Plum Street Series

Charles A. Lorman and His Ice Company

Charles A. Lorman was born November 1, 1829 in Geislingen in Württemberg, Germany. His parents were Christian Lorman and Elizabeth Vetter. Christian was a blacksmith. After he left school at 14, Charles worked as a cabinetmaker. According to Silas Farmer, when Charles was 17, he “left home, with knapsack on back and cane in hand, traveling through different countries, working at times at his trade, until he finally arrived at Rotterdam, Holland” (p. 1245). From there he left for America, arriving in New York on August 9, 1849. In Detroit, he became a dry goods salesman and worked at a few different hotels. He then traveled to New Orleans and worked on a steamboat on the Mississippi River.

When Charles came back to Detroit, he headed up to Marine City where he worked in shipbuilding. He was in Marine City at the same time Alexander Linn and his family were there. Charles began attending Sunday meetings conducted by Linn. Linn baptized Charles in 1854 in the St. Clair River. According to G. G. Taylor, the ice on the river was 2 feet thick and had to be cut for the baptism. It was during this time Charles met Alexander Linn’s sister, Janette.

Janette Linn Lorman in the 1920s

Back in Detroit, he started working in the ice business, becoming a partner in the firm McLees & Lorman. In the 1856-57 Detroit City directory, he and Clinton McLees were listed as ice dealers in Springwells, Detroit. Meanwhile, Charles and Janette were married on December 24, 1858. When McLees died in 1860, Lorman went into the ice business for himself. In the 1860 U.S. census, Charles, Janette, and their baby Jean were living in the Railroad Hotel, owned by John F. Antisdel and located where the Detroit Opera House is now located. Jean had been born in February 1859. Another daughter, Caroline, was born in 1862. In the 1863 Detroit City directory, Lorman was listed as an ice dealer at 141 Jefferson Avenue. In the June 1863 Civil War draft, Lorman was living in Hamtramck. Charles and Janette’s next child, Flora, was born in 1865. Their 4th daughter, Jessie, was born on May 19, 1867. Their 5th child and 1st son, Christian Karl Lorman, was born May 30, 1872. Their last child, a son named Robert Blair, was born September 1, 1879.

Ad for Lorman’s “Belle Isle Ice Company” in the Mar. 3, 1872 Detroit Free Press

In 1869, Charles and Joseph L. Miner entered into a partnership and, in 1874, formed the Belle Isle Ice Company. In 1878, they absorbed the Wolverine Ice Company. Miner’s 1905 obituary said that he became president of the J. L. Miner Ice Company in 1882. Miner sued Lorman around this time and, in October 1892, the case went to the Michigan Supreme Court (I don’t understand the details, but the case can be read here and here.) The “1887 Michigan Reports of Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of Michigan” gave an enlightening description of how ice was harvested on the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair:

Colin Campbell’s oldest son John was a bookkeeper at the Belle Isle Ice Company (Lorman kept the name after Miner left). Walter Sanderson, John S. Gray’s brother-in-law, was the company’s secretary and treasurer, and W. F. Linn, Lorman’s nephew, was a stockholder.

Joint ad from the Gourlay Brothers, A.R. & W.F. Linn, and Lorman’s Belle Isle Ice Company in 1884’s “Proceedings of the Annual Conventions of the Christian Missionary Association

Children of Charles & Janette Lorman

JEAN – born in 1859. Married Alan Murray (son of Lilly Gourlay) on 9/25/1884 at her father’s home. They had 2 sons: Lorman Gourlay Murray (born 2/23/1886) and Welwood G. Murray (4/12/1890). In 1900, the family lived in Pittsburgh where Alan was an insurance agent. In 1910, they were living in Seattle where Alan managed the Bankers’ Reserve Life Insurance Company. Lorman married Mabel Bush on 8/10/1910 in Tacoma. They had one child, Janet Lorman Murray, on 6/23/1913. On 7/12/1914, Welwood died in a car accident. Alan died in June 1918 in Seahurst Park, WA. In the 1920 census, Jean, her mother Janette, and her nephew Oliver Hollis were living in Detroit. In 1930, Jean was back in Seattle working as a stenographer at age 71. In 1940, she was living with her son Lorman and his wife in Seahurst. Jean died on 2/25/1959 in Seattle at the age of 100.


CAROLINE – born in 1862. Married Ira N. Hollis on 9/21/1894. From 1893 to 1913, he was an engineering professor at Harvard University. From 1913 to 1925, he was president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. They had 4 children: Janette Ralston (b. 5/14/1895), Oliver Nelson (b. 9/13/1896), Elinor (b. 5/11/1900), and Carolyn (b. 1/17/1903). Caroline died in 1925 and Ira died in 1930. Their daughter Carolyn died in 2005 at 102!


FLORA ISABEL – born in 1865. Married Julius O. Cobb on 12/14/1892. They had 2 daughters: Janet (b. Oct. 1893) and Nancy (b. 12/17/1899). In the 1900 census, the family was living at the Ft. Stanton U.S. Marine Hospital in Lincoln, NM where Julius was surgeon-in-charge. Cobb was sent to the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana to investigate a spotted fever outbreak in June 1902. In July 1903, Cobb was a surgeon at the Marine Hospital in Los Angeles, CA. In 1910 the family was living in Milwaukee, WI. In 1920, the four of them were living in Chicago and Julius was the surgeon-in-charge at Chicago’s Marine Hospital. Janet married Charles D. Murray on 6/15/1921 and they had one daughter named Nancy Isabel in 1928. Julius died on 3/26/1935, and Flora died on 2/24/1947.


JESSIE – born 5/19/1867. Married William H. Vollmer on 4/24/1912 in Chicago. Vollmer was an architect that designed many homes around Detroit. In 1908, Vollmer had designed a home for Jessie’s mother on Green Lake in what is now West Bloomfield (Jessie lived there too – I wonder if that is how she and Vollmer met). Jessie and William had 2 sons, Russell Karl and William Jr. William died of stomach cancer in April 1932. Jessie died in October 1944 at Grace Hospital in Detroit.

William H. Vollmer, far left, working at Spier & Rohn’s architectural firm, c1896. From Detroit Public Library


KARL CHRISTIAN– born 5/30/1872. In 1896, he was a clerk at “Pittmans & Dean,” which was a coal and ice supplier. In 1897, he disappeared without any word to his family. In 1905, Karl sent a letter to Flora’s husband Julius Cobb from Johannesburg. He explained that he had changed his name to John Long, fought in the Boer War, and been shot in the thigh. Soon after the letter, Karl boarded a ship for the U.S. via Southampton. He arrived in Detroit on 8-20-1905, too late to see his dying father. Charles had died on August 8th. Karl was interviewed for the 8-21-1905 Detroit Free Press and said he would return to South Africa because it was “the only place with which I will ever be satisfied.” Something must have changed, however, because between 1908 and 1918 he was 1st officer on the S.S. Iroquois, purchsed by the Puget Sound Navigation Co. in 1907. It was a passenger steamship that operated on a regular route from Vancouver to Bellingham and Seattle (coincidentally, it was originally built by Craig Shipbuilding Co. of Toledo). Karl’s application for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate (like a passport) on 10/7/1918 states that he would be joining the Emergency Fleet Corporation, whose job it was “to acquire, maintain, and operate merchant ships to meet national defense, foreign and domestic commerce during World War I.” I lost track of Karl after the 1920s.

Karl Christian Lorman, c1918


ROBERT BLAIR – born 9/1/1879. In 1898, he was a clerk at the dry goods store “Burnham, Stoepel & Co.” in Detroit. By 1918, he was living in Seattle (may have moved there because of his sister Jean). In 1920, he was living in Deer Harbor, WA and was a life insurance salesman (like Jean’s husband Alan). However, in the 1930 census, his occupation was fruit farmer. In 1940, he was back to being an insurance salesman at the Ohio National Life Insurance Co. in Seattle. He died on May 15, 1950 and was buried in Detroit’s Elmwood Cemetery with his family.

Charles Lorman was a deacon at the Plum Street Church of Christ for many years. Around 1893, he retired and sold his ice company to the Pittmans & Dean Company (his son Karl worked there in 1896). In April 1905, Charles began to get ill with kidney problems. In early August, he developed pneumonia and died on August 8th. Philip G. Sanderson (son of Walter Sanderson and Isabella Gray) was his physician and called Charles “one of the best-hearted men I ever knew.” (Detroit Free Press, 8-9-1905). He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

In July 1908, his wife Janette had a house built on Green Lake, near Orchard Lake. It was designed by William H. Vollmer, her future son-in-law. The house is currently located at 6890 Commerce Road in West Bloomfield. Janette died at the home of her daughter in Massachusetts on August 30, 1927 at the age of 95. The funeral was held at her home on Field Avenue in Detroit, with services conducted by Dr. Edgar DeWitt Jones (of the Central Christian Church) and Frederick Cowan (of Ann Arbor Church of Christ), with prayer offered by John T. Smith (of Plum Street Church of Christ).

Janette Linn Lorman’s house on Green Lake in 1909 (above) and in 2020 (below).

Sources:

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