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Bruner/Brunner Family
Photos, stories & reports contributed by Anne Brunner Dowdy

Stories & Letters (below)

Click on thumbnail photos below to see larger images

Margie Estella (Webster ) Browning (17 Mar 1866 - 5 Jan 1930, b.New York) and Samuel Stanton Browning ( 25 Nov 1861 - 20 Mar 1953, b. Garden Grove Iowa).

Parents of Edna Hope (Browning) Brunner on their wedding day 20 Oct 1886 in Tower City, North Dakota.

Leroy Ewalt Brunner
(12 Jan 1883 - 26 Feb 1927).

Photo likely taken for the yearbook for the graduates of class of 1908.

Leroy Ewalt Brunner
(1883 - 1927) and
Edna Hope (Browning) Brunner

(22 Apr 1887 - 8 Nov 1968)

Photo taken on their wedding day
Jan 1, 1914

These are the reports from the researcher my aunt hired in Germany to search for the "my" Brunners.  Notice one document says they and 5 "kinders" came to America in 1831. 

Photos and reports contributed by Anne Brunner Dowdy

Stories & Letters:

Anne Brunner Dowdy, from Palatka, Florida, sent the following letters originally written from Mrs. Eli Bruner to her mother Mrs. R. E. Burns. Both Eli Bruner, and his wife Mary Augusta Burns Bruner, were born in Central City, Iowa. Eli born 17 Nov 1854 and Mary born 22 Sep 1861.

"My GGG-Grandfather was George Adam Bruner (22 Sept 1775-14 Mar 1848, b. Wurttemberg, Germany), GG-Grandfather Alexander Bruner (6 Apr 1818 - 1 Dec 1899, b. Wurttemberg, Germany), Great-Grandfather Elias (Eli) Brunner (17 Nov 1854 - 8 Feb 1913, b. Central City, Iowa), Grandfather Leroy Ewalt Brunner (12 Jan 1883 - 26 Feb 1927, b.Central City, Iowa), and finally my father Frederick Leroy (Stanton) Brunner (6 Nov 1916 - 26 Mar 2000, b. San Diego, California). You will notice the different spellings of the last name which Leroy Ewalt Brunner said Brunner was the original spelling. Eli Bruner 1854-1913 married Mary Augusta Burns in 1881 in Central City, Iowa. At some point they lived in Tennessee, then in Florida and finally in San Diego, California where he died in 1913, she remarried Rev. W. C. Houghton and died 1955."

Four letters follow. To go directly to each letter use these links:

06 December 1899 |  2 June 1900 | later June 1900 | July 1900

Mary Augusta Burns Brunner wrote to her mother Mrs. R. E. Burns still living in Central City, Iowa from Florida."
Published 28 Dec 1899 in the Central City News Letter
Lakeland, Florida
06 Dec 1899
Editor News-Letter and inquiring Friends

We left Tenn. Nov 8th loath to leave our home, dear friends and a beautiful country, yet with one faint hope shining as a star in the distance, of having health, a future home and a few more years with our children.

Soon we pass our neighboring town, and are at the foot of our old Blue Mountain, on through tunnels and a couple of hours and we wend out way around the old historic Lookout Mountain where the battle among the clouds was fought (in history only.) Lookout Inn from which one can see seven states, and view the beautiful Tennessee river, rolling on as peacefully as though it had not done so for ages.

Here we were to have joined an excursion from the city of Chicago and many of the northern states, but found it had been postponed as they could not get ready. One colonist only a Mr. Sanford of South Dakota accompanies us; and a well educated, bright, lively companion he proved to be.

At Dalton, Georgia, Friends came to the train, talked with us a few minutes, left more lunch, a beautiful bouquet of flowers, good by and a kind remembrance.

On we speed and soon we miss the red lands and green cedars of dear old Tennessee, which are replaced by green pines, light sandy soil, palms, cotton, sugar cane, very little corn, sweet potatoes and nigger cabins here and there. Our companion tried to get a shot at some of them with his Kodak. I imagine it would have been all background, or like a dark cloud rising above the horizon. Their ebony faces shone like they had just received their Sunday morning greasing of old slave time. I said to them in my mind, as I often do, "Why didn't they finish the good work and put you off by yourselves, not only for your good, but for the good of the many poor white people living all over the south in hovels, ignorant, uneducated, and no chance for being anything better, as long as you by cheap labor monopolize every opening, whereby they could be upraised." But I imagine they would say much to our shame and regret; for it is only too true, "You brought us over here to New England shores for slaves before ever slavery began in the south."

