A pioneer citizen and politician in both the Nebraska and North Dakota Territories, Downer Tenny Bramble was originally born in Vermont on February 28, 1833, the son of Charles Francis and Matilda Bramble. Downer attended school in his hometown of Hartland, Vermont and eventually removed to Nashville, Tennessee at age 17.
Shortly after his arrival in Nashville, Bramble began work in a drug store with his brothers George and Gilman, who had both migrated to Tennessee some years previously. Downer and his brothers relocated to New Orleans a short time later and there operated a general merchandise store.
Throughout the late 1850s, Bramble continued to be on the move, settling in Iowa and finally in Nebraska in 1858. He opened a grocery store in the town of Ponca and also married his first wife here, a Ms. Lucinda Brown. Their marriage lasted but a short time, with Lucinda dying of an undisclosed illness that same year. Despite the loss of his wife, Bramble ran for and was elected to the Nebraska Territorial Legislature in 1858, representing the county of Cedar. During his short tenure in the legislature, Bramble earned lasting notoriety by introducing legislation that brought about the formation of Dixon County in November 1858.
In the following year, Bramble removed yet again, this time settling in Yankton, Dakota Territory, and here established a prosperous general merchandise store under the title Bramble, Miner and Company, and operated this store for over 25 years. In addition to this business, Bramble received an appointment as Postmaster of Yankton, and later operated a freight line that transported goods into the Montana and Idaho territories.
While Bramble's professional and business career continued to expand, he was also an active participant in territorial political circles. He was elected to his first term in the Dakota Territorial Council in 1861 and was returned to this office in 1862 and 1873. He would also serve a one year term in the Territorial House of Representatives in 1866, representing Yankton County. As far as political faith was concerned, the History of Dakota Territory, Volume 4 (authored by George W. Kingsbury) notes that Bramble "gave unfaltering allegiance to the democratic party and always worked faithfully for the furtherance of all true democratic principles, feeling that within the party platform were found the best elements of good government."
Several years after the death of his first wife Lucinda, Downer T. Bramble remarried to Yankton resident Virginia Van Der Hule in May 1865. Two sons were born to this couple, Harry Jesse (born 1867) and Frank Litchfield (1871-1966). Virginia Bramble is recorded as surviving her husband by nearly twenty years, dying in 1906 at age 67.
Bramble continued in active public service during his later years, receiving an appointment as Register of the Land Office in Watertown, South Dakota under President Cleveland. The earlier mentioned History of Dakota Territory also notes that Bramble was an active Mason as well as a member of the Yankton Episcopal Church. He died in Watertown on October 9, 1888, and was laid to rest in the Yankton City Cemetery in Yankton, South Dakota.
The rare portrait of Bramble shown above (and to my knowledge the only one to be found online) was originally featured in Julius Sterling Morton's Illustrated History of Nebraska: Volume I, published in 1911.