|Mr. Henry Bulmer, circa. 1880. McCord Museum Collection.|
I started looking into the career of Henry Bulmer for a post I have been preparing on the Bulmer family of Montreal, but there's so much available on him that I'm giving him his very own post--he's making the Bulmer post awkwardly long. Henry Bulmer was born in 1822 in Hatfield, England, to our ancestors Thomas Bulmer and Mary Bowling. He, his parents and three siblings immigrated to Quebec in 1832, where they eventually settled in Montreal. Thomas Bulmer, his father, was a bricklayer and plasterer, but his son would expand those horizons considerably. Henry was the older brother of John Bulmer, from whom we descend. He married Jane Maxwell in 1848, and he died in 1912. Upon his death the Montreal Gazette printed a biographical news article about him.
Montreal Gazette. October 2, 1912.p. 5.
"Index to the News (front page): Page 5. Death of Mr. Henry Bulmer at age of 92."
"Mr. Henry Bulmer Died Yesterday / Former Chairman of Harbor Board and Noted Figure in City's Affairs / Resident Here 75 Years / Death Recalls Some Incidents Which Form Part of History of City.
Mr. Henry Bulmer, who for over a half century was identified with the business growth of Montreal and who had reached the advanced age of ninety-two years, passed away yesterday at his residence, 330 Mackay street. Mr. Bulmer's death was very sudden. He resided with his two sisters and he died almost in the act of reading to them a letter which he had just received from his son in New York.
Mr. Bulmer leaves two sons, Messrs F.T. Bulmer of New York and John A. Bulmer of this city. Three sisters also survive him, Miss Bulmer, Mrs. J.B. Bond of Montreal, and Mrs. Tiplin of Newark, N.J.
For many years, Mr. Bulmer was active in public life. After long service in the City Council he was selected to run against the late John Louis Beaudry for the office of mayor. He was for a long period a member and at one time chairman of the Montreal Harbor Board and was an outstanding figure among conservatives in federal politics. He lived under five British sovereigns and was sworn in as magistrate under the last three rulers of the British Empire.
Mr. Bulmer, who was born in Hatfield, Yorkshire, England, came to Canada with his father, Mr. Thomas Bulmer, when ten years of age and after reaching manhood was for many years engaged in the building trade. His career as a member of the Montreal City Council beginning as far back as fifty-six, was a marked one, several people now living recalling the advanced position taken by Mr. Bulmer in the discussion of all matters concerning the welfare of this city. In 1883 when a strong feeling arose throughout the city against the continuous occupancy of the mayor's chair by the late John Louis Beaudry a number of leading French-Canadians united with the English party and invited Mr. Bulmer to stand for the position of chief magistrate. Already an Irish candidate in the person of the late Judge Marcus Doherty had endeavored in vain to dislodge Mr. Beaudry, who, although a strong man and a good administrator appeared to believe that he had a perpetual lease of the position of chief magistrate. Mr. Bulmer made a good fight and polled a large French vote, but he was defeated by a section of his own co-religionists who either voted against him or remained away from the polls. When a tombstone was erected to the memory of Hackett, the victim of the so-called Orange riots in this city some imprudent people had caused the following words to be inscribed; 'murdered by an Irish Catholic mob,' which was removed by Mr. Bulmer then a member of the Mount Royal Cemetery directorate and this act so it was ascribed at the time caused several hundred ultra-Protestants to remain away from the polls.
IN NOTABLE POLITICAL FIGHT
For years Mr. Bulmer held a prominent place in the direction of the Conservative party in this city, and when Mr. M.H. Gault...in 1878 expressed a desire to retire Henry Bulmer was chosen as the conservative standard bearer at the federal election of 1882, Sir John MacDonald having decided to go to the country a year before the five years had expired. Unfortunately, however, at that time the party was split into two factions, the second supporting Lieut.-Col. 'Sandy' Stevenson for the seat, formerly held by Mr. Gault. As both Mr. Bulmer and the Colonel were personal friends of the Prime Minister he declined to interfere and the fight went on, friendly at first, but finally more or less feeling developed. The party then decided to select seven Bulmer men and seven Stevenson supporters and they went into caucus...and they fought it out for two sittings without being able to reach anything but a deadlock in the party nomination. At a third meeting it was agreed to have a thirteenth member, Hon. John Hamilton, to act as chairman, and if necessary cast a deciding vote. Meantime A.P. Macdonald... decided to break the deadlock and put in a blank ballot, giving seven for Stevenson and six for Bulmer, thus obviating a ruling on the part of the chairman. Col. Stevenson was thus in the field, but Mr. Bulmer's host of friends throughout the city did not go to work as the leaders of the party hoped for. As a last resource a little band of the faithful who saw the danger of going to the polls in so feeble a manner repaired to Mr. M.H. Gault's house the day before the official nomination and following an extended interview the ex-M.P. consented to again enter the field. Mr. Gault was returned by 1,700 majority although he had defeated his Liberal opponent four years before by 2,500, the split in the party being, no doubt, responsible for the drop in the ministerial majority.
CHAIRMAN OF HARBOR BOARD
Later Mr. Bulmer became chairman of the Montreal Harbor Board...When Sir Wilfrid Laurier came to power in 1896 and when the business of the harbor (was at a later period turned over to his command?) Mr. Bulmer never lost interest in the affairs of the port and he was ever ready to give his advice on matters with which he had been for so many years familiar.
Mr. Henry Bulmer lived under five British sovereigns, viz. George IV, William IV, Victoria, Edward VII, and George V, and he was sworn in as magistrate under England's three last rulers. Mr. Bulmer was a Britisher first, last and always, and a very patriotic Canadian. In religion he belonged to the Anglican communion, being one of the oldest members of St. George's Church, attending regularly the services up to a few months ago. He was a warm personal friend of the late Bishop Bond and the late Bishop Carmichael and enjoyed to a marked degree the esteem of all races and creeds in the community in which he had lived and labored for three-quarters of a century. He was at different periods chairman of the Mechanic's Institute governing board, president of St. George's Society, and was captain in early life of the Montreal Foot Artillery. During the past two years deceased [sic] did not come down town frequently, but when he did a warm welcome was always accorded him on St. James street, and apparently one of the happiest days of his life was his visit to the down town sections the morning following the triumph of his political party a little over a year ago. 'I always had faith', he said, 'in my fellow countrymen, and they have not disappointed me' was the old man's cheery remark to those who grasped his hand."
Henry did seem to have a personal relationship, or at least a very cordial and familiar business relationship, with Sir John A. MacDonald. Library and Archives Canada has extensive correspondence between the two posted online. Here are some examples:
This one's a bit hard to read. It's an early letter, from 1884, and is a bit more formal in tone than later correspondence. Here is my transcription:
"Montreal 22 Dec./84
My dear Sir John,
Amidst the many congratulations you are receiving on your safe return and the many honors you have received and so well deserved will you kindly allow me to offer you my sincere congratulations and confess the pleasure I felt after reading the report of your great speech in Toronto at the convention there. It was worthy of you and the occasion. Through storm and sunshine I have always had an abiding faith in your genius and ability to guide us onward, and I trust you will long be spared to do so. Be good enough to accept the best wishes of your humble and faithful admirer,
Again, congratulations, this time in telegraph form: