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The History of the Glarus Families,
especially of the Sernf Valley

by Gottfried Heer : The Blumers

The History of the Glarus Families, especially Those of the Sernf Valley.
A Medley of Pictures from Past Days.
Zur Geschichte glarnerischer Geschlechter, derjenigen des Sernftales insbesondere.
Allerlei Bilder aus vergangenen Tagen.

By Gottfried Heer, 1920
Translated by Sue Wolf, 1999
[All lettered footnotes and information in brackets were added by the translator]

Click on image to see a larger reproduction.

As we already remarked on an earlier occasion, among all the children who were listed in the first baptism book of Matt for the years 1595-1617 there are only 2 children from the Blumer family, which today is so numerous in Engi. They were Fridli and Paulus Blumer, both of whom again died young - and therefore without descendants (Fridli, born in January, 1613, died in August, 1613 and Paulus, born in 1616, died in 1628). In comparison, on Nov. 5, 1620 two brothers of Paulus Blumer got married: Wolfgang, coupled with Margreth Hmmerli, and Meinrad, coupled with Elsbeth Knobel from Betschwanden. These both were the ancestors of the Blumers in the Sernf valley. In the time from 1622-49 Wolfgang announced the baptism of 10 children, among them 6 boys: Joseph in 1622, Fridli in 1628, Paulus in 1631 (he was killed in 1660 in the foreign military service), Leonhard in 1641, Wolfgang in 1647, and Jakob in 1649. Six children of Meinrad Blumer's were baptized from 1621-33, among them 3 sons: Paulus in 1623, Jakob in 1625, and Fridli in 1627. In that case, we needn't still wonder to ourselves that, in regard to the number of their relatives, the Blumer family, even in the commune of Matt, advanced from the 24th place, which it reached in the beginning of the 17th century, to the most numerous family in the group. In 1763 the Blumers numbered 36 head-taxpayers, so that in Engi only the Martis (40 head-taxpayers) and the Baumgartners (39 head-taxpayers) still were ahead of them by a little. For a time they were also represented in Matt. The village book there reports it this way: "On March 23, 1740 Joseph Blumer, the son of Mathias Blumer of Engi, had presented a proposal before a respectable Matt Tagwena to the effect that his grandfather, Joseph Blumer, in the year 1677, has bought the Tagwen rights to Matt for himself and his descendants, and he presumed that they should deliver the Tagwen right to him also, as one Tagwener to another, since his father and grandfather lived in the Tagwen. The gentlemen of the Tagwen have replied concerning this that they will not refuse the Tagwen rights to him, namely, the benefits of the common land of that time, where they had had then; but he must avoid what they had not bought until afterwards, namely, the Bohlige and ...ground [already missing in Heer's text : original document unreadable] and the great Hostet1, or pay off the Tagwen. About that matter he came with asking and begging, and wished that they would look at him in mercy and consider that he was a poor man. About that matter they had dealt with him and settled, namely, for 44 Florins for the fire-tax and what they had paid for the common land. However, when he desired the Tagwen in the autumn to come, then he should pay what is due for the adjoining farmland and common land."

