Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Private View (more Blumer history)

This is a 2nd installment from the Sierra Madre newspaper about the Blumers:

The View from Sierra Madre
Vol. 3 No. 17
Thursday, April 25, 1974

A Private View

The Blumer home was a center of social activities in the early days of Sierra Madre. A family of three sons and three daughters attracted many age groups for picnic parties, musical evenings, drama rehearsals and the usual sewing parties. As the cover picture shows, the large house and grounds had a beautiful view from its hilltop location. The vine covering the front porch was the first large wistaria vine planted by J.G. Blumer in 1887. (The famous Wistaria Vine was planted by Mrs. Brugman in 1894).

After Mr. Blumer's death in 1918, Mrs. Blumer and daughter Edith continued to live at the Auburn St. Address. The other children had moved from Sierra Madre. Dr. George Blumer served the medical profession in several areas before serving for many years as Dean of Yale Medical School. Elsie married local boy, John Hart, who left for an established law practice in New York. Hilda married William Thacher and lived in Ojai at the Thacher School. Philip, a banker, married and lived in Eagle Rock. Fred, associated with Sperry-Gyro Co., married and lived in New York.

Later the Conrad's tennis court on Mira Monte became a gathering place. There were many private tennis courts scattered throughout the village. A cousin of the Blumer's Percy South, brought the first ping-pong set to Sierra Madre and it, too, became the "rage."

In 1923 the Blumer home and the upper four acres of the property were sold to John and Edith Brice who established Brice Academy, a school for boys. Many changes were made in the lovely home and the second story porch was enclosed to make dormitory rooms. At this time Mrs. Blumer rented a house on North Baldwin until the purchase of the Sokol house at 529 W. Highland in 1924. In 1925 the lower half of the Blumer property was sold to the Lutheran Society. In 1926 Mrs. Blumer died. The home property was later sold to the Vard family, the remainder of the property was subdivided and the back roadway became an extension of Hermosa, although it carried Grand View numbers. In 1948 the Bromley's purchased the homesite and have restored it to its original charm.

Edith Blumer married C. W. Bowen in 1928 and they purchased the home on Marlborough Terrace which was part of the original Churchill Ranch in the upper canyon. Mrs. Bowen will be remembered by many for her continuous interest in community activities; a guiding force in all the early dramatic enterprises, a member of the Library Board, and from its organization in 1931, the historian of the Sierra Madre Historical Society and editor of the prized "Annals of Sierra Madre."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. John George Blumer

John G Blumer and Edyth Walford Blumer

One of our Blumer cousins (Bob or Lila) passed me copies of two articles about our ancestors that were printed in their local newspaper. I am going to retype them here for posterity. I would include a byline, but neither article has one. The photos are from an album my grandmother Edie gave to me.

The View from Sierra Madre
Vol. 3 No. 165
Thursday, April 18, 1974

Mr. & Mrs. Blumer
"John George Blumer came to Sierra Madre from England in 1886. He found here a scattered community of small ranches, hardly constituting a village. The extent to which Mr. Blumer entered into the development of the community and the moulding of its future stamps him as a man much out of the ordinary, whose activities should be made a vital part of the record of local history." So wrote Mr. George Morgridge, a former editor of the Sierra Madre News, in writing of one of Sierra Madre's early citizens.

Mr. Blumer, born in 1845, was a native of England. He received an excellent education and developed a keen business sense through his many enterprises in England. In addition to his business activities, Mr. Blumer was keenly interested in the educational and cultural affairs in his home community in Darlington, England. In 1871 Mr. Blumer married Miss Julia Walford, and to them were born six children, George, Elsie, Hilda, Edith, Philip and Frederick. Mrs. Blumer's literary talents contributed to making a home of educational and cultural activities.

By the time Mr. Blumer had reached forty years of age he had established a record as a successful business man and marked recognition as a leader of community interests. Failing health presented a need for a change from the rigorous English climate. About this time Mr. Blumer read an article in "The Lancet", a London medical journal in which a Dr. Fred Gresham described the peculiarly favorable climate of his home community of Sierra Madre for pulmonary and kindred diseases. Mr. Blumer engaged in correspondence with Dr. Gresham which resulted in the decision to move to California. When the Blumer family arrived in Los Angeles, they were met by Dr. Gresham who arranged for them to come to Sierra Madre and stay at the Gresham home "Bromley Knolls" located at the head of Neher Drive. The family soon learned to love the charm of the foothills and it did not take long for Mr. Blumer to make the choice to settle in Sierra Madre. He purchased from A.D. Trussell a trace of approximately ten acres north of Grand View, west of Auburn Avenue and bordering the Gresham place across the canyon to the west. On the new homestead was a small house which had been built by Mr. Trussell. The Trussell's moved higher up the hill and built a house which later was owned by George Humphries at 214 West Carter Avenue. Mr. Blumer needed a much larger house, which he proceeded to build at once, adding to the front of the original structure, part of which had been built into the hillside. He also found himself engaged in a new occupation - orchardist, with a variety of deciduous and citrus fruits on his ten acres. Always an enterprising man, in 1888, because of the low citrus market, Mr. Blumer built a workshop on the south side of Olive Street west of Auburn, the main entrance to the Blumer home. Here he manufactured orange, lemon and vanilla extracts. His products were popular with the housewives of Sierra Madre but there was difficulty in getting the fruit properly prepared. Synthetic vanilla extract appeared on the market at this time and the project was discontinued around 1890.

The Blumer family was an important addition to the community with every age group represented in the activities for several decades following. Mr. Blumer entered into all public activities immediately. At the first annual meeting of the Sierra Madre Water company following his arrival, he was elected to the board of directors and served as vice-president and president until about 1908. His influence and concern was evident after Sierra Madre was incorporated in 1906. The water system needed to become a municipal facility instead of a mutual company. His tireless efforts in activating this transition and when the transfer was finally made found Mr. Blumer being appointed by the Board of Trustees and elected mayor, that his services might be utilized to complete this critical transfer. While he only served as mayor from June through October, 1914, it was a fitting termination of his long period of service.

Sierra Madre Library was another vital interest of Mr. Blumer. Through the Ross donation and the contributions of other citizens, Sierra Madre was early provided with a library building. Mr. Blumer was president of the society from 1889 to 1908 until the library was taken over by the city. During this time he organized the corps of lady volunteers who rotated monthly service without pay. He encouraged book donations and purchased books from funds derived largely through the annual library benefit in the old Town Hall. As president of the Sierra Madre Library Association he was concerned to make the library available and useful without tax support.

Transportation was the third of the major problems with which Mr. Blumer struggled in common with his fellow citizens. He served as chairman of the committee to seek the electric railroad franchise into Sierra Madre. There were many workers who helped, but at the meeting in the old Town Hall to celebrate success, it was Mr. Blumer who was presented with an engraved gold watch as a token of community appreciation.

Mr. Blumer's later years were passed quietly but retained a keen interest in the developing community. His methodical search for facts continued with his daily weather record, which he kept for thirty years. It was one of the oldest continuous records in Southern California.

As a token of appreciation for his service in public interests, Ella Shepherd Bush, a well know portraitist, made a crayon portrait which was donated to the Sierra Madre Public Library. Shortly after this recognition, Mr. Blumer died, on Dec. 24, 1918, a well loved man of family and community.