Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why in the World New Hampshire?

Page one form a written family history by
Ethel Snyder (Bloomfield) written in 2009
curtesy of my cousin Erica (Ethel's granddaughter)
Ethel was 87 when she wrote these notes.
Yesterday's post is only the beginning of the family history I learned on my recent roots trip. As I described in my post about planning this trip, there were some important questions we hoped to answer when we set out to Northern New England. This was a big question for me: Why would a poor Russian Jewish immigrant family go to rural New Hampshire and Vermont in the early 1900s? This particular question nagged me ever since I was a little girl. I remember driving past Laconia, which was a small city then, and thinking about why was my grandmother born there? It must have been a tiny place back then. What brought them to Laconia to open a grocery store? Couldn't they have open a store in New York?

I know, many of us Bloomfields have pondered this idea for a long time. There is a story, that floated around Harry Bloomfields branch of the family which shed some light on this issue. As we were heading deep into Vermont, Jimmy, my cousin, recollected the following Bloomfield legend he heard from his mother. Harry Bloomfield heard that Laconia, NH was expecting a wave of Polish immigrants, so the Bloomfields should go to Laconia and open a grocery store to sell Polish sausages. They did, but the Polish never arrived. As Jimmy and I dissected this family story, we found so major flaws, based on facts we knew. Jimmy's mother must of retold this story many times and when I looked up a written history she wrote for the family in 2009, the version was a bit different. She tells Freida, who was a widow according to Ethel, not Harry being told of a group of Polish workers expected in Franklin, NH. Clearly, only part of this story is historically accurate. The Bloomfields did eventually open a grocery store in NH.

What we do know is, that Freida was not a widow when she came in September 1909. We have the ship manifest from Ellis Island, documenting her arrival with Moses and four youngest sons together on the Estonia. We have a photo of Moses in the United States and he is listed in various city directories and finally dies in Vermont in 1917, seven years after arriving in America. Freida may have been the one who ran the show,  but it was neither her or Harry alone who made the decision to go to NH. Harry may have had a vote as he was in his late teens, and he may have liked the idea of opening a store, but the first store belonged to Moses and Freida and came years later. The older three brothers who were in America much longer, clearly had much to do with this important family decision. Ethel was right that they did not settle in Laconia initally, but I think she confused Franklin with Claremont, NH. I find no evidence of the Bloomfields in Franklin, but much evidence that they were in Claremont. Claremont NH, was going through a kind of industrial boom. If you drive through Claremont today, you can see signs for the Historic Industrial District.

I'm not sure when exactly the first Bloomfield arrived in Claremont, but by 1909 the Aaron, Max and William were pretty settled in Claremont, NH. I found the three of them listed in the 1905 Claremont City Directory, working at the Maynard Shoe Company and living at Aaron's home on 155 North Street. This is the earliest I can document the Bloomfields location in America. I have a gap of about six to seven years from when Aaron arrived in the US, to where I can identify he in Claremont. One thing is clear. It was not the grocery business that attracted the Bloomfields to NH. It was shoes! While both William and Max wondered a bit (they moved to Pittsburg according to the 1907 Claremont City Directory), Aaron remained in Claremont and at the shoe factory. By 1909 the three brothers were back in Claremont. If I had to venture an educated guess, they saved up enough money to bring their parents and younger siblings to America, and all returned to receive them, as they were to arrive in September.

The Maynard Shoe factory was on 18 Essex street and made boots and shoes. One of the few facts I knew about William Bloomfield from my mother was that he made shoes for a short time. Claremont was challenging in terms of addresses, since according to a local residen we met, they changed many street names after 9/11. We did walk up and down the industrial, historical district of the town, but we did not find the building where they Shoe Company was located. According to my GPS (which amazingly had the old street names, but knew they were wrong), Essex street was changed to Water Street. We found 18 Water Street, but looking at an old postcard of the Maynard Shoe Factory, we were not looking at the correct building.

