Moses and Moses & Lena Levinsky Bruml: Early Pioneer Jewish Merchants in the Gold Country and Central Valley of California

Moses and Lena Levinsky Bruml

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Moses Bruml was born in 1823 in Drosau, Bavaria, the youngest of five children.

Lena Levinsky Bruml was born in 1830, in Exin, Prussia.

In 1836, Moses Bruml apprenticed as a cobbler, earning his certificate after two years. Then, he opened his own business.

Around 1839, Moses Bruml left home, stopping in Vienna and Budapest.

He worked for one of his brothers, Benedict Bruml, in a wholesale liquor firm in Vienna.


Along the way . . .

In 1849, Moses Bruml journeyed to America aboard the “Frau Shallot.” 

He arrived in New York City with one Mexican dollar to his name.

Moses Bruml worked as a farm hand in Buffalo, New York.

Later, he got a job delivering ice.

Then, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri where he worked as a peddler.

By 1852, Moses Bruml had earned the $200 necessary to travel from New York to California.

He headed from St. Louis to New York, where he traveled via the steamer “Northern Light” to Nicaragua.

When the promised steamer that would take them the rest of the way west didn’t arrive, he and his fellow passengers traveled 12 miles on mules across the Isthmus until they arrived at San Juan del Sur.  Eventually, a ship took them to San Francisco.

There, Moses Bruml worked as a clerk in Mandelbaum’s Store at 162 J Street.

In 1853, he opened his own bar and variety store in Jackson, California in the Gold Country.


Meanwhile, Lena Levinsky’s brothers, Louis, Mark and John Levinsky, who had been living in California, visited Europe to get married.  Lena Levinsky returned to the United States with them.

Lena Levinsky lived in Brooklyn for a year, then headed west to Jackson, California.

Lockeford in the Central Valley of California

Lockeford in the Central Valley of California

In 1857,  Moses Bruml purchased a general merchandise store in Lockeford, California, in the Central Valley, from his now brother-in-law, Louis Levinsky.

The store featured groceries, provisions, dry goods, boots, shoes, hardware, drugs, wines, liquors and cigars.

Moses Bruml's Store in Lockeford, CA #WS1781

Moses Bruml’s Store in Lockeford, CA

In 1869, Lena Levinsky and the rest of the Bruml family joined Moses in Lockeford. 

Later, their son, Julius, became a partner in the Brunl family store and the name was changed to Bruml & Son.

In 1901, Julius and his brother, Henry, assumed full ownership of the store.  They changed the name to Brunl Bros.



While in Jackson, Moses Bruml was active in the early days of Temple Beth Israel of near-by Stockton.



Moses Bruml was a Mason belonging to Amador Lodge #65 F. & A. M. in Jackson, California.

In Lockeford, he was a founding member of the Knights of Pythias, and served as Master of the Exchequer.



In 1857, Moses Bruml married Lena Levinsky in Sacramento.

Mrs. Moses Lavinsky Bruml, #WS1780

Mrs. Moses Lavinsky Bruml,

They had four children – all born in Jackson, California: Albert (b.1859), Amelia (1861-1940), Julius (1864-1956) and Henry (b.1868).

Lena Levinsky Bruml was Alice B. Toklas’ grand-aunt.


Moses Bruml died in Lockeford in 1901.


For more information, see the following issues of Western States Jewish History:

  • Daley, Bruml Amelia.  Lena Levinsky Bruml of Jackson, California: A Few Notes from Mrs. Lena Levinsky Brunl (1830) by her Daughter Mrs. Amelia Bruml Daley (1861-1940) Lockeford, California.” Western States Jewish History v. 41 n. 4. Spring 2009, pp. 685-686.
  • Bruml, Moses. From a Polish Town to Gold Rush California. Western States Jewish History. v. 17 n. 1, pp. 91-94.

Other Sources:


Samantha Silver is the Curator for this Moses and Lena Levinsky Bruml Exhibit

We can not find a picture of Moses Bruml. One would be greatly appreciated.