Oscar August Brehler was my wife’s first cousin, three times removed. Oscar was the son, and youngest child, of Jacob Brehler and Harriet Hailer. Harriet was the sister of my wife’s second great grandmother, Margaret Hailer, and the daughter of Johann Jacob Hailer, a Kitchener, Waterloo pioneer.
Jacob and Harriet Brehler married in Canada West (now Ontario, Canada) likely around 1855, but moved to Michigan in the United States in 1864. Oscar was born in Royal Oak, Oakland, Michigan on 3 June 1880. At the age of 24, Oscar graduated from the Detroit School of Medicine as a pharmacist and set off on his own. His first stop was at Prescott in the then Arizona Territory. After a short stay there, estimated to be only a year or two, Oscar headed for California.
In 1905, Oscar purchased a drug store in Sanger, Fresno, California. For the next forty years, Oscar operated what was described as the “County’s First Drug Store.” Oscar was prominent in the community serving as a leader of the local and district Kiwanis clubs among many civic undertakings. When Oscar sold his drug store in January 1945 to Roger F. Taylor, it was reported on page 4 of the Fresno Bee Republican newspaper (January 7th edition). When Sanger City celebrated it’s Diamond Jubilee in 1963, a commemorative book published to mark the occasion stated, “Oscar arrived a scant 17 years after Sanger dates it’s founding, and throughout all these years his reputation for square dealing, dependability and integrity has been known and respected throughout this entire area.”
There’s seems little doubt that Oscar was a good down-to-earth kind of guy but what makes Oscar unique was his basket collection!
It seems that in the early years of his store, many Yokut Indians from the foothills around Sanger came to town and Oscar bought several of their hand-woven baskets from them. It is reported that Oscar purchased the baskets from the natives as he knew they needed the money to purchase supplies. Eventually his basket collection grew to be about 200 baskets in total.
Oscar died in 1966 and his basket collection formed the centre piece of a new Sanger museum, housed in the original Sanger railway station building – the Sanger Depot Museum.
Quite the legacy for a pharmacist from Michigan with deep Ontario roots.
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