As we neared Southern Georgia about night, we passed several turpentine mills and barrels and barrels of rosin. The sand looked so white it reminded us of snow too much to think we would like it, but found it so only in places. We pulled into Florida a little after six o'clock the next morning; every time our train stopped we plucked wild flowers.

Soon we were told to look for the Swannee river, mentioned in song and history; not nearly so beautiful as the Tennessee or St. Johns but perhaps more noted. Ah! I hear the old darkey singing now, "Way down on di Suwannee Riber, Far, far away, where my heart is turning eber, and I was happy all do day."  

As we drew near Florahome colony lands, one of the general managers joined us and in a very flattering way tried to persuade us to remain there this year; but thought the lands would be malarious as it is not near all drained yet, although colonists located there now scoff at the idea of it being sickly and say there is no doctor nor hasn't been for years, nearer than Palatka, eighteen miles away.

We arrived in Florahome townsite at ten o'clock, found everything as represented. This road is to furnish the depot and park. The vast muck prairie, now being drained, is for their fruit and vegetable lands. The higher and poorer soil for building sites, is timbered with great pines and magnolias from fifty to seventy five feet high, draped and festooned with gray moss and holly. Bay trees and lovely palms grow also.

One hundred and fifty families of the north are to be located here during the year. They pay ten dollars per acre for the land. We spent the day and night with people who had been here since October, friends from Winchester, Tennessee, and found them well pleased in their new home. It looked odd to see the green gardens and it certainly seemed healthy, the air seemed so pure, soft and yet bracing. No more scenery than in Iowa, in fact reminds one of Iowa in soil and sand burs, where sand is plentiful.

Morning found us on our way to Palatka, the gem city of the St. Johns, and much refreshed. Having to wait there until five o'clock, we went through the city. I cannot describe the lovely trees and flowers, all in bloom, of every description. It was like a dream. We went down to the St. Johns river, saw the steam boats. A beautiful river, Its great waters looked blue and was dotted over with clumps of hyacinths.  The only river wholly in the United States that runs north. We ate fruit from the Japanese persimmon, (cultivated fruit) are as large as goose eggs, some of them; like a tomato in shape and color, but simply delicious and having only one seed.

By five o'clock we were ready for our last trip, one hundred and fifty miles further south to Lakeland, where we had promised to care for a minister's place, rent free for one year.
Arrived there near twelve o'clock at night, was escourted to the hotel by a gentleman sent to watch for us by our minister here, Brother Gracy.

Lakeland is situated on high sandy land, is 225 feet above sea level, on the highest point on the peninsula, and considered by all very beautiful. It is composed of 1500 northern people, has four railroads, electric lights, good high graded schools, five churches and all modern improvements. Will tell you more of town and surroundings some future time. No more at present.

Mrs. E. Brunner


The following letter was written by Mrs. Mary Brunner to her mother, Mrs. R. E. Burns, of this place.

Francis, Florida, June 2, 1900

Dear Mother:
Your letter was read with pleasure. It found us well and enjoying good health, and will say we have taken a few trips you might be interested in.

One was to Interlachen and Keuka, a day's drive north of here. I know you would laugh to see our outfit--an old native horse hitched to a small wagon going about as fast as an ox team. Our only variation to this mode of progress was to walk in white sand, sometimes a step backward to one forward. We passed over considerable flat pine land, cypress swamps where the white and blue egrets build their nests, stretches of hammock land timbered with short leaf pines, magnolias which are now in bloom, live and water oaks, holly, cabbage palmetto trees, some forty feet high, palms, ferns and bay trees, or as florists call it rhododendron, which have beautiful white flowers and emits a spicy odor when a branch is broken, and over a stretch of road a half mile long which we named Pine Avenue, as it was naturally bordered on each side with great pines from fifty to seventy-five feet high. While walking we gathered wild flowers of many kinds. We went through what is called the Slipper, out in the low pine woods where the road is under water for a mile in a rainy season. The pines are very thick and high and very straight, like so many arrows pointing to the sky, and mosquitoes large and plenty enough to create ambition in a Florida cracker. Passed Hollister on the west, a small town of no importance, and here ate our lunch and found our  jug of morning's milk churned to butter. After a rest we plodded along through miles of pine timber boxed for the turpentine industry, with here and there a colored gentleman at work boxing the trees, with his broadaxe in hand, wooly pate uncovered, coat, of he owns one, hung on a stump, generally a sullen expression of countenance, but with some exceptions, if he so condescends to do so, casts the whites of his eyes around, shows his white teeth in a broad grin and a "how de do, colonel, captain or mistah," not unlike the old slave and far more deserving of the pity bestowed on him than the pampered town negro who walks off saying "white trash."

