Robert Edward Bressem Life Sketch

(1855 - 1954)

Robert Edward Bressem was born on March 18, 1855, in Gladigau, Saxony, Prussia. Robert married Margaret May Myers on December 12, 1894, in Sabetha, Nemaha County, Kansas. Robert Edward Bressem died on May 3, 1954, in Santa Clara, California.


Robert Edward Bressem, whose birth name was Eduard Maximilian Robert Bressem, was born on March 18, 1855, in the town of Gladigau in Prussia, the 4th of 5 known children of William Bressem and Charlotte Marie Gessler. Robert’s oldest and youngest sisters died in their childhood.

Robert’s father left Prussia for America when Robert was a toddler. The family was to join him after he became established in the United States. Unfortunately the Civil War interrupted the plans and the family remained in Prussia much longer than expected.

Robert lived with his mother and siblings in Stendal, Prussia, and then with his Grandmother Bressem in Osterburg, Prussia, where he attended primary school until age eleven years old. He wrote about his school years recollecting that he had to practice "Turning" (athletics) every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. He also recollected attending juvenile and adult "Turnfest" in Seehausen, 4 or 5 miles from Osterburg, where he marched the distance in company formation.

When Robert was 11 years old, Robert, his mother and siblings, Paul and Emma, immigrated to America. Prior to the voyage, Robert and his brother Paul, walked to Gladigau to obtain their birth certificates. The family traveled to Hamburg for departure but missed their intended ship. They embarked on the next ship, the “Bavaria”, and arrived at Castle Garden in New York City on April 5th, 1866.

Robert’s father was to have met the ship but when the family did not arrive, he returned to his home near Chicago. Knowing no English, the family managed to obtain train tickets to Chicago. Arriving in Chicago, Robert saw a building across the street from the train station with the German word for “hotel” written on it. The family headed across the street and found that the proprietor spoke German and that he knew Robert’s father. Robert’s father purchased goods in Chicago for his store in Tolleston, Indiana, and stayed at the hotel.

The family boarded a train for Tolleston, now Gary, Indiana, where they found William Bressem’s store. Robert had last seen his father when a toddler and he was now eleven years of age.

The family moved to St. Joseph, Missouri near the end of 1866. Robert’s brother Paul died sometime shortly after their arrival. Robert needed to help provide for the family and never returned to formal schooling. He worked in a lumber mill, and also packed shingles in summer and chopped wood in winter.

In 1871 when Robert was 16 years old, his father died. The following year, Robert’s sister Emma married and around 1778, Emma, her family and Robert’s mother moved near Sabetha, in Nemaha County, Kansas.

In 1880 Robert was employed as a bookkeeper in St. Joseph, Missouri. He became a traveling salesman for I. G. Hammon wholesale leather house and then Queensware company out of Chicago.

In 1887 Robert moved near Sabetha, Kansas, and became involved in Sabetha’s social circles. He was known for his beautiful bass voice and participated in the town’s musicales. In 1889 Robert bought an interest in a furniture store in St. Joseph and moved back to St. Joseph, Missouri.

In 1891 Robert returned to Sabetha and assumed the position of Vice-President of Citizens’ Bank. In 1894 he built a “fine house” at 310 S. Washington Avenue in Sabetha in preparation for his marriage to Margaret May Myers. Margaret was a teacher in the Sabetha schools.

On the evening of December 12, 1894, Robert and Margaret May Myers, daughter of Rudolph Myers and Harriet Musser, were married in Sabetha, Kansas, at the home of her father and mother.

Robert and Margaret Bressem had the following known children:

  1. Paul Edward Bressem
  2. Carl Robert Bressem
  3. Ruth Margaret Bressem
  4. Wilhelmina Bressem

The Bressem’s raised their family in Sabetha. Robert served two terms as mayor of Sabetha, sang in the church choir for 35 years and sang for friends and at funerals. He passed his love for music to his children. All played string instruments and sang in high school performances and at family dinner parties.

In 1901 Robert’s mother died in Sabetha. In 1909 Robert’s sister Emma and her family moved from Sabetha to Oklahoma City.

Son Paul attended the University of Kansas where he studied Mechanical Engineering. He enlisted in World War I in 1917 and was an Ordnance Sergeant. He was sent to France at the conclusion of the war to work on buildings. Following his discharge, Paul moved to Denver for several years and then to Portland, Oregon.

Son Carl was a freshman at the University of Kansas when he enlisted in World War I on the same day as his brother Paul. He was sent to Ft. Funston where he was discharged. He lived near Kansas City across the river in Missouri for many years before moving to Saint Louis.

Daughter Ruth went to Hollywood to pursue a singing and acting career. She married and lived in Los Angeles.

Daughter Wilhelmina attended the University of Nebraska and then was one of two women to obtain a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from the University of Southern California in 1924. She returned to Sabetha and taught school until her marriage.