The petitioner, master rifleman Joseph Blumer (born in 1713, died in 1764) was the only Blumer whom the canton tax rolls for Matt had registered, and later the Blumers again became extinct in Matt. When Joseph Blumer described himself as "a poor man", that held very true also for his family members in Engi. Whereas he is reported on the tax rolls with 100 Florins, in 1763 all 36 Blumers in Engi paid taxes on only 1600 Florins (the 40 Martis paid on 5600 Florins and the 21 Elmers in Matt paid on 7200 Florins). In that case it is not so very astonishing that, among the 13 councillors which, since Christ. Trmpi, represented the Matt-Engi Tagwen in 1700-1774, no Blumers are to be found (on the other hand there were 4 Elmers, 4 Martis, 2 Wohlwends, and one each of the Wysses, Wintelers and Baumgartners). On the other hand, in the 19th century the Blumers worked in the foreground at an increased rate, so that their name is connected most intimately with the story of traffic conditions and the industrial development of the Sernf valley. Until in the 1850's no mail-wagon ran in the Sernf valley. After the passing of the postal system by the federation the commune authorities of the Sernf valley bothered the federal post office to introduce daily mail routes also for the Sernf valley. Against them, the council had stated in its official report of 1851-54 that its efforts, respectively, those of the cantonal commission, till now had been unsuccessful, that the district mail management of St. Gallen had determined "that during a full month not even one resident of the Sernf valley has made use of any one of the already existing mail setups of Canton Glarus ", and, on the basis of this determination there, the establishment of a mail route for the Sernf valley must be done without. On the other hand, the communal authorities of the Sernf valley told themselves: " He who does not give up wins," and, as the cantonal commission supported their efforts, the following official report of the council (1854-57) stated that now the mail wagon goes also to the Sernf valley. Church official, Fridolin Blumer, assumed the management of these mail routes. He delegated the command of the mail wagon to his son, Andreas, who, for his part, held this job until 1905. That is, the mail wagon at first ran as a little one-horse carriage and only to Engi, [but] later up to Elm and as a two-horse carriage.

The introduction of a mail route for the Sernf valley, which was approved after a longish struggle, meant a significant improvement, then it admittedly became largely obsolete through the construction of an electric trolley line to Elm. How much, especially here, probably every citizen of the Sernf valley is in thankful remembrance of the Blumers, chief judge Fridolin Blumer, and, above all, Councillor of States Leonhard Blumer, who were the driving forces. If at the dedication of the railroad on Sept. 12, 1905 the train stopped in front of the house of the already seriously sick man, and, through cantonal chief executive, Blumer, everyone participating expressed their gratitude and appreciation to him in a simple act of homage, we are, to be sure, all convinced even today that without the energetic and relentless work of the president of the initiative committee, Councillor of States Leonhard Blumer, the undertaking of a Sernf valley railroad would not have become a reality perhaps even today, or, at any rate, not as early as 1905. A people's assembly of the three Sernf valley communes [Matt, Engi and Elm] had already, on Dec. 1, 1889, appointed an initiative committee with cantonal councillor Leonhard Blumer as president, so we know how many difficulties of a technical and, above all, financial nature had to be overcome to reach the goal. As in the circles of his valley companions, so Councillor of States L. Blumer also had to stand up again and again for the undertaking in the cantonal council and at the Landsgemeindeb, and to revive his courage anew, which was sinking from time to time, until the Landsgemeinde of the year 1903 put another 250,000 Francs at the disposal of the undertaking, in addition to the already formerly-decided 500,000 Francs (as stocks of 2 levels), and thereupon - but now also with doubled energy - the actual construction of the railroad was carried out2 by means of the administrative council, which was constituted on Aug. 15, 1903, and its untiring president, Councillor of States Blumer. To be sure, everyone felt sad that he, the energetic promoter of the undertaking, was only allowed to wave his greetings to the festively decorated train and its passengers from his sickroom at the inauguration of the railroad; and a mere few weeks later, on Oct. 21, 1905, an extraordinarily numerous funeral cortege accompanied the deceased magistrate with greater sadness to the Matt cemetery.

Leonhard Blumer, born on May 28, 1844 as the third oldest son of the previously-mentioned church official and councillor Fridolin Blumer of Engi, at first attended the Glarus secondary school and then got his further business training at the Industry Schoole of Lausanne. Afterwards, while employed for some time as travelling salesman of a Glarner cotton company, he associated himself with some friendly businessmen in order to found a cotton weaving mill in his till-then, industry-poor home commune of Engi, which was ready to open for business in the autumn of 1865. Besides his industrial job he served his home commune especially as a public official to the canton, thus, since 1867 as member of the cantonal council, which he presided over in 1892 and 1900, and since 1870 as a member of, and since 1883 as president of, the Engi school council. However, the Landsgemeinde elected him on May 7, 1893 to be the successor of the resigning old cantonal chief executive E. Zweifel, to his membership on the Council of States, in which he reached a significant status, especially on business political and industrial questions. Proof for the latter was, to be sure, his nomination to the presidency of the Council of States' tariff commission.