We came into Interlachen by a small colony of northern people whose homes were built around a pretty lake having a fine clay road from there to town, and found the town of typical Florida type, on high sandy land, a lake on either side, and like most towns before the big freeze, was once a veritable paradise. But we noticed here, as in some other towns and communities of northern Florida, they are cultivating, fertilizing and protecting the orange trees, and some will bear fruit by another year, especially if they use the tent protection with as much success as last year. After we filled our jug with fresh water we wandered our way toward Keuka to find the home of a friend we had promised to go and see for him. After wandering around for some time we found it--the remains of a once beautiful home, and like many had been deserted. Orange trees all dead, fences and outbuildings rotted and fallen or burned. It was an uncanny looking place to spend the night in, but having no other alternative we built a fire out in the yard and cooked our supper and spread the cloth on the veranda. After supper we explored the place, visited the lake, and then retired on pillows and comforters on the floor with our clothing on, but not to sleep as we soon found there were many uninvited guests. We built a smudge, but all in vain, they were after a feast, but by one of our party flying cedar branches over our heads we got a little rest. As three doors were gone, window lights broken and screens torn we felt like some other night wanderers were coming in and arose early with pleasure, cooked our breakfast out in the open air, took a final look over the deserted home and departed with the memory of that lonely place before us.

We went through Keuka going back. It is a very pretty town built high above and around a beautiful lake, is of Northern people calling themselves the Brethren or Dunkards. The houses are mostly white, also the fences, and as in many northern Florida towns and vicinity there were plenty of peach, pear and plum orchards. We noticed a lady out on the lake rowing, she was dressed in white, had on a white bonnet and was in a white boat--a picture we thought very much in keeping with their pure lives and peaceful homes.

We reached home in good time and the next week we took our second jaunt to Florahome Colony.

On this trip we passed a church called the church of the Holy Jumpers. The people of this church styling themselves Holiness, were thus named. We are told they gained some followers in this community. Their claim is that they are without sin. Another novelty to us were the log wagons, which is simply two wheels of immense size with great tires, each wagon driven by a darky. They were hauling logs, or as the darkies would say, toting them.

Much of the colony lands was planted to cassara, pecans, potatoes, melons and corn, and many were fixing building places by having ornamental trees, roses and shrubs set out. Some have built homes in the thick hammock, leaving the beautiful wild trees and palms for shade and adornment, while others have every tree taken out--a plan they adopted in the townsite and a very unwise one, I should say. One man built a cozy little house in the midst of palmettos, leaving them only for shade. We persuaded old Dobbin to trot some and finally reached the town site at four o'clock.

There are forty families at Florahome now, two stores, post office and a very pretty depot, a very large boarding house and some very large dwellings. We found it had grown very much since last fall, and also found some had become discouraged and gone back. Quite a number of them lost heavily on the cassara as the roots shipped to them died before they could get them out. We think they have as fine land as any in the state and don't see any reason why they should not prosper. But it takes patience, health and determination to wait for a return of their efforts, and I think I would prefer a home already made to one in a colony just beginning.

We started home the next day with a palm-leaf basket as a souvenir of Florahome and by a shorter route reached home early with the same mind we had when we left Lakeland last Spring, that we liked southern Florida better than northern Florida. Coming up here we stopped off at Orlando and stayed one day and night. Found orange trees as large as at Lakeland. It is not much north of Lakeland, is the county seat of Orange county, is much larger, more competition of railroads, school and church privileges better, just as clean, healthy and high and much prettier. I could not describe its lovely blue lakes, its trees and palatial homes.

This is now a much longer letter than I meant to write, so no more this time. In my next I will tell you of our trip to the Atlantic Ocean, as we went last week.
                                                              M. E. B.

