Showing posts with label Berlin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Berlin. Show all posts

Sunday, July 20, 2014

52 Ancestors: John Jacob (John Jacob) Hailer 1804-1882

I decided to stick with my wife Ellen's family lineage this week, in part because I have a real fondness for the history of Waterloo County in Ontario, Canada and in part because the only true family artifact that we possess is one that belonged to this week's subject Johann Jacob (or John Jacob) Hailer, Ellen's third great grandfather. He is perhaps better known simply as Jacob Hailer.

Johann Jacob Hailer


Jacob began his life in Wilferdingen, Baden, Germany on December 20, 1804 and records indicate that he was baptized just three days on December 23, 1804. Jacob was the son of Christian Hailer and his wife Maria Barbara Zachmann. It's possible that Jacob was not seen as a healthy baby so the need for a baptism as soon as possible. Perhaps the baptism occurred quickly with respect to the Christmas festivities.

In 1911, one of Jacob Hailer's grandsons, William H. Breithaupt, who was also the first president of Waterloo Historical Society, wrote a book that includes the story of Jacob's immigration to North America. In short, we know from passenger lists that Jacob Hailer, described on the list as being a "turner" by profession, arrived in the port of Baltimore, Maryland sometime between July 1st and October 1st, 1829. On board the ship that carried him across the Atlantic Ocean were members of the Riehl family, noted by William Breithaupt as being a father accompanying his son and daughter to the United States. Once in Baltimore, Jacob was introduced by the senior Riehl to another daughter Margaret and her younger brother who had sailed to the U.S. in 1828.

Jacob followed his new friends, the Riehls, when they moved to Buffalo, New York in 1830 where that same year, he married Margaret. Records show that Jacob and Margaret Hailer established a home across the river in Chippewa, Upper Canada (now Niagara Falls, Ontario) where their first child, a daughter they named Margaret was born in 1831. Just a few months after the child's birth, they moved again, this time following the trail laid out over the previous three decades by various small waves of the group known as the 'Pennsylvania Dutch.' It was a long difficult journey on rough hewn roads, passing around and over swamps near present day Hamilton, Ontario, to reach Waterloo Township.

For their first year, the Hailers lived in a log house in German Mills, a tiny village located just north of the village of Doon. In 1833, Jacob Hailer purchased one acre of land, located at what is now the intersection of Scott Street and King Street East in central Kitchener, from Bishop Benjamin Eby. This was the same Benjamin Eby who suggested the name of Berlin for the town which beforehand had often been referred to as Ebytown due to five of the villages six houses being occupied by members of the Eby family.

Jacob immediately established a home for his family along with a woodworking shop in which he could ply his trade of manufacturing wooden furniture, including chairs, spinning wheels and lamp stands.

Jacob is described as a deeply religious man who was instrumental in establishing the Evangelical Association (sometimes referred to as the German Methodist) church in Canada. Jacob used his workshop as both a church meeting place and Sunday school. Travelling ministers would preach in the workshop and then stay in the house as guests of the Hailer family. It was through this that the Hailer's eldest daughter Margaret met and married a young Rev. Jacob Wagner. The Hailer's second eldest child, also a daughter, Catherine, married Jacob Wagner's best friend Philip Ludwig 'Louis' Breithaupt.

In 1876, although there was no apparent milestone type of event, Jacob was presented with a monogrammed walking stick or cane. It is ivory handled with a gold band covering the joining of the handle to the wooden cane. On that gold band is inscribed "J.J.H. 1876." We aren't certain as to exactly how it happened, but that cane, once presented to Jacob Hailer has passed down through five generations of family hands to my wife, Jacob Hailer's great-great-great granddaughter.

The ivory-handled grip of Johann Jacob Hailer's cane, presented to him in 1876

Jacob was about 72 years of age when he received the presumed gift of his monogrammed cane. He would die six years later of "old age" on March 6, 1882 and be interred in Kitchener's Mount Hope Cemetery. Years later Jacob, purported to be the first German to settle in the area currently renown for it's German heritage and annual Oktoberfest, was inducted into the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame.