In 1876 the number of tax-paying Blumers in Engi amounted to 39, with assets of 141,000 Francs. In the main valley they were represented at that time, above all, in Schwanden by 41 taxpayers (2,219,000 Fr. assets), in Nidfurn by 30 taxpayers (112,500 Fr. assets), in Glarus by 21 taxpayers (2,427,000 Fr.), and in Niederurnen by 14 taxpayers (53,000 Fr.). In Mitldi and up in the Kerenzenc they numbered 5 each, and in the remaining communes 17 further taxpayers. In the entire canton the number of taxpaying Blumers amounted to 175, who had assets among them of 5,162,000 Fr. In regard to the number of taxpayers, they stood, therefore, in 9th place, but in regard to their assets they stood in 3rd place.

Since I have already thoroughly reported about the Blumers in the Historical Yearbook, No. 26, pgs. 70-99, I limit myself here to some short notes.

The first documented mention of the Blumers dates from 1423, in which year the familiar duel between Wlti Blumer and his brother-in-law, Heintz, took place3.

Captain and councillor Peter Blumer founded an actual dynasty of officials in the 17th century. He himself became cantonal official in the Free District [today part of Canton Aargau] in 1645. Of his sons, J. Jakob Blumer [1] of Nidfurn became cantonal official in Baden in 1661-62, and the Protestant cantonal treasurer in 1672-76. A second son, Fridolin [2] (born in 1619, died in 1696), who, after his marriage to the councillor's daughter, Barbara Trmpi, settled in the Thon [in Schwanden], later moved to Glarus, and bought the Tagwen rights of the capital in 1672, [and] was cantonal official to Lauis [Canton Ticino] in 1670-72. No fewer than six times he was chosen also as cantonal governor in Los [Lauis], but all six times the "impartial Loos" decided against him, that is, for one of the two other candidates.

Of the 5 sons of cantonal official and treasurer J. Jakob Blumer [1], the first was Fridolin [1a] (died in 1746, at 86 years old), cantonal official of Baden in 1693-94 and representative of Canton Glarus the most often [of anyone] in the days of the federation. A second, Samuel [1b], became cantonal military administrator in 1696-1726, and cantonal official of Werdenberg in 1698-1701. The third, Othmar [1c], served as cantonal treasurer in 1717-23. A fourth, Peter [1d], was pastor of Mollis in 1675, Chorrichterd in 1700, and dean in 1708-20 (until his death), and a fifth, Joh. Heinrich [1e], was pastor to Grabs for 1689.

Of the grandsons of cantonal official J. Jakob Blumer [1], and the sons of councillor and cantonal official Fridolin [1a], J. Jakob [1aa] became cantonal secretary, Fridolin [1ab], cantonal official to Werdenberg [Canton St. Gallen] in 1715 and Peter [1ac] became cantonal military administrator in 1726-1741, and cantonal official to Baden in 1741. A further grandson of the same cantonal official J. Jakob Blumer [1], and son of cantonal military administrator Samuel Blumer [1b], Joh. Jakob [1ba], was cantonal official of Werdenberg in 1737-40. The son of Othmar [1c], Paravacini Blumer [1ca], became cantonal official in the Free District in 1743, and his son [1caa], great-grandson of cantonal official Joh. Jakob [1], was cantonal official to Werdenberg (representative of the Eschen Tagwen on the council) in 1773-76.