Here is yet another letter from Mary Augusta Burns Brunner to her mother Mrs. R. E. Burns
June 1900
Francis, Florida

We have had several pleasant trips out to Silver Lake, one mile from here. One trip was taken since I wrote. Two wagon loads and several on wheels constituted our number. The lake is well named, being as clear as crystal clear down to the bottom which is of white sand. There are plenty of fish in it but the next thing is to catch them. There are two bath houses, one on either side of the lake, and are supplied with bathing suits. This lake is quite a resort for people of Palatka, especially Saturday afternoons. And I will say right here that this place (Francis) and vicinity is also a resort for people of that city having chills and fever as it is high and healthy here while Palatka, you know, is generally considered unhealthy, being built along the St. Johns river which is a very sluggish stream.

May the 23rd we joined some four hundred and fifty people in the excursion from Palatka to St. Augustine and the beach which is twenty-five miles east of Palatka. There were ten coaches with an engine at each end and not uncomfortably crowded as such excursions usually are. They stopped the train out in the middle of the St. Johns river to clip the tickets and we enjoyed looking at the great expanse of sea green water, also the acres of water hyacinths in full bloom. They went very slow across the river and yet the old bridge creaked with its load. Soon we were going at great speed and were cheered from time to time as we passed stations. The scenery was as before mentioned and nothing unusual and in a short time we were in the grand old historic city. Here we left the train for the south beach bridge, beyond the sea wall and over the Matanzas river, at the other end of which is the station where we waited for the street car which was going every half hour out to the beach and back, four miles distant.

We were a jolly crowd crossing Anistatia Island as we were on a flat car with a seat on each side out in the open air. At our first stop one man yelled "New York," and not long after asked a man at the end of the car if there was a hen on the track. A mile out we passed the lighthouse, looking in the distance, someone remarked, not unlike a great stick of candy with windows cut out of it.

This island is a vast stretch of white sand covered with a growth of low scrubby trees in clumps, cacti, coral weed, and with great sand doons with many of the tall species of the Florida agra growing on them many in full bloom with great spikes of creamy white bells. Arriving at the Beach Inn we were not long getting out there and found many that came in hacks and carriages ahead of us enjoying baths and gathering shells. We went upstairs into the canopy covered building overlooking the ocean and with many others ate our lunch silently contemplating the grandeur of it all. Our party was soon out amid the ocean waves while we walked up and down the beach gathering shells and watching the curious purple, red and blue jelly fish being washed out on shore, and now and then stopping to watch the bathers, gray headed men, women and children enjoying themselves hugely, some letting the great waves wash them in shore, some of the men turning somersault, the highest waves covering them so you would think they would not rise again, some three-year-olds holding on to their mothers hands and shouting with glee as the waves took them off their feet, while some were eating doenecks, a very small clam tasting like an oyster.

As the tide rolled in nearer and nearer each time it would sometimes catch the feet of the onlookers and soak them before they were aware of it. We became aware of threatening clouds and hastened away to the Beach House just in time to escape a hard rain which some got the benefit of by being delayed. Here we rested and waited for the car feeling like we preferred going back to the beach to anything else yet we had spent several hours there. We were soon in the car, a covered passenger this time, and well it was, as we were no sooner seated than it began to pour down again. The car was full and many were standing up. One of our party sitting by a window found the rain coming in, as the window would not shut down within several inches. He got up to put a closed umbrella over the opening when in walked a man some out of balance and boldly took the seat. Our party said; "This seat is occupied, sir." He said; "That's no difference, it's mine now and I never give up a seat." "All right,
 said our party, and at the same time quietly slipped away the umbrella from the window. He soon took in the situation, but made a bold front of it, pulled his coat-tails around in front of him, sat on the edge of the seat and grimly took the rain for the amusement of the crowd.

The Ponce De Leon hotel is a magnificent sight to behold, covers an entire block. Its domes, towers, archways, courts, lawns, carriageways, hedges, gardens, trees, flowers and many fountains I could not describe any more than many other equally grand palaces and homes of tropical beauty I saw that day.

Mrs. E. Bruner

July third we went with an excursion of eight or nine hundred people from Palatka to Miami, a distance of three hundred miles, along the east coast of Florida, through Valusia, Bernard and Dade counties, near the ocean the length of the trip. There were fifteen coaches the greater part of the way and plenty of room as part of the excursion went the day before.

Through this part of Florida the pine trees are smaller and have shorter leaves and the cabbage palmettos are more numerous. Favorita, Holly Hill and Ormond are passed and we come to the beautiful sea side resort and winter home of a colony of Massachusetts people, Daytona. From here one can see the coast for thirty miles and go under arched gateways through avenues of dense hammock, out to the sea which are all perfectly bewitching in tropical beauty.