In 1923 Robert retired from the bank and in 1926, Robert and Margaret moved to Los Angeles, and lived with their daughter, Ruth Bressem Payette. They spent their retirement traveling and visiting with their children and grandchildren, and their friends. Margaret died in 1937, at the home of her daughter, Wilhelmina Bressem Conlin in Villa Park, Illinois. She was buried in the Sabetha cemetery in Nemaha county, Kansas.

Robert continued to travel and visit with family and friends. He was a prolific letter writer; several of the letters he sent his friends in Sabetha were published in the Sabetha Herald. He often began or ended his letters with literary quotes. After his wife’s death in 1937, he wrote, “I am now, after the death of my faithful and revered companion in marriage, making my home, by visiting from time to time with my sons and daughters, and when, in a few years my time comes to "cross the bar into this unknown", I hope to be interred by the side of my life companion in Kansas soil, in the cemetery at Sabetha, Kansas.”

In September of 1941, Robert wrote his son-in-law Jack Conlin and expressed his distaste for “the ‘Great I am’ in the Whitehouse, his new deal satellites, and Herr Hitler”, writing, “I would like to see the whole bunch of them in Hades plus, Churchill and comrade Stalin. This may sound disrespectful for the activities of our Commander in Chief and even treasonable but so help me I’m utterly disgusted with him and his domestic as well as foreign policy, have no confidence in him and believe there are millions of others with me in the same boat.” He ended his letter with the quote, “Be still my heart and cease repining. Behind the clouds the sun’s still shining.” A few months later, the United States entered World War II.

In 1952 the Sabetha Herald reported that Robert had broken his arm and the cast was removed on his 97th birthday. Friends of Robert in Sabetha received the first letter written by Robert following the removal of the cast. Robert wrote that “The arm has become fairly useful again but this after effect of the tumble has sapped my physical endurance and has made me mindful of a possible repetition.” The article went on to report that Robert’s “hand writing is much more legible than that of many persons half his age with no broken arms.”

Robert Edward Bressem died May 3, 1954, in Santa Clara, California. He was 99 years of age.

After leaving Sabetha 28 years earlier, a lengthy obituary was published in the Sabetha Herald. A service was held at the Sabetha Congregational Church of which Robert had been a member for so many years. Robert was buried next to his wife in Sabetha Cemetery, Nemaha County, Kansas.

Genealogical Research and Life Sketch Completed: June 2022


Sources:

"Deutschland, ausgewählte evangelische Kirchenbücher 1500-1971," database, FamilySearch, Eduard Maximilian Robert Bressem, 5 May 1855; images digitized and records extracted by Ancestry; citing Baptism, Gladigau, Gladigau, Osterburg, Sachsen, Preußen, Deutschland, Gladigau, German Lutheran Collection, various parishes, Germany.

"United States Germans to America Index, 1850-1897," database, FamilySearch, Ed. Bressen, 05 Apr 1866; citing Germans to America Passenger Data file, 1850-1897, Ship Bavaria, departed from Hamburg, arrived in New York, New York, New York, United States, NAID identifier 1746067, National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

"United States Census, 1870", database with images, FamilySearch, Robt Bressem in entry for Wm Bressem, 1870.

"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch, Robt. Bressem in household of John L. Motter, Saint Joseph, Buchanan, Missouri, United States; citing enumeration district , sheet , NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm .

Kansas County Marriages, 1855-1911, database with images, FamilySearch, Robert Bressem and M Marguerite Myers, 12 Dec 1894; citing Marriage, Nemaha, Kansas, United States, district clerk, court clerk, county clerk and register offices from various counties; FHL microfilm 1,887,935.

"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch, Robert B*, Rock Creek Township Sabetha City, Nemaha, Kansas, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 127, sheet 10A, family 220, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,492.

"United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch, Robert Bressem, Sabetha Ward 4, Nemaha, Kansas, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 129, sheet 16B, family 395, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 450; FHL microfilm 1,374,463.

"United States Census, 1920", database with images, FamilySearch, Robert Bressem, 1920.

"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch, Robert E M Bressen in household of Alexander A Payette, Los Angeles (Districts 0001-0250), Los Angeles, California, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 19, sheet 2A, line 6, family 24, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 132; FHL microfilm 2,339,867.

"Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947", database, FamilySearch, Robert Bressem in entry for Margaret May Bressem, 1937.

"United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch, Robert Bressenn in household of Harold M Conlin, Villa Park, DuPage, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 22-16, sheet 4A, line 12, family 76, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 796.

"California Death Index, 1940-1997," database, FamilySearch, Robert Edwardmaxili Bressem, 03 May 1954; Department of Public Health Services, Sacramento.

“Bressem, Robert”. News Item. Sabetha Herald (Sabetha, KS). September 9, 1936.

Bressem, Robert. Personal Letter Collection.

“Robert Bressem Improved”. News Item. Sabetha Herald (Sabetha, KS). May 28, 1952.

“Bressem, Robert”. Obituary. Sabetha Herald (Sabetha, KS). May 12, 1954.

Robert Edward Bressem genealogy research