Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Those Places Thursday: John Bruhns' Barn in Tracy, CA

Johann Bruhns (1848-1934)
For the most part, I grew up in Tracy, California. We moved there in 1974 from Livermore (via a very short stint in Wadsworth, Nevada, that I prefer to forget), just before I turned nine years old. It wasn't until I was a sophomore or junior in high school that I learned that some of my maternal ancestors were early pioneers in Tracy. My mom overhead my friend, Sean, and me talking about some other high school friends and casually mentioned that one of them, Andrea, was my cousin. Huh?? Silly me: I thought I knew who all my cousins were.  Well, it turned out that Andrea and I are third cousins: our great grandmothers were sisters and we share the same Great Great Grandfather, John (Johann) Bruhns. We thought that was pretty cool!

Over the last 10 years or so, I've delved deeper into my maternal family history and had the good fortune to learn more about Andrea's and my Great Great Grandpa Bruhns. I've already written quite a bit about him in this blog. He was born in Holstein, Germany, in 1848, and arrived in the United States in 1870. He married Christina Marguerita Schlichtmann in 1881, and they raised five children on their Tracy farm: Matilda, Christina (Andrea's great grandmother), Johanna (my great grandmother), Bertha and John.

John Bruhns and his family farmed in what was then known as the Bethany area of Tracy, which was a few miles south of the main part of town. Johanna went to grammar school at Jefferson Elementary (the "rival" country to school to my alma mater, New Jerusalem Elementary, which was the other country school on the rural south side of Tracy).
The 1930 US Census that shows John & Christina Bruhns living with their son, John Jr. on what was then
known as Carnegie Road. I can see that they are living next to another relative, Johannes Krohn.
(Click on the image for a larger view)

For years, our family have driven past the old Bruhns farm at the corner of Corral Hollow and Valpico roads, but I never paid much attention. Now, whenever I'm in the area, I try to do a drive-by to make sure the big barn is still standing and in good shape. It's now partially hidden between two of the large churches that have sprung up in the area, and I'm always afraid that someone is going to make an offer that the current owner can't refuse and then tear down a piece of Tracy history, and my own family history. This past weekend, I cajoled my boyfriend into driving up the little dirt road between the two churches and take a picture of the barn. The man working there was a bit perplexed by us, and had no idea who John Bruhns was, but allowed me to get out of the car and snap a few shots.  Here's what I saw!

John Bruhns' barn at the corner of Corral Hollow & Valpico Roads in Tracy, CA
Here's a satellite shot (thanks to Google Maps!) of the barn nestled between the two big churches:
John Jr., with his dogs and his ride, along the side of the barn
Given the increase in real estate development in the area, I wonder if the current owners are having to fight off developers wanting to purchase the land for more lucrative purposes. I hope they are able to keep the land, and the barn, for a good, long time. I really do enjoy driving past it and remembering my ancestors' roles as pioneers in my home town of Tracy, California.


  1. Nice entry, Wendy. You should copy these entries in your blog and keep them in a folder for relatives and friends who don't use computers to enjoy. Loved the picture.

  2. Oh, Miss Wendy, you should go buy the property yourself :)

    If I could, I would go buy my family's old famrstead in northern of them, anyway. I'm not quite sure where they are though...

  3. Hi Mom. I think I'll do that. I was thinking it would be fun to share them with Stan the next time we visit him.

    Hi Renee Ann. I'm not sure I have it in me to own a farm! Alas, I've become citified... =)