CHARLES AUGUSTA BLOOMER, Sr. was born March 25, 1840 in Ard Mhacha (Armagh), County of Armagh, Ireland, United Kingdom (now Northern Ireland), the very town where St. Patrick had established his bishopric hundreds of years before. In the US Census for 1900, Charles reported that he was born in 1844, but his tombstone clearly reads 1840.
It was in the atmosphere of famine and unrest overtaking Ireland in the 1840s that Charles Augusta Bloomer left Ard Mhacha for the United States, settling in Philadelphia, in 1851. He was a mere 11 years old at the time.
Charles’ birth certificate from Armagh indicates that there was an additional reason for him to leave the Catholic County of Armagh. Alas, Charles was an illegitimate child, meaning that by law, he would receive no inheritance. As for his unwed mother, Mary Ann Sweeney, a most-unpleasant fate awaited her (his father, John Bloomer, would have gotten off Scot free). Having a godfather in the person of James McCauley, meant that Charles would be brought up in the Catholic faith.
Cholly Lehrer reported to his sons, Chick and Ernie, that his father, Joe Lehrer, was an orphan and that he had attended Girard College in Philadelphia where he majored in architecture. This message, distorted as it is, contains important information about Charles Bloomer:
1) The orphan in the message is actually Cholly’s grandfather, Charles Bloomer, born in Ireland.
2) Girard College is a high school (not a college) for orphans, in Philadelphia
3) Joe Lehrer, who was not an orphan, attended LaSalle High School and College on Girard Avenue in Philadelphia. After graduation Joe became an architectural draughtsman in Philly, later on moving to Atlantic City where he met and married the only daughter of Charles Bloomer, Mamie.
4) Cholly was the only surviving son of Joe Lehrer and Mamie Bloomer, James having died as an infant.
5) Joe Lehrer died when Cholly was 5 years old.
Extra-marital births accounted for only about three per cent of births in Ireland for much of the nineteenth century. Family and clergy brought intense pressure to bear on couples to marry whether they were willing or not. Few questioned the justice of how single mothers and their children were treated at the time. With very limited marriage and employment prospects, many single mothers reared their children in the workhouses. Some emigrated while others abandoned their infants in the workhouse or left them as foundlings near churches or institutions.
The Armagh Union Workhouse, which is still standing, was designed by George Wilkinson and construction got underway in 1840. It occupied a seven-acre site at the north-east of Armagh and could accommodate 1,000 inmates. The Workhouse was declared fit for the admission of paupers on 14th December 1841, and admitted its first inmates three weeks later on the 4th January 1842. There were separate living quarters for male and female residents. It is most probable that Charles Bloomer and his mother, Mary Ann Sweeny lived here for a very short time, although the early workhouse records do not list either of them .
There were separate boys and girls schools in the Armagh Workhouse. All children received an elementary education as follows:
6.00-7.00 Rise, make beds, prayers, clean shoes and wash.
7.00-7.45 Gymnastics exercises (Saturdays excepted)
7.45-9.00 Prayers. Breakfast. Play.
9.00-10.00 Historical reading, with explanations.
10.00-11.00 General and mental arithmetic, tables, use of clock dial for learning the time of day.
11.00-12.00 Grammar. Parsing and Dictation.
12.00-2.00 Dinner. Recreation.
2.00-3.00 Writing in copy books & arithmetic.
3.00-4.00 Reading with explanations.
4.00-5.00 Geography, with maps.
8.00 Prayers. retire to bed.
During the Great Famine emigration became a way of life. An Emigration Commission was set up. Its representatives visited every workhouse in Ireland. Those who wanted to emigrate were offered free passage, clothing and a little money. Because of the number of deaths during the voyages, the emigrant ships became known as coffin ships. Between 1845 and 1854, an average of 200,000 persons a year emigrated from Ireland to the United States, Canada, Australia and Britain, a total of two million people. Very likely, Charles was among the lucky ones to get free passage to Philadelphia in 1851. The fate of his mother is unknown.
The first mention available for Charles in America is found in the US Census for Philadelphia taken in 1860. During that period, just before the onset of the American Civil War, Charles (now 19 years old) was working as a Carter (hauler of goods, especially coal) and boarding with the Michael McCue Family:
After his stint as a carter, Charles joined the Union Army to fight in the American Civil War (1861-65) as a private in Company C. 24 of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
Following the Civil War (1861-65), Charles petitioned to become a naturalized US citizen, renouncing his allegiance to Queen Victoria in in 1866:
In 1870, five years after the war had ended, Charles married ROSE S. Having left Ireland in 1863, Rose was five years his junior, being born in April of 1845.
Charles and Rose S. had four children, three of whom were born in Philadelphia: Mamie, Charles A. Jr., and Peter. Their youngest boy, James, was born in Atlantic City, NJ in 1885. As Peter had been born in Philly during 1875, one can postulate that the family must have moved to Atlantic City sometime between 1875 and 1885.
The US Census for 1900 reports that the entire family of Charles Bloomer family was living in Atlantic City, NJ at 1805 Arctic Avenue, near the corner of Indiana Avenue, and not far from Leeds Place. Charles profession is listed as Special Police.
Charles died on December 07, 1903 was buried on December 14, 1903, in the newly-purchased dual plot in Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Pleasantville, NJ owned by his son, Peter, and son-in-law, Joseph Lehrer. Sometime before his death, Charles had been inducted into Atlantic City’s Joe Hooker Post 32 of the Grand Army of the Republic. The GAR was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army who had served in the American Civil War. A GAR stanchion stands next to Charles’ gravestone. Seven years after Charles’ death, Atlantic City hosted the annual encampment (convention) of the GAR.
The Color Blue as a Family Name in Ireland
Gaelic: Gorm [pronounced Gurr-um] = Blue
Gormley = Bloomer
This color name originated in Donegal. In Gaelic it is spelled:
O Gormghaile: in the Country of Connacht
O Goirmleadhaigh: in the County of Ulster
The great majority of the names of the Irish People involving color, belong to a class of double-names: the English versions being translations from the Gaelic. In 1465, by an Act of Edward IV of England, it was decreed ‘that every Irishman … in the County of Dublin, Meath, Uriell, and Kildare . . . . . . shall take to him an English surname of one town … or colour, white, blacke, browne . . .!’
Even in the present day, according to the records of the Registrar-General, there are instances of families having two surnames, one the English, and the other the Gaelic word for the same color. Thus, according to the records of the Registrar’s office, there are families that go by the two names of Gormley and Bloomer (gorm = blue); others that have the two names, M’Glashan and Green (glas = green); others again are called both Colreavy and Gray (riabhach, gray).
Bloomer as a Profession
The surname, Bloomer, also refers to the workers at a bloomery. A bloomery is the earliest form of furnace known to be capable of smelting iron from its oxides, and its product is a porous mass of iron and slag called a bloom. This mix of slag and iron in the bloom is termed sponge iron, which is usually consolidated, or shingled, and further forged into wrought iron.
Despite the arrival of the blast furnace in England and Wales around 1491, bloomery forges, most-likely using water-power for the hammer as well as the bellows, were still operating in the west Midland region beyond 1580. In Furness and Cumberland, bloomery forges operated into the early 17th century; and the last one in England, near Garstang, did not close until about 1770.
The bloomery survived in Austria as the Stueckofen until 1775, and in Spain and southern France as the Catalan Forge until the mid-19th Century. In the Adirondacks of New York State, new bloomeries using a hot blast technique were built during the 19th century. The bloomery has now largely been superseded by the blast furnace, which produces pig iron.
The question remains, why would there be bloomers in Ireland, an island which is not known for iron ore? Perhaps several bloomers emigrated to the Emerald Isle from England, a possibility but perhaps not the more important factor for the source of this surname demonstrated by the use of color family names.
Irish Immigration to the United States
From 1801, Ireland was directly governed, under the Act of Union, as part of the United Kingdom. Executive power lay in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Chief Secretary for Ireland, both of whom were appointed by the British government. Ireland sent 105 members of parliament to the British House of Commons, and Irish representative peers elected twenty-eight of their own number to sit for life in the House of Lords. Between 1832 and 1859 seventy percent of Irish representatives were landowners or the sons of landowners.
