Johann Heinrich Blum
Johann Heinrich Blum was a mason working throughout the late 1700s and early 1800s in Salem, North Carolina. Blum was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on April 19th 1752. Though not much was documented of his childhood he and his brother moved to Salem, North Carolina in the late 1760s.
It was in Salem that Blum began his training as a mason along with Samuel Mau under the guidance of master mason Melchior Rasp. On April 19th 1773 Blum was released from his apprenticeship and given the title of journeyman.
Blum was looked to alongside Melchior Rasp during this time as an expert on the mason’s profession. It is mentioned in one episode that he and Rasp were brought in to give their ideas on different types of clay and their specific uses. Blum is recorded in the Bethabara Diary as working on the Gemeinhaus and other unnamed structures in the Moravian settlement of Bethabara. However, despite the respect earned in Salem, Blum elected to ‘go out on his own.’ On August 28th 1775 Heinrich Blum left Salem for Pennsylvania, just two short weeks since the words and news of the Declaration of Independence had made its way to Salem.
While away from Salem Blum served in the Continental Army aiding in the building of forts. His memoirs reflect on his abhorrence of killing and his thankfulness to never have to take part in such matters. Blum returned to Salem around 1788, his memoirs show he suffered from homesickness.
In 1789 he picked up right where he left off as journeyman mason, however his limitations in brickwork seems to have left him out of favor in some instances to the more versatile Johann Gottlob Krause. This left him in need of money for his family, and Blum attempted several means to make ends meet. In 1790 Blum opened up his own stone pit, and in 1791 was asked to man the kiln to burn tiles for roofs. He began full production of the town’s brick and roof tile needs in the autumn of 1791. By the summer of 1792 through brick making and bricklaying Blum had paid his debts to the community. Yet by 1794 Johann Krause had taken over the brick making position within town.
He is recorded to have been working on the Ebert House, Benzien’s Kitchen and the Home Moravian Church between 1797 and 1800, laying stones for both structures. It should be noted that the town seems to have wished for Blum to take up the work of William Craig in order to settle local disputes about overcharging for services. Blum seems to have taken up these jobs without hesitation in order to provide for his family.
In 1800 Blum began work on plastering the Single Brother’s House. It is here that is mentioned he worked for less than Johann Gottlob Krause. In 1805 payment records show his work in digging and walling the cellar of the Gottlob Schroeter’s House. He is also
In 1804 Blum worked on the Girls Boarding School. There he walled up the rough stone, burned bricks and pinning the wall plates. Blum was also responsible for laying the foundation for the shed, and walling in the bake oven of the school.
Blum worked often with his sons, Abraham and Johann David. They may have carried on his legacy in masonry if not for early deaths. After his work at the Girls School, Heinrich Blum seems to have concentrated his life on brick making and his plantation located right outside of Salem proper. He passed away on January 19th 1824.
Heinrich Blum lived a more animated life than many of the inhabitants of Salem. He experienced war and peace, building and destruction. His life was never easy, but rose to the occasion wherever he was given the opportunity. Much of his work can still be seen standing today in Salem, a testament to this North Carolina builder.