Charles Elfreth


Charles Elfreth, born in May 1849 in Camden, New Jersey, emerged as the third son of Samuel D. and Martha Elfreth, following elder brothers Jeremiah and Samuel Elfreth. Samuel D. Elfreth, his father, established a flourishing blacksmithing business in Camden and actively volunteered with the Perseverance Fire Company since the 1820s.

The family’s deep connection to the fire service expanded through Charles’s elder brother, Samuel S. Elfreth. Joining the Camden Fire Department in 1865 during its all-volunteer phase, Samuel achieved remarkable milestones, serving as Chief on three separate occasions — from 1879 to 1882, 1885 to 1888, and notably, from 1891 until his retirement in 1912.

As per the 1870 census, both Charles and Samuel S. Elfreth resided with their parents, engaged in the trade of sash and blind making. A pivotal personal milestone occurred for Charles when he married Mary A. Bruden in Camden County on March 6, 1872. His initial venture into the professional fire service commenced on January 17, 1872, as he took on the role of driver for Hook & Ladder Company, later recognized as Ladder Company 1. This position, however, was temporary, concluding on May 8, 1872.

Subsequently, on March 26, 1877, Charles reentered Camden’s professional fire service, aligning his path with his brother’s trajectory. Unlike Samuel, Charles did not dedicate his entire career to firefighting. By the latter half of 1878, he redirected his professional pursuits back to carpentry. The 1878-1879 City Directory chronicled this transition, locating him at 103 South 5th Street. By 1881, he had relocated to 222 Bridge Avenue, and this address served as his residence until early 1892.

Transitioning to employment with the Pennsylvania Railroad (P.R.R.) by late 1882 marked a significant shift in Charles Elfreth’s career trajectory. His association with the P.R.R. endured for the rest of his working life. The move to Burlington County was evident by the time the 1893-1894 City Directory was compiled, confirmed by the 1900 Census, which placed him, his wife Mary, and son Benjamin on Main Street in Chester Township (present-day Maple Shade), New Jersey.

The family’s return to Camden by 1906 saw them settle at 431 South 5th Street. The 1910 Census detailed their residence at 933 Cooper Street, encompassing Charles, Mary, their divorced daughter Martha, son Benjamin, and his wife Anna. Subsequent years found the family at 819 Cooper Street by 1914, a residence that would be Charles Elfreth’s abode until the end of his days.

Charles Elfreth, having left an indelible mark through family, civic service, and professional pursuits, passed away on January 23, 1922. His life was one rich in experiences and contributions to the Camden community.


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