Although Bremen was first surveyed and platted in 1851, the beginning of the town is often dated to 1871, when it was incorporated. What was it like back then?

In 1870, the census of Bremen covered just three pages: 120 people in 24 dwellings. (The map above is from 1876, so many of the lots shown would not have been developed yet.) The rest of German township (including residents that we would consider to be “in town” today) amounted to about 1500 people. When Holland Radiator built a factory here in 1892, the town boomed, adding 60 houses a year and tipping the scales at 2000 residents by 1900.

Hiram J Macomber’s obituary notes that, when he came to Bremen in 1869, there was just one other family who spoke English rather than German at home (but many were born in the US and so surely did know English also). That family must have been John J  Wright and wife Sarah, who hailed from New York and Massachusetts.

Note: Alsace/Elsass is a region sometimes held by France, sometimes Germany, and today a part of France. Also, census enumerators often spelled names however they sounded to them, without regard for the family’s preference.

List of families

Links go to Bremen Public Library obituaries or

  1. Charles & Caroline Lehr family – hardware merchant (from Ohio & Indiana)
  2. Nicholas & Elizabeth Burkhart family – minister of the gospel (from Germany/Switzerland)
  3. John J & Sarah Wright family – mechanic in wood (from New York & Massachusetts)
  4. Fortunatus & Rachel Hasteler/Hochstetler family – cabinet maker (from Pennsylvania & Maryland)
    1. Augustus Guyer – probably a cabinet shop employee (from Indiana)
  5. John & Anna Ott family – carpenter (from Germany & Ohio)
  6. William & Elizabeth Vinnedge family – teamster (from Ohio & Indiana)
  7. Henry and Cary Lichtenberger – saddle and harness (from Indiana & Pennsylvania)
    Note: Henry lived to be 99 and died in 1942.
  8. John & Catherine Koontz family – blacksmith (from Alsace)
  9. Fredrick & Racael [Rachel?] Cemer/Zimmer – laborer (from France & Ohio)
  10. Mary Schuster family – [no occupation listed] (from Bavaria)
  11. Thomas & Elizabeth Knowblock/Knoblock family – tavern/hotel keeper (from Ohio & Indiana)
    Hotel residents:

    1. Theodore Alexander – wagon maker (from Ohio)
    2. George Wiseough/Weisshaar – wool carder (from Ohio)
    3. John Essick – laborer (from Ohio)
    4. Thomas Bowler – tanner [?] (from Ireland)
    5. Henry Rountoper [?] – laborer (from Germany)
    6. Thomas Jackson – tailor (from Ohio)
    7. Washington Dickery – saloon keeper (from Ohio)
    8. Frank Wormer – spinner [?] in factory (from Indiana)
    9. Lyda Johnson – servant in hotel (from Ohio)
  12. Phillip & Susan Kaneger family – boot and shoe maker (from Alsace & Pennsylvania)
  13. Hiram & Eliza Macomber – druggist (from Maine & Virginia)
  14. John B & Josephine Widner/Weidner family – painter (from Ohio)
  15. Christian & Anna Hans – blacksmith (from Germany & Bavaria)
  16. Henry Wynren – laborer at bending factory (from Indiana)
  17. Christopher & Electe F Fitz/Feitz family – saloon keeper (from Ohio & Canada)
  18. Phillip & Ernestina [?] Pouts family – blacksmith (from Alsace & Saxony)
  19. Josiah & Anna Ames – carpenter (from Indiana & Ohio)
  20. George & Mary Leistenburg/Lichtenberger – farmer (from Alsace, parents of 7)
  21. Marian Motts/Matz family – widowed housekeeper (from Indiana)
  22. Nathanial & Mary Ann Row – tin manufactor (from Pennsylvania)
  23. Jacob & Mary Bauer family – saddle & harness (from Indiana & Ohio)
  24. Andrew & Mary Berger family – tanner (from Saxony & Pennsylvania)

Click any image to start a slide show.

In the 1872 map, note that the Dietrich department store building has not been built. Dietrichs are doing business out of a small, simple store facing S Center Street. In fact, virtually none of the modern downtown exists. By the time of the 1877 aerial view, the Dietrich building exists and the Lutheran church is prominent in the foreground.

Click any image to start a slide show.


I’ve decided to do list the rest of the residents we would consider “non-rural”. That is, people who are not farmers, sawmill owners and laborers, or country ministers.

  1. Elizabeth Kepler family – housekeeper (from Switzerland)
    includes her grown son Eli – carpenter (from Indiana)
  2. John & Mary Lyttle family  – silversmith (from Pennsylvania & Ohio)
  3. Augustus & Joanna Shrader family – cooper (from Germany)
  4. Lewis/Louis & Rhoda Wilmer – farmer who moved to town (from Switzerland & Indiana)
  5. Jacob & Caroline Souder family – fireman at sawmill (from Germany & Pennsylvania)
  6. Jacob & Catharine Waters family – sawyer in mill (from Germany & Ohio)
  7. Sarah Helmlinger family – housekeeper (from Pennsylvania)
  8. John S & Christena Ringle family – laborer at sawmill (from Pennsylvania & Germany)
  9. Danial & Catharine Fore family – carpenter (from Ohio & Bavaria)
  10. Peter & Catharine Schuster family – boot & shoemaker (from Bavaria)
  11. Jacob & Elizabeth Miller family – stone mason (from Bavaria)
  12. George & Elizabeth Weil family – engineer in factory (from Germany)
  13. Jacob & Anna Fries – teamster (from Ohio & Switzerland)
  14. August & Barbary Mensel family – wagonmaker (from Germany)
    with boarder John Sheltz[?] – teamster (from Switzerland)
  15. Christena Knoblock – housekeeper (from Alsace)
  16. John Dietrich – dry goods merchant (from Switzerland)