Hello Patricia, So very nice to connect with you. I am the great-great-granddaughter of Augustus Bruce, the brother of your great-great-grandfather Martin Bruce. The third brother was John Bruce.
NEW PARAGRAPH: Their parents were Martin Frederick Bruce and his wife Maria Sophia. She died about 1849 [at least before 1850] in the cholera epidemic in Milwaukee. In 1850, the father remarried a woman named Marie Elisabeth Gerschwitz. In the 1850 Census, sons Martin, 17, and John, 15, were recorded as living with their father and new stepmother.
NEW PARAGRAPH: Older brother Augustus, 20, was not recorded with them so likely was off sailing the Great Lakes. Family tradition was for the young men to be sailors, then become ship's carpenters and caulkers [or run dry docks as in your Martin's case] when they settled down and married.
NEW PARAGRAPH: Thank you for sharing the family memory about the seriously disliked stepmother. That really helps explain why Martin and John left Milwaukee to seek their fortunes! Precisely when they left is not known. They may have been sailors for a time. We do know that their father died about 1854 and brother Augustus married Apollonia Becker in 1855.
NEW PARAGRAPH: I recently discovered that BOTH Martin and John went west to California. Two brief entries in Colville's 1856 San Francisco Directory reveal their presence in the growing city. Page 25 has:
> John Bruce, caulker, brds Isthmus House
> Martin Bruce, caulker, brds Isthmus House
NEW PARAGRAPH: They were pursuing one of the traditional occupations of the Bruss men, calking or caulking ships, a process of making them watertight by driving oakum into the seams between planks of a wooden ship. Of course John stayed in San Francisco all his life, single and working as a ship's caulker, while Martin left almost immediately for Florida.
NEW PARAGRAPH: I've read research by Nathan Woolsey that Martin worked at the Pensacola Navy yard from 1857 to 1859, then met William Ollinger and they established their dry dock partnership. Is that what your family history shows?
NEW PARAGRAPH: Augustus and Apollonia Bruce had nine children, including first child and oldest son William George Bruce -- an influential figure in Milwaukee who visited his Bruce relatives there in Bagdad in 1921 -- and youngest son Martin Peter Bruce, my great-grandfather.
NEW PARAGRAPH: In fact, there is a William George Bruce collection in the archives of the University of West Florida Libraries, which also has other collections on the Watson, Bruce, and Johnson families. But you likely know that.
NEW PARAGRAPH: The three brothers remained true to the Bruce traditional occupation. Augustus was a ship's carpenter, John was a ship's caulker and Martin, of course, had the drydocks. My great-grandfather Martin P. Bruce was a bookkeeper and accountant, however. Ship building in Milwaukee declined.
NEW PARAGRAPH: I've enjoyed learning about the Bruce family history, and have more. But this is already a very long post so I'll end here. Thank you for sharing for the photo of the historic Martin Bruce home. I would enjoy learning more about the story of your Martin Bruce there in Florida.
Barbara Bradley Petura
PS - I'd be glad to send this by email so it is easier to read. Let me know.