Fanny Brooks's story is narrated by her daughter Eveline Auerbach.
In 1852 Julius Brooks returned to his native village of Frankenstein having lived in America for five years. In that year he met Fanny Bruck, who became intrigued by his tales of adventure and begged him to take her with him back to America. Fanny Bruck married Julius Brooks when she was sixteen in August of 1853. The newly-wed couple sailed at once from Hamburg to America.
As was the custom in those days, the entire town of Frankenstein came to the train to see them off. They brought rice, flowers, old shoes, and called after them "Good Luck","God-Speed" and "Early Return." Fanny and Julius took a room at a boarding house on East 14th Street. In the spring of 1854, they left New York, for Galena, Illinois, where they heard that a company was leaving the following June for California.
They had to go by boat from Galena to Florence, where they purchased a covered wagon and two little mules, in order to be comfortable; otherwise they would have been compelled to walk. Ten individuals were the number allotted to a wagon and one tent. One hundred pounds of luggage, including beds and clothing for all persons over eight years of age; fifty pounds to those between eight years and four years; all under four years of age had no luggage privileges.
The wagon bed was 12 feet long, 3 feet 4 inches wide, and 18 inches deep. Boxes were made to fit inside the wagons to put utensils and clothing in. Each wagon this year cost $65.00. They were supplied with 100 lbs. of flour, 50 lbs. of sugar, 50 lbs. of bacon, 50 lbs. of rice, 30 lbs. of beans, 20 lbs. of dried apples, 20 lbs. of dried peaches, 5 lbs. of tea, 1 gallon of vinegar, 10 bars of soap, 25 lbs. of salt.
These articles and the milk from their cows, the game caught on the plains, and the fresh water streams furnished them better food and more of it than the immigrants had had in their native land. Mother said the Yankees were lovely people but very wasteful and poor cooks. Their main forte was bread, pies and hotcakes, ham or bacon and eggs. Their vegetables were cooked without taste and their meats either done to death or raw.
As soon as a sufficient number of wagons could be gotten together, that is a hundred or more, they moved off under their respective captain. He headed the train on horseback with his officers, locating camping grounds and selected crossings over fordable streams, directed construction of rafts for carrying man, beast, and wagon over deep waters.
Mother tells that after crossing deep streams they had to take off all their clothing and put on a calico wrapper, hanging their clothes on lines strung from the wheel of one wagon to the wheel of another wagon, and hanging their shoes on the sagebrush to dry. When they came to a small creek they would wade in it to relieve their feet of the soreness. The dust was terrific in the hot summer and after a rain or thunderstorm the roads were impassable, and the poor animals could barely pull their load.
Fanny Bruck was born in 1837, in the small village of Schweidnitz, Germany, one of six children. Fanny was well educated and graduated with high honors. She was only 16 years old when she met Julius Brooks, a young man who had been lured to America by stories of the Gold Rush in 1847 and who had returned after five years to visit his family. They married in Breslau, Germany, on August 18th, 1853, and journeyed to America.
In the spring of 1854 the young couple left New York for Galena, Illinois, where they heard that a company was leaving the following June to California. Their dream of striking it rich in America was not realized, as they settled in Marysville, California, where Julius opened a general store. Fanny gave birth to a total of six children, two of which died in infancy. She died in Wiesbaden, Germany, on August 21, 1901.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Fanny Brooks." (Viewed on September 24, 2018) <https://jwa.org/westernpioneers/brooks-fanny>.