I find it rather interesting.  You can almost piece the story together via U.S. Census source documents.

Anyway, the connection to my family is that Della went on to marry J.H. Vienop, Jr.  Louise went on to marry August Gruenhagen.  Louise Gruenhagen, as she was known from then forward, was one of my great grandmother's (Mary Vienop Borchers) closest friends.

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