Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Tobacco cans cough up old bucks...

Posted 11/24/20 (Tue)

We sometimes hear about  these old hermits who stash money in their mattresses and the loot isn’t found until years after they’ve died.

One of the first articles I wrote out of college to this day remains one of the most significant because it was about a man who stashed money, but not in a mattress.

And 45 years after his death, his hoarding was discovered.

This happened in 1989 in Hazelton. An old bachelor named Henry Bramer died sometime in 1944, but it wasn’t until 1989 that his neighbor, Herman Horstmeyer made the discovery. He bought Bramer’s  house and was tearing it down after it was moved onto Horstmeyer’s property.

Keep in mind, Bramer’s house had been vacant more than 40 years when Horstmeyer took on his task.

While tearing boards off an eave, two tobacco cans fell out and dropped on the ground. Horstmeyer picked them up, opened them, and found they were stuffed with $10 and $20 bills, all dated 1929.

Some were in incredible shape while others, those on the outside of the bundle, had deteriorated and had become so fragile because of rust from the cans. One bill fell apart when Horstmeyer picked it up.

After the money was counted, there was $430 in the cans and if you consider an adjustment for inflation, that money would be worth $4,300 today.

Horstmeyer took the entire contents, including the tobacco cans, to the First National Bank in Linton for analysis. Lynda Anderson, a teller at the bank, was no doubt intrigued with his find, but could do little else but send the bills into the U.S. Treasury and offer face value for the notes.

Horstmeyer kept several of the bills that were in good condition, about $200, while the rest were wrapped carefully in cotton and sent to the Treasury.

In turn, the Treasury sent Horstmeyer $230 in crisp, new bills.

One of the most interesting aspects of this story is that each of those bills was issued by a local bank. The Bramer notes were issued by banks in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Red Wing and Hawley, Minn., as well as Mandan.

It was never learned what those bills might have been worth to collectors because Horstmeyer turned them all in to the Linton bank and the money that was returned to him, was never evaluated.

Also unknown is if Mr. Bramer stashed that money right after the Stock Market crashed on Oct. 29, 1929, or years later. It can be assumed that because there were runs on banks after the crash, he probably put that money away for safe keeping sometime in late 1929, 1930 or 1931.

The tobacco cans were unable to provide clues. According to Horstmeyer at the time, the writing on the cans wasn’t good enough to ascertain a date. However, he was able to figure out that one of the cans was Prince Albert and the other was Velvet brand.

This story has a couple of more twists. Sometime after Bramer died, lightning struck the house but didn’t burn it down. Then, shortly after he died, culprits broke into the house looking for money. They tore up floor boards thinking they would find cash there but only discovered cancelled bills and receipts.

Mr. Bramer was known locally as a miser and was described as just the kind of person who would stash money in his mattress.

However, he was a little more clever than people gave him credit for as he put the loot in the eave of the roof, hoping nobody would think of that, and they didn’t.

Horstmeyer wasn’t sure if Bramer forgot the money was there or was unable to reach it, thus it sat in a time capsule for at least 45 years.

This was the talk of Hazelton for several weeks. By 1989, hardly anybody knew, or could remember Henry Bramer, although Horstmeyer had a clear memory of him and said he wasn’t really the miser everyone thought he was.

He probably stashed the money in case there would be a run on his local bank after the Stock Market crash.

This is the kind of stuff that personifies the phrase, “truth is stranger than fiction.”

But when you think about it, how many other people, just like Mr. Bramer, would have done the same thing in a Stock Market panic and then an economic depression the likes of one the nation had never seen.

When we are remodeling and tear into a wall, we might find a newspaper from 1896 or a Hudson’s Bay catalog from 1910. But money issued by local banks? Rare!