On April 28th,1910 (the date their census was recorded), we can document the whole Bloomfield clan living and working in Claremont. Aaron is living with his growing family on 36 Fremont Street (where he was living since 1909) and continuing to work at the Shoe Factory. Max is newly married to Leah (listed as married two years) and living with her at 30 Hanover Street and working as a laborer in a Machine shop. William who had been living with Aaron's family in 1909, moves in with his parents and younger siblings who have newly arrived from Europe to 179 North Street in Claremont. Only seven months after landing at Ellis Island, Moses is listed as a Tailor and Freida is not working. They were renting their home. Reportedly, neither spoke English, but all their sons did. Everyone could read and write. They were married for 34 years in 1910 dating their wedding to around 1876. William and Harry were both working at the shoe factory (that totals four Bloomfield in the Shoe business) and the three younger sons Joseph, Ben and Barney were in school. No one is talking about Polish immigrants as of yet or sausages. They had three boarders living with them. Probably cousins, two of whom worked at the Shoe Factory and one was a Cabinet maker who worked at an antique store.

The records give some conflicting dates as to how long the Bloomfields stay in Claremont. The first mention of a grocery store is in 1913, where Moses is listed as a Grocer both in Laconia and still living in Claremont. In 1914 he continues the continue to appear in Claremont, but from 1915 they are listed as having a grocery store in Laconia. It's likely during some point in 1913 they moved to Laconia and therefore they appear in both the Laconia and Claremont directories. It's also possible that part of the family remained in Claremont while the rest of the family opened the business in Laconia, and eventually were joined by everyone else. What is clear is that the family splits, Aaron remains in Claremont, but moves to Windsor, Vermont  by 1915 to open of all things, a grocery store. Max moves to Springfield, Vermont and William leaves for New York City in 1914 and then Texas. Moses, Freida and the younger boys go to Laconia, and open a grocery store on Water Street.

12 Fremont Street in Claremont NH.
 Home of Aaron and his family in 1914
Though the siding looks
new, the home looks old, especially the back of the house.
According to an elderly neighbor, the house is the original house.
During our visit to Claremont, we searched all the known address for the Bloomfields. To our amazement, found two buildings still standing. One was Aaron's home in 1912, only a few houses down from the 36 Fremont address where he lived previously.

The second property we found still standing was the home of Moses and his family listed on the Claremont City Directory in 1914. This 37 Eastman street (Now Centurion Street) has gone through much renovation according to it's current owner, but the structure remains the original home.

Home of Moses and Freida and four youngest
sons in 1914. 37 Eastman Street, in Claremont.
Who knows, maybe around 1914 they were expecting a large Polish immigration, WWI was breaking out. It's very possible that since Moses suffered from Asthma and was elderly, it was hard for him to hold a job and opening a small store where Freida could work and the boys could help was a smart idea. Maybe the Bloomfields could not support themselves with one store, so they decided to spread out across neighboring towns and open a bunch of store, in advance of an expected bowing wave of immigrants. Maybe there was a family fight and everyone decided to go their separate ways. My great-grandmother hinted at that in her Memoirs, stating that the Bloomfield brothers were not close like she was with her siblings. Or maybe, worked dried up in Claremont. Either way, this is where they leave Claremont and begin their lives as merchants and small business owners.

More about the Bloomfields:

Guest blog on How I Met The Bloomfields

Roots Trips Series: Reports from a Vermont and New Hampshire road trip to research the Bloomfield family history:
Part I: Roots Trip Road-trip planning!
Part II: Three Tips for Genealogy Road Trips
Part III: Roots Trip Gem of the Day, Looking for Moses Bloomfield
Part V: Springfield Vermont Home of the Simpsons and the Bloomfields
Part VI: Which Ancestors to Research?

Where Was This Picture Taken?- Legacy Roots
Friday's Faces From the Past: Mystery Man
Hot Off The Press


  1. I hope you had a chance to visit or call the Claremont Historical Society. You never know what they might have on file about the Bloomfields, their homes, workplaces, etc. Welcome to New Hampshire!

  2. Thanks Heather! Unfortunately the day we were there, the historical society was closed but I do plan to contact them with a list of questions (which is growing!).


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