Of the sons of captain Fridolin Blumer [2], who was cantonal official of Lauis in 1670-72, and whose name can still be read on an old bridge on Mt. Cenere, was one Peter Blumer [2a], [who was] councillor, Neuner- and Chorrichterd, [and] Protestant treasurer in 1724-30, and of whom a son, Joh. Jakob [2aa], was councillor, while his grandson, Konrad [2aaa], served as captain in the Sardinian foreign service and governed as cantonal official over Werdenberg in 1782-85.

Of the great-grandsons of captain and cantonal official Fridolin Blumer [2], and grandsons of Othmar Blumer [2b] the first was Fridolin [2ba], pastor of Rheineck for 1741 and treasurer of the Rhine valley capital in 1761. A second, Othmar [2bb], was Chorrichter, destined to be elected by the Landsgemeinde as cantonal governor, that is, as cantonal chief executive, but was turned down through the disfavor of the Loses [in Lauis], And a third, Peter [2bc], Fnferrichterd, was cantonal official in the Meien valley [Valle Maggia, Canton Ticino] in 1746 and cantonal military administrator in 1752.

In the 19th century 3 sons of Chorrichter J. Jakob Blumer [?] took part prominently in a similar way in the political life of our canton: Adam [?a] (born in 1789, died in 1859), [was the] last cantonal military administrator and president of the court of appeals in 1837-48, whose son, Dr. J. Jakob Blumer [?aa], was a member of the Council of States in 1848-72 and 1873-74, and in 1874 was chosen as the first president of the federal court, which had been reorganized by the federal amendment of 1874; Othmar [?b], [was] a medical doctor, Chorrichter and later president of the marriage court; and Kosmus [?c] (born in 1792, died in 1861), was cantonal governor in 1836-40 and cantonal chief executive in 1840-48.

[All lettered footnotes and information in brackets were added by the translator]

a Tagwen an ancient term, from at least the 6th century A.D., which is still used today in Canton Glarus to denote the commune of the citizens, i.e. those who have inherited or purchased the Tagwen rights (this may only partially coincide with the political commune). It is derived from Tage Wann, meaning the work someone could perform in one day in the commonly-held fields, pastures and forests. Over the years the number of Tagwen in the canton has varied considerably, with the present-day number being 29. Also its duties have changed from jointly working on and enjoying the benefits of its common property, to administering all the communes public interests, to (today) administering and enjoying the benefits of its common property.

1 The above reason shows that also in Matt, as in other communes, the Tagwen had the tendency to add on to its possession in the common lands. As a rule the Tagwen citizens would be obligated to use a part of their accruing "taxes" and peace money for it. The more common lands the Tagwen purchased, all the greater became the demand for such, which would be purchased in the Tagwen rights. Likewise the citizens, who lived out of town during longer periods, had to pay extra when they again wanted to enter into the full possession of the Tagwen rights, of what the Tagwen people had accomplished in the meanwhile for the expansion of the common land possessions.

b Landsgemeinde, or Popular Assembly, means the cantonal legislative body, which is comprised of the Tagwen members.

2 Since I thought to report thoroughly in my "Story of Glarner Transportation" also about the Sernf valley railroad, in a special chapter, I am satisfied in this place with the above-mentioned recollections.

c Kerenzen is the name for an area in northern Canton Glarus, which includes several small communes.

3 Historical Yearbook, No. 25, pgs. 56-58.

d A Chorrichter is a member of a special court for cases concerning family and vice. This court was held in the choir section of the Protestant church, hence the name, which literally translates "choir judge". The titles of Neuner (Neunerrichter) and Fnfer (Fnferrichter) are derived from the numbers neun (nine) and fnf (five) : the holders would be members of a city council or court consisting of nine or five members respectively.

e The "Industrieschule" is "Ecole moyenne et industrielle de Lausanne", which Leonhard Blumer attended in 1858/59; after several name changes it is known now (1999) as "Etablissement secondaire de l'Elyse". [Information provided by Archives de la Ville de Lausanne]

Return to Heer Index Page / see also Baumgartner's notes on the Blumers

This page is maintained by Sue Wolf. / Last updated 22 June 2006 (wws)
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