In the forty years that followed the union, successive British governments grappled with the problems of governing a country which had, as Benjamin Disraeli put it in 1844, “a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and an alien Church, and, in addition, the weakest executive in the world.” One historian calculated that between 1801 and 1845 there had been 114 commissions and 61 special committees inquiring into the state of Ireland and that “without exception their findings prophesied disaster; Ireland was on the verge of starvation, her population rapidly increasing, three-quarters of her laborers unemployed, housing conditions appalling and the standard of living unbelievably low.” This was a contrast to Britain, which was beginning to enjoy the modern prosperity of the Victorian and Industrial ages.
Catholic emancipation had been achieved in 1829, and Catholics made up 80 percent of the population, the bulk of which lived in conditions of poverty and insecurity. At the top of the “social pyramid” was the “ascendancy class,” the English and Anglo-Irish families who owned most of the land, and who had more-or-less limitless power over their tenants. Some of their estates were vast: the Earl of Lucan, for example, owned over 60,000 acres. Many of these landlords lived in England and were called “absentee landlords”. They used agents to administer their property for them, with the revenue generated being sent to England. A number of the absentee landlords living in England never set foot in Ireland. They took their rents from their “impoverished tenants” and paid them minimal wages to raise crops and livestock for export.
The 1841 census showed a population of just over eight million. Two-thirds of those depended on agriculture for their survival, but they rarely received a working wage. They had to work for their landlords in return for the patch of land they needed in order to grow enough food for their own families. This was the system which forced Ireland and its peasantry into monoculture, as only the potato could be grown in sufficient quantity. The rights to a plot of land in Ireland could mean the difference between life and death in the early 19th century.
The period of the potato blight in Ireland from 1845-51 was full of political confrontation. The mass movement for Repeal of the Act of Union had failed in its objectives by the time its founder, Daniel O’Connell, died in 1847. A more radical Young Ireland group seceded from the Repeal movement and attempted an armed rebellion in the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848. It was unsuccessful.
Ireland at this time was, according to the Act of Union of 1801, an integral part of the British imperial homeland, “the richest empire on the globe,” and was “the most fertile portion of that empire”. In addition; Ireland was sheltered by both “… Habeas Corpus and trial by jury …”. And yet Ireland’s elected representatives seemed powerless to act on the country’s behalf as Members to the British Parliament. Commenting on this at the time, John Mitchel wrote: “[It is outrageous] that an island which is said to be an integral part of the richest empire on the globe … should in five years lose two and a half millions of its people (more than one fourth) by hunger, and fever (the consequence of hunger), and flight beyond sea to escape from hunger …”
Ironically, Ireland remained a net exporter of food even during the blight. The immediate effect on Ireland was devastating, and its long-term effects proved immense, changing Irish culture and tradition for generations, as over a million Irishmen emigrated to other lands. By the late 1840s, half of all immigrants to the United States had originated in Ireland.
As regards the Protestants helping the starving Catholics during the Great Famine:
There were several classes of Protestants in Ireland at this time:
1) Church of England also known as Anglican. (During the American Revolution, the American Anglicans separated from the Church of England thereby becoming the Episcopal Church)
2) Calvinist (called Presbyterian or Congregationalist in the US)
Each Protestant religion handled the situation in a different manner:
The Quakers and Anglicans, located basically in the big cities of Belfast and Dublin, fed the starving Irish no matter what their religion. Both of these cities were predominately Protestant, but still contained a large Catholic underclass.
The Calvinists required the Catholics to convert to their religion in order to be fed. Those who converted were known as Soupers, which in Ireland is an extraordinarily derogatory term because the soup offered by the Calvinists was meat-based on Fridays, the day when Catholics we’re forbidden to eat meat.
As for the greater Irish citizenry, there was no help from any source. There were only two recourses for the masses: starvation and death, or emigration, the latter which involved great loss of life, too.
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