BREMERTON — The town that bears his name now celebrates 125 years of existence.
From a tiny pioneer outpost with muddy streets and civic leaders of occasionally questionable judgment, Bremerton has grown into a vibrant city that is an inseparable partner to one of the most important military installations in the United States arsenal.
But who was William Bremer?
William Bremer was born in New Brunswick, Germany, in 1863. In the family tradition, he began studyingbanking and economics, but he emigrated to the United States in 1882. He had heard that the U.S.government had people in the area around what is now Sinclair Inlet, looking to acquire land for a Navybase.
In 1888, the young Bremer followed the Hensel family from the German ethnic stronghold of Wisconsinto Seattle, and immediately became active in the real estate and banking businesses.
Bremer immediately began buying and selling property in anticipation of the U.S. Navy’s pending big-ticket investment in the region. Bremerton found success in real estate and married Sophia Hensel, theyounger sister of the young man he had befriended in Wisconsin.
Both the Hensel families and the young Bremer brood bought property along what is now known asPuget Sound.
What we today know as Bremerton could just have easily been called Henseltown, so closely aligned werethe interests of the two families.
But it fell to Bremer to lend his name to this fledgling military outpost. By 1900, the thriving little townboasted amenities like grocery stores, restaurants, saloons, a post office and sundries stores. The U.S.Navy continued to invest in real estate around its growing shipyard, and the Bremer and Hensel familiescontinued to grow and prosper.
In December 1914, William Bremer came down with what his family assumed was a cold. After a fewdays, things took a turn for the worst, and Bremer died of an apparent blood clot in his leg.
Though the cause of death was announced as heart problems, his wife Sophia knew better. In her eyes,he had been poisoned.
Despite that, it became apparent that William Bremer was well-liked and equally well-respected in hiscommunity.
He was as well known for his kindness, fairness and business acumen.
The town that came to bear his name has a lofty ideal against which to hold itself. With luck,commitment and vision, the thriving city of Bremerton will spend the next 125 years meeting Bremer’svision.
Mark Briant is a reporter for the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. He can be reached atmbriant@soundpub lishing.com.