Johann 'John' Jacob Hailer with his cane, probably about 1880

Of course, it is only circumstantial evidence that the cane belonged to Jacob. It bears Jacob's initials and has been passed down and retained by the family and, there are no other ancestors for whom those initials and timeframe fit. Could the cane have possibly belonged to someone else with the same initials and just by happenchance it fell into the Wagner family. The 'clincher' was finding a photograph, taken by photographer C. R. Lundy of Berlin, Ontario, probably about 1880, of Jacob posing with his beloved cane in hand. For Ellen, it makes holding her ancestor's cane all the more a connection to her family's history. 



Sunday, July 13, 2014

52 Ancestors: Rev. Louis Henry Wagner (1857-1945)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of '52 Ancestors' in her blog post "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks." I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don't know.

A switch again this week to one of my wife Ellen's direct ancestors. This week the story of her paternal great grandfather Rev. Louis Henry Wagner. 

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner (photo taken about 1918)

I have always found Louis to be an interesting man. Born in New York State, he was raised and received his early education in Berlin, Waterloo County, Ontario, apprenticed at a young age as a tanner and leather belt maker, attained post-secondary education in the State of Illinois as a land surveyor only to return to work in Ontario as an accountant and salesman before settling into life as an itinerant preacher for the Evangelical Association.

Louis Henry Wagner was born in Grove, Alleghany, New York on April 11, 1857. His father was Rev. Jacob Wagner, an Evangelical Association preacher whose 'territory' included not just western New York state but also parts of southern Ontario. On his trips into Ontario, and the German community in Berlin, Jacob would stay with Jacob and Margaret Hailer. Jacob Hailer was said to have been the first German to settle in Berlin and he would offer up the space of his woodworking shop to serve as a church gathering place for the Evangelical Association. It was here that Jacob Wagner met his wife, the Hailer's eldest daughter Margaret (or Margaretha), the mother of Louis and his older sister Catherine, or 'Katie' as the family called her.

Before he was a year old, Louis' family was moving to Berlin to live close to his maternal grandparents because his father Jacob Wagner had decided to change careers, moving to the business world, establishing a tannery in partnership with his friend and by then brother-in-law Louis Breithaupt. Mere months after the family move was complete, and just one week after Louis' first birthday, Jacob Wagner died.

Fortunately for Louis, his family rallied around and supported him, his mother and sister. It appears that Jacob Wagner had died intestate, that is, he did not leave a Will naming a guardian for his children and the laws at the time did not automatically cede guardianship to the mother. So on September 3, 1859, letters of Guardianship were granted by the court to Jacob Hailer for both Louis and his sister Catherine. With his Berlin pioneer grandfather as his guardian, Louis went to live with his uncle Louis Breithaupt, after whom he had been named. Interestingly, Louis took up maintaining a diary as a teenager in December 1872 and much can be learned about 19th century Berlin, Ontario life in the pages of Louis' diary volumes. His first diary entry, dated Sunday, December 15, 1872 begins with "We were all in church as usual ...." 

Over the years, the maturation of Louis is evident as his writings evolve from descriptions of the numerous times he was off to church, to his arguments to be allowed to apprentice in his uncle's leather business, to his frustrations with the apprenticeship progress and his desire to find excitement in life, eventually leading to the anguish he experienced when his wife Mary Staebler died of typhoid fever in 1887, leaving him a widow with a one year old son.

Louis was educated as a land surveyor at Northwestern College in Naperville, Illinois although he does not seem to have ever practised that profession. When he returned home to Berlin, he took up employment as an accountant and salesman - again with his uncle Louis Breithaupt's Eagle Tannery. In 1882, he made his final career change. After having been so involved in his church, Louis applied to the Canada Conference of the Evangelical Association, who that year were meeting in nearby St. Jacobs, Ontario, and on April 20, 1882, he was granted his first preacher's license as a "Preacher on trial." His first appointment was as assistant pastor in Sebringville, Ontario. 

