The Fall River Daily Evening News reported in Our Folks and Other Folks Column, “ He sustained an accident and narrowly escaped serious injury in Brookline on Saturday, by jumping from an electric without signalling for a stop. A sliver in the platform step caught in his shoe heel and threw him, as he jumped, and he was dragged some distance. He sustained severe bruises, his clothes were badly torn and his shoe, one of a new pair, was ripped from his foot.” This is one of the more interesting things written about my two times great uncle, Aimé B. Bruneau.
Aimé was a jeweller and studying to be an optometrist in 1897 when the accident happened. He must have been attending the Klein School of Optics in Boston’s South End. The school, founded three years earlier by ophthalmologist Dr. August Klein, was one of America’s first formal training programs in optics and refraction. After one year of study, Aimé could make glasses as well as jewellery.
He had travelled far from his roots. Aimé Benjamin Bruneau was born in Saint Constant, Quebec to Barnabé Bruneau and Sophie Marie Prud’Homme. He grew up on the family farm but as the seventh of 13 children, he had to find employment elsewhere. He left home as a teenager and went with his brother Dolphis to Adams, South Berkshire, Massachusetts where they were probably attracted by jobs in a mill.
I am not sure where he met Mary Floretta Mann. She lived in Rutland Vermont. Her husband, Steven Mann had died in 1869 and the widow was living with her three children. Four other children had died in early childhood. Mary couldn’t have been looking for financial support as she had real estate worth $16,000 and a personal estate of $5,000. When they married in 1871 Aimé was 26 and Mary 43.
The couple soon moved to Fall River, Massachusetts, which after the Civil War was the leading textile city in America. Aimé didn’t work in a mill but as a clerk in Fred Macomber’s jewellery store and eventually bought him out. It was a prosperous business in the Granite Block, a block-long commercial building in downtown Fall River and one of the leading jewellery stores in the area for almost twenty years.
“Mr. Bruneau was of a very social nature and made many friends here (Fall River). He greatly lived out of door life and was noted as a walker, covering all the country about this city in his tramps. A walk to Newport or Providence, (almost 20 miles away) on a pleasant Sunday was an ordinary thing with him.”
Then in 1897, his business fell off, he closed his store, sold his stock at auction and studied to be an optometrist. A year later he re-established in a smaller way as an oculist. In the next few years, he can be found in Leominster, Massachusetts, Dover New Hampshire and finally in Auburn, Maine with Aime’s occupation listed as a jeweller but also as an Insurance Agent working for the Manhattan Company Federal Street, Boston. During this time Mary appeared to be living in Fall River.
Aimé died unexpectedly of an internal hemorrhage in January 1910. He was 65 and still living in Auburn, Maine. His wife continued to live in Fall River, Massachusetts with her daughter Ida. Mary died there, just six months later at the age of 82. I can speculate about why he wasn’t living with his wife but the long and painful illness noted in her obituary might be the story.
Aime B. Bruneau Obituary, The Evening Herald, Fall River Massachusetts. Tuesday 18 January 1910 pg 4. Newspapers.com December 25, 2021. The only Bruneau family member mentioned in his obituary was his brother Ismael as a Congregationalist minister in Montreal.
Our Folks and Other Folks column. Fall River Daily Evening News, Fall River Massachusetts. Tuesday, August 24, 1897. Page 1. Newspapers.com Dec 23, 2021.
Death of Mrs. Mary F. Bruneau: Fall River Daily Evening News, Fall River Massachusetts. Tuesday Aug 23, 1910. Page 8. Newspapers.com Dec 23, 2021.
The New England College of Optometry, NECO was founded as the Klein School of Optics by Dr. August Klein in 1894. Located at 2 Rutland Street in Boston’s South End, the Klein School offered a one-year program that centred on optics, anatomy, and refraction. As optometry quickly became a more established profession, the school’s name changed in 1901 to the Massachusetts School of Optometry. The school began offering a two-year program in 1909, and that same year the National Board of State Examiners in Optometry was established as other new optometry schools sprang up around the country.
The Mass School of Optometry also began requiring incoming students to have completed four years of high school and to possess “good moral character.”