Fanny Brooks

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.

Fording the rivers at times was very difficult. Some rivers were very deep and swift, and often driver and horses were washed down the stream for over a mile. Mother said that often the bottoms of the wagons were filled with water, and clothes and provisions would get wet. They would have to rest that day. Take out everything and dry it. After a storm everything was drenched, sagebrush, bunchgrass, and bush. It was almost impossible to make a fire, the smoke would stifle them. They then had to eat bread, raw bacon, and tea. The utensils for cooking were a large iron pot for boiling meat, etc., an iron frying pan, and a skillet for baking bread. The dough was put in it, placed and left on and replenished until the bread was baked. It took about an hour for the bread to be baked.

To each immigrant as he traveled his wagon served as a bedroom, parlor, kitchen, sometimes as a boat. The average day's journey did not exceed thirteen miles, though the trains were in motion from sunrise to sunset, stopping for their midday meal in order to give the animals time to graze. Some caravans consisted of several hundred wagons. Some wagons were drawn by six or eight oxen or horses. Mother said her little team was the envy of the camp. The little mules were never tired and trotted along at a good pace, while often the horses balked and refused to move. It was a grand sight to see this vast train with hundreds of men, women, children, and cattle and wagons going across the desert like a lot of ants. Mother said they were all just like one big family, dividing their joys and sorrows together.

Mother said they did not suffer as many hardships as the previous trains had suffered as they were better provisioned and had less illness and were not molested by the Indians. They had a few dreadful thunderstorms which ruined their food and clothing. Mother's first hardship was the lack of bread. After she ran out of hard tack, and army bread, she found herself without any bread. As she had never baked bread before and was too bashful to ask any of the other women, she decided to try her luck. She put the flour and water in a pan, added some salt, and started to knead it as she had seen the other women do. She worked it an hour until she was tired, covered it over as she had seen the other women do left it to stand over night to raise.

Next morning, bright and early she was up, put the dough in the skillet, and started her fire. She piled sagebrush, broomgrass, and buffalo chips below and above and watched it patiently for an hour. All at once she smelled something burning and found it was her bread. It was solid as a rock and black as coal. She was so tired and disheartened she sat down and cried. Her neighbor saw her and asked her what the trouble was. Mother told her. Her neighbor said: "Never mind, I have some nice biscuits and will give you enough for your breakfast, and tonight I will show you how to mix bread. No doubt you forgot the yeast." Mother had no idea that yeast was needed. That evening she was shown how to bake bread, and soon had as nice a bread as any of the women and taught the other women how to make German coffee cake, which she had eaten but never before baked."