Saturday, July 2, 2011

Prosperity Did Not Always Bring Happiness

I have written a number of posts about my wife Ellen's cousins in the Breithaupt family. Phillip Ludwig 'Louis' Breithaupt had immigrated to Buffalo, New York as a teenager with his father Liborius in 1844 where the elder Breithaupt established a tannery business. Phillip Ludwig learned the tanning business from his father and would often make trips through Upper Canada (now Ontario, Canada) and the U.S. mid-west to purchase hides for leather manufacturing.

One of Phillip Ludwig's close friends in Buffalo was an Evangelical Association minister named Jacob Wagner, Ellen's second great grandfather, who was married to Margaret Hailer. In 1851, when Liborius died, it was Rev. Wagner who officiated at his funeral. Eventually, Jacob would introduce Louis Breithaupt (he had dropped the Phillip and anglicized the Ludwig apparently to carry on the family business of L. Breithaupt) to the Hailer family in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario. In 1853, Louis married Catherine Hailer, thus making he and his friend Jacob brothers-in-law. In late 1861, Louis left his Buffalo, New York business and established Breithaupt Leather Goods in Berlin.

Although Louis was successful in building his Berlin tannery into a thriving business, twice the tannery burned to the ground, once in 1867 and again in 1870. The adversity slowed Louis down but he carried on and re-built.



Louis and Catherine had ten children, the first three born in the U.S. and the remaining seven born in Berlin, Ontario. Their seventh child and fifth son was Daniel Edward Breithaupt (pictured above), born in 1868. By all accounts, Daniel was a normal, healthy three year-old. On July 9th, 1871 Daniel attended a Sunday School outing in a small area near the Breithaupt tannery that was in the process of being re-built. When it began to rain, the group of children took shelter on the main floor of the tannery building. Unfortunately, the floor collapsed beneath them, plunging the group into the vats below. Although there were very few injuries, little Daniel drowned. Following his son's death, Louis wrote in the family bible, "Gott schenke mir und uns allen die Gnade ihm Himmel einst wieder zu sehen," loosely translated as 'God grant me the grace and all of us to see him again in heaven.'



Their sixth child, and fourth son, Esra Carl Breithaupt was born in 1866 and although never physically considered to be robust, Carl, as he preferred to be called, was a capable student who graduated with a science degree from North-Western College in Naperville, Illinois in 1887. In 1892, Carl graduated as an Electrical Engineer from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Returning home, Carl (pictured above) transformed the horse powered Berlin and Waterloo railway to an electric railway. He also purchased a substantial stake in the railway company, becoming president and manager of the company. Carl was also a member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, where he joined the likes of Thomas A. Edison and Alexander Graham Bell in an association formed in 1884 "to promote the Arts and Sciences connected with the production and utilization of electricity and the welfare of those employed in these Industries: by means of social intercourse, the reading and discussion of professional papers and the circulation by means of publication among members and associates of information thus obtained." Carl also held the position of Vice-President of the Canadian Electrical Association, formed in 1891.

During the evening of January 26, 1897, Carl was at the electric works when an explosion occurred. Early in the morning of the following day, Carl succumbed to his injuries.


A prosperous family was left to grieve.

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