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

Moses and Lena Levinsky Bruml

Values Codes I – E – L


Moses Bruml was born in 1823 in Drosau, Bohemia, 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 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.

He worked as a farm hand in Buffalo, New York.

Later, he got a job delivering ice.

Next, 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 did not 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.

In San Francisco, Bruml worked as a clerk in Mandelbaum’s Store at 162 J Street.


Gold Country

In 1853, Bruml 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 returned to the United States with them.

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

Lockeford in the Central Valley of California

Lockeford, Central Valley, California

Central Valley

In 1869, Moses Bruml purchased a general merchandise store in Lockeford, California, in the Central Valley, from his now brother-in-law, Louis Levinsky.

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

Moses Bruml's Store in Lockeford, CA #WS1781

Moses Bruml’s store, Lockeford, CA #WS1781

Later, Moses’ son, Julius, became a partner in the 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 Bruml Bros.



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



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

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

Lena Levinsky Bruml, #WS1780

They had four children – all born in Jackson: 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.


  • Bruml Amelia Daley, “Lena Levinsky Bruml of Jackson, California: A Few Notes from Mrs. Lena Levinsky Bruml (1830) by her Daughter Mrs. Amelia Bruml Daley (1861-1940) Lockeford, California,” Western States Jewish History 41/4.
  • Moses Bruml, “From a Polish Town to Gold Rush California,” Western States Jewish History 17/1.
  • Moses Bruml, “The Life Story of Moses Bruml as Related by Himself,” contributed by Susan Fisher Boyer, Newsletter of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles, Summer/Fall 2004.

Samantha Silver is curator for this Moses & Lena Levinsky Bruml exhibit.