On May 20, 1884. Louis married Mary Staebler in Berlin, Ontario. Their only child, Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner was born on May 10, 1886 in Hespeler, Ontario. On July 4, 1889, Louis married for a second time to Sarah Lodema Moyer with whom he had three additional children: Ida Louisa Wagner, Carl Henry Wagner, and Margaret Florence Wagner.

Louis spent the remainder of his long life continuing his work as a minister and officiating at many family events including the June 2, 1901 wedding of his cousin Albert L. Breithaupt to Lydia Anthes in which childhood friend and future longest serving Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King served as Best Man.

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner holding his great grandson Carl Edward 'Ted' Wagner

Even late in life, Louis continued to officiate at family events including baptizing his great grandson Carl Edward 'Ted' Wagner, Ellen's brother. 

Louis Wagner died in his residence at 253 Weber Street in Kitchener, Ontario on January 8, 1945 at the age of 87. He rests in peace in Kitchener's Mount Hope Cemetery with his wife Sarah.



Rev. Louis Henry Wagner and Sarah Lodema Moyer gravestone, Mount Hope Cemetery, Kitchener, Ontario (photo by Ian Hadden)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

52 Ancestors: Margaret Wagner Bean (nee Hailer) 1831-1918

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of '52 Ancestors' in her blog post "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks." I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don't know.

Over the past several weeks I have been highlighting one of my direct ancestors. This week, I am stepping away, just a little, from that practice. Rather than one of my direct ancestors, I am turning the spotlight onto one of my wife Ellen's direct ancestors, her great great grandmother Margaret (or Margaretha) Wagner (nee Hailer).



Margaret Wagner Bean (nee Hailer) in 1906


The reason for this variance is simple. A week ago, Ellen and I were in the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo, Ontario to attend a family funeral. While driving to our hotel, I pointed to a street sign and Ellen's eyes lit up as she knew the significance of the street name.



Margaret Avenue street sign (at intersection with Bridgeport Street East, Waterloo, Ontario)


Margaret Avenue runs roughly north from Kitchener's downtown core, beginning at Queen Street North, to it's termination just south of University Avenue in Waterloo. Margaret Avenue is also named in honour of Ellen's great great grandmother Margaret Wagner (Fear, Jon, Flash from the Past: Many a train passed under Margaret Avenue Bridge, Kitchener Waterloo Record, 17 Dec 2010).

Margaret was born Margaretha Hailer, the eldest child of Johann Jacob Hailer and his wife Margaret Riehl. She was born in 1831 in Chippewa (now Niagara Falls), Upper Canada. Her parents, Jacob and Margaret Hailer settled in Chippewa soon after they married in 1830 but, not long after the birth of their first child, they moved to Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario. According to author and biographical sketch compiler A. J. Fretz (born 1849), Jacob and Margaret Hailer were the first German born settlers in the town of Berlin (Fretz, A. J.. A genealogical record of the descendants of Christian and Hans Meyer and other pioneers : together with historical and biographical sketches. Harleysville, Pa.: News Printing House, 1896, page 122).

Margaret grew up in Berlin with her four sisters - Catherine, Harriet, Marion, and Caroline - and their one brother, the youngest of the children, Jacob. In 1849 Margaret married Jacob Wagner, a minister in the Evangelical Association. Following their marriage the young couple set up house near Buffalo, New York where Jacob's ministry as a preacher was headquartered. It was here that Margaret and Jacob were joined by their two children, Catherine, or Kate  as they called her, in 1851 and Louis Henry, who later followed in his father's footsteps becoming a minister, in 1857. Life on the road was hard for Jacob and his health suffered as a result. So in November 1857, he decided to give up preaching and entered into a business partnership with his best friend Phillip Ludwig 'Louis' Breithaupt, a Buffalo tanner. Louis Breithaupt was also Jacob's brother-in-law, having married Margaret's sister Catherine after Jacob had introduced the two to each other. Each of them would contribute between $3,000-$4,000 dollars as capital to start a tannery operation In Berlin.

