Brinkmann the Switchman

A gentleman by the name of Henry Brinkmann showed up in East Perry County for only a short time, but he managed to find a bride here before returning to his home state of Wisconsin.  Henry is today’s birthday boy, but he was not born here.  His birthday was January 16, 1859, and his birthplace was Hamburg, Wisconsin.  Hamburg is located not far from LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  With the exception of his short stint in East Perry County, Henry spent his lifetime in the vicinity of LaCrosse.  Here is a present-day map of that area.

Hamburg LaCrosse Wisconsin map
LaCrosse and Hamburg, Wisconsin map

We find Henry Brinkmann in the 1860 census for what was called Bad Ax County before it was changed to Vernon County.

Henry Brinkmann 1860 census Hamburg WI
1850 census – Hamburg, WI

Henry was the son of Johann Theodor and Wilhelmina (Nicolai) Brinkmann.  If you look at the above census, it says that Henry’s mother was born in Nassau in the Bahamas. (see correction at end of post)  That may be a first for this blog.  Wilhelmina is said to have died in 1863, so this is the only census in which she was listed.  When the 1870 census was taken, we find that Henry’s father must have remarried and some other children show up in the household.  There is even another child that was the same age as Henry in this entry.  I am thinking some children from a previous marriage may have entered this household, plus some new ones to the new wife.

Henry Brinkmann 1870 census Hamburg WI
1870 census – Hamburg, WI

I was unable to find Henry in the 1880 census, but for some unknown reason, we find him living in Brazeau, Missouri in 1885.  It says this in his church marriage record.  On October 15, 1885, Henry Brinkmann married Sulamith Weber at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altenburg.  Here is the church record for that wedding.  It is in two images.

Brinkmann Weber marriage record Immanuel Altenburg MO

Brinkmann Weber marriage record 2 Immanuel Altenburg MO
Brinkmann/Weber marriage record – Immanuel, Altenburg, MO

We also have this couple’s marriage license.

Brinkmann Weber marriage license
Brinkmann/Weber marriage license

This couple must have moved back to Wisconsin almost immediately after their wedding.  Their first child was born in 1886, and that child was born in Wisconsin.  However, we cannot view them in a census until the 1900 census.  By that time, this couple had 6 children listed in the census.  They were living in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and Henry was a switchman for the railroad.

Henry Brinkmann 1900 census LaCrosse WI
1900 census – LaCrosse, WI

Henry worked for the Milwaukee Road Railroad over the years.  That railroad had several names throughout its existence.  Below is a map showing this rail line as it enters LaCrosse and then continues on the other side of the Mississippi River north toward the Twin Cities.  This map was produced in 1865.  It was in 1876 that a railroad bridge was finished across the Mississippi River.  The main task of this line was to get goods and pasengers from Milwaukee to Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Milwaukee Road map 1865
Railroad lines – LaCrosse, WI – 1865

Since the Brinkmann children were not born in Perry County, we do not find them in our German Family Tree.  Several family histories indicate that Henry and Sulamith (later called Susan) had 8 children. After this couple had 3 children, they had this photograph taken.

Henry and Susan Brinkmann family
Henry and Susan Brinkmann family

We find the Brinkmann family in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses.  In all of these, the Brinkmann household can be found in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  First, here is the one taken in 1910.  Henry is still a switchman for the railroad, and two of his sons were also working for the railroad.

Henry Brinkmann 1910 census LaCrosse WI

Henry Brinkmann 1910 census 2 LaCrosse WI
1910 census – LaCrosse, WI

Next, we see the Brinkmann’s in the 1920 census.  Listed right below the Henry Brinkmann household, we find the John Brinkmann household.  John was Henry’s son.  You also see 3 switchmen for the railroad on this entry.

Henry Brinkmann 1920 census LaCrosse WI
1920 census – LaCrosse, WI

I found the following job description of a railroad switchman.

Switchman job description

The last census in which we find Henry and Susan was taken in 1930.  Another son of Henry, also named Henry, and his wife, Alida, died in the 1920’s.  They had a daughter named Alice, who ended up living with her grandparents.  She is called a granddaughter in this census.

Henry Brinkmann 1930 census LaCrosse WI
1930 census – LaCrosse, WI

Henry Brinkmann died in 1935 at the age of 76.  Susan died one year later in 1936 at the age of 71.  We have Susan’s obituary to view.

Susan Brinkmann obituary
Susan Brinkmann obituary

It appears that the Brinkmann’s were charter members of Emanuel (Immanuel) Lutheran Church in LaCrosse.  Here is a present-day photo of Immanuel Lutheran Church, which is now a Wisconsin Synod congregation.

Immanuel Lutheran Church LaCrosse WI
Immanuel Lutheran Church – LaCrosse, WI

Henry and Susan Brinkmann are buried together in the Woodlawn Cemetery in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

Henry and Susan Brinkmann gravestone Woodlawn LaCrosse WI
Henry and Susan Brinkmann gravestone – Woodlawn, LaCrosse, WI

Who would have known that a girl from the Ridge Weber clan would end up marrying a cheese-head?  At least the hilly, wooded surroundings near LaCrosse might have reminded her of her upbringing on The Ridge north of Altenburg, Missouri.


Correction:  I have been informed that there was a region in Germany known as Nassau, and that is more likely where Wilhelmina Nicolai originated.  I also found a gravestone for Wilhelmina which is said to be located on Brinkman Ridge in Vernon County, Wisconsin.

Wilhelmina Nicolai Brinkmann gravestone Brinkmann Ridge
Wilhelmina Brinkmann gravestone – Brinkmann Ridge, WI

In addition, I found information that John T. Brinkmann’s next wife was Christine Kramer.  Here is a photo of her.

Christine Kramer Brinkmann
Christine Kramer Brinkmann


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