At West Shiloh we come to the beautiful Blue Indian River, which we follow for over a hundred miles within a few feet of it in places. Great clumps of cabbage palmettos grow along the shore, while in many places there are no trees along its banks for miles and the blue waters roll along the low green shore making a picture not easily forgotten. The waters of this river are salt and there are many oyster beds here; and across its blue waters we can see Merritts island thickly populated with people from the north, pine apple oranges and banana growers, whose fine homes built close to the water's edge speak of their comfort and thrift. Banana river runs through near the center of this island, makes a turn and runs between the island DeSoto Beach and Cape Carnival.

At Titusville more cars were added and we were joined by the Indian river band from which we caught snatches of music at intervals as the train stopped at the more important stations where great crowds were waiting to cheer and wave at us. On we went through Cocoa, Eugallie, Melbourne and Roseland. Here we crossed Sebastian river, run near the great everglades from lower Bernard county to the end of the trip and passed Lake Okeechobee to the west. Night came on and we saw no more, we had one third of the route to go yet and reached Miami at one o'clock. Early morning found us seeing the town and great crowds of people coming from every direction and hearing the cannons roar for the celebration and barbecue which we enjoyed that day. The speaking was good, music of the Indian river band fine, and of the fire-works out on Biscayne bay, near the great white stone dock, can say, we never saw better. Fifteen hundred excursionists and hundreds of people from elsewhere witnessed the display of fireworks.

This town is built along Biscayne bay and Miami river. Fishing smacks, tug-boats, sail-boats and one large steamer, the Cocoa, were in port while we were there. Miami is the county seat of Dade Co., has three thousand inhabitants, is four years old, is built on solid white rock, of which Dade county is largely composed, being very rocky in many places. Miami has seven churches, one large graded school with five teachers, four large hotels, four restaurants and many boarding houses, as it is a very popular resort for winter tourists,, has several brick blocks, and we were told a steady growth. The grounds of the Biscayne and Royal Palms hotels are lovely, composed of many acres of trees, shrubs and tropical flowers. Many gardeners are employed to keep them in order. Surrounding hedge fences are of oleanders in bloom, winding walks bordered with hibiscus five and six feet high, their dark red bell-like flowers against their dark green and shining leaves. "Avenues and carriage drives marked with crotens of many kinds and color, coleus of many hues, acres of many kinds including bright scarlet, sago and date palms, palmetto and cocoanut trees here and there. To walk those box-bordered paths and inhale that never ending ocean breeze makes one feel like they were not on this old earth, but in an ethereal or heavenly atmosphere. This extreme south portion of the state, unlike north or central Florida, is the home of the cocoanut and all citrus fruits. Cocoanuts limes and sapodillas grow wild along the Miami river. The trees of the sapodilla grow sixty feet high and the fruit is fine. The orange, lemon, banana, paw paw, mangos, olives, alligator pears, pineapples and grape fruit, all are at home here, the last mentioned being the color of the lemon and tasting not unlike them, but much larger than either lemon or orange and growing on trees exactly like the orange tree.

The next morning found us bound for home and seeing what we missed after dark coming. The surrounding country miles from Miami abound in cocoanut and olive groves, also fields of pineapples. We go through Lemon City and cross Little river at Fort Lauderdale and pass Hobe , along Lake Worth and stop in Palm Beach, got a glimpse of the great hotel to which they are now adding two hundred and fifty rooms. At West Jupiter we got a glimpse of the ocean and saw the lighthouse. A stretch of white sand covered with palmetto divides the river here from the ocean. From Wa Wa to Fort Pierce, some fifty miles, we passed through the Indian River pineapple belt. Hundreds and hundreds of acres of them, some grown under sheds, but mostly out in open fields. The white roadways that separated the fields were bordered with oleander or hibiscus in places. Men were gathering them in wheelbarrows, loading wagons and taking them to the packing houses. The large dwellings, windmills and packing houses are the indications of the wealth of this industry. When the train stopped at times many of the men from the train ran out and grabbed apples from piles thrown out, and some ventured into the fields to pick them and came near getting left. The aroma from the apples coming in at the car windows made them tempting, and here and there men were going around with peeled pineapples eating them and holding on to the plant like they were so many turnips, for the amusement of the crowd. From here back the trip was much the same as on going so I will not repeat it.

Mary E. Bruner

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