Margaret must have been elated at the prospect of having her husband home all the time, especially since the new business was to be established in Berlin, not far from her parental home. On April 1st, 1858, Jacob Wagner and Louis Breithaupt finalized their partnership agreement for what would become the Eagle Tannery. Jacob Wagner was established as the partner responsible for running the operation.

The good fortune did not last long however. Jacob died suddenly on 19 April 1858. Margaret's parents were there to comfort and support the young widow, ensuring that Kate and young Louis went to school. In 1862, Margaret met and married Daniel Bean (Biehn), a school teacher and farmer from Blandford in neighbouring Oxford County. On marrying Daniel, Margaret left her son Louis in the care of her father so he could continue his education, at least until young Louis convinced his grandfather Jacob Hailer and uncle Louis Breithaupt that what he really wanted was to apprentice in the tannery business, a career that didn't last long.

Margaret moved around southwestern Ontario with her husband Daniel as he moved between school teaching jobs. During their marriage, Margaret and Daniel had six known children. In 1885 Margaret was again widowed when Daniel died in Mildmay, Ontario. Now on her own and in her mid-50's, Margaret moved back home once more where she lived in a house with her two youngest children Jacob and Margaret 'Alma" Bean. When Alma married Alfred Bender in 1907, Margaret moved into a house with them.






On the morning of Sunday, July 7, 1918, Margaret (Hailer) (Wagner) Bean was found dead. Dr. J. F. Honsberger, the coroner, would determine that the cause of death was apoplexy (or stroke). Margaret was laid to rest on 12 July 1918 next to her first husband Jacob Wagner and beside her parents and Breithaupt in-laws in Kitchener's Mount Hope Cemetery.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

OMG! Not Another Politician In The Family Tree

My family was politically active. We voted. Regularly. Never missed an opportunity to exercise our franchise. We always took the responsibility, and the privilege, of being able to cast a ballot very seriously. 

We campaigned for candidates. I spent many hours dropping off campaign literature before I was even old enough to vote. My father, in particular, often lead campaigns for candidates with whom he was close. We were never candidates. We just managed the political campaigns for those who sought elected office.

Ellen's family, on the other hand, is full of elected officials both in Canada and the United States. One of her great grandfathers was the Mayor of Livermore, California. Several of her cousins were the Mayor of Berlin, later Kitchener, Ontario. Her cousins have been Members of Parliament at both the provincial and federal levels, and a second great uncle was a Canadian Senator. Recently, I found another politician 'hanging' in her family tree - Jonathan Joseph Merner (pictured below from his official Parliament of Canada biography).


Jonathan, Ellen's first cousin, three times removed, was born  in Blake, Huron County, Ontario, then Canada West,  and raised on the family farm. His father, Gottlieb Merner, was a younger brother to Sen. Samuel Merner and had immigrated with his family to British North America around 1837 or 1838 from his native Switzerland. When Jonathan was quite young, his family moved to the village of Hay in Huron County, Ontario where Jonathan attended school. Eventually, Jonathan struck out on his own, finding employment with Mr. D. D. Steinbach, a general merchant in Zurich, Ontario. His experience with Steinbach enabled Jonathan to open his own successful mercantile shop, which would come to include a large evaporator and apple jam factory. 

On September 21, 1911, Jonathan was elected to represent the federal riding of Huron South in the Parliament of Canada as a member of the Conservative Party. He represented the people of his riding in southwestern rural Ontario for the next ten years, losing his Parliamentary seat in the December 1921 election.

Jonathan died of an embolus during pancreatic surgery at the Hotel Dieu hospital in Windsor. Ontario on February 25, 1929. His death registration lists his occupation at the time of his death as Retired Builder.

Interestingly, Jonathan's biography on the Parliament of Canada website lists his date of death as February 26, 1929. For the government being off by one day might be close enough; for a genealogist, it's wrong.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Marriage of Rev. Louis Henry Wagner and Miss Mary Staebler

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner maintained a diary as have many young men and women. Louis wrote in his diary faithfully as a teenager but large gaps in time occur in Louis' diary writing during his adult years. Nonetheless, his diaries, as I have previously posted, can add rich detail to the Wagner family's history.

When Louis (pictured to the right) married Mary Staebler in May of 1884, he apparently was not in a writing mood. There is a gap between March 3, 1878 and January 1, 1887. Fortunately, the local newspaper filled in a part of this gap by providing a brief article about the wedding. Below is my transcription of the article that appeared in the Berlin (Ontario) Daily News, the predecessor of the current Waterloo Region Record newspaper. 

"MATRIMONIAL


Another of our excellent young ladies has become united in the holy bonds of matrimony to the man of her choice. Miss Mary Staebler, daughter of Mr. Jacob Staebler, Sen., was married last, Tuesday, evening at the family residence, Weber Street, to the Rev. L. H. Wagner, of Hespeler, who, by the way, is also a Berlin boy. 

The Rev. S. L. Umbach, Presiding Elder of this District, performed the ceremony. Amongst the guests were, besides the Minister, Rev. Ch. [Christian] and Mrs. Staebler, South Cayuga; Rev. D. H. Brandt, Mr. J. M. Staebler and Son, Mr. L. J. Breithaupt, Mr. J. C. Breithaupt, Mrs. Breithaupt, Misses C. and M. Breithaupt, Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Hailer, rs. Hailer, Mrs. D. Bean, Mr. and Mrs. M. Wegenast, Mr. and Mrs. L. Greybill, Miss Wegenast, Miss Sarah Anthes, Miss Mary Anthes, Misses Emma and Carrie Goetze, Mr. and Mrs. I. K. Devitt, Mr. Geo. Wegenast, Mr. D. M. Staebler, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Staebler, London; Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Staebler, Cassel, and others. 

The young couple, being very highly esteemed by large circles of friends, were the recipients of numerous and valuable presents. After the ceremony a sumptuous repast was partaken of by the guests, and at 8:40 Mr. and Mrs. Wagner took the train for the East, followed by all possible good wishes for their future happiness - in which the Daily News heartily joins."

It can be fun trying to identify the relationship of each guest to the bride and groom and, certainly Louis and Mary Wagner's wedding guest list reads a bit like a 'Who's Who' of 19th century Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario history. Most of the identified guests were cousins or friends but a few notables were present that might escape notice. "Mrs. Hailer" was the groom's grandmother, Margaret (Riehl) Hailer, the wife of Berlin pioneer (and Waterloo (Ontario) Region Hall of Fame member) Johann Jacob Hailer. Mrs. Hailer is listed next to her daughter, "Mrs. D. Bean" who was the mother of the groom, Margaret (Hailer) Wagner Bean.

Fortunately, this newspaper clipping is safely preserved in the archives at the University of Waterloo, part of the Wagner Hailer family fonds.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Stamp Club As A Genealogy Source


I have found some things pertaining to my genealogy research in unexpected but I never imagined that a stamp club, more properly, a philatelic society newsletter, would be a source for genealogy information.

While working through one of my assignments for a National Institute for Genealogical Studies course, I found a newsletter for the British North America Philatelic Society's Postal Stationery Study Group. Specifically in the group's September 2002 newsletter (Volume 18, No. 2), there was an article about the postal stationery cards, more commonly post cards, used by The Breithaupt Leather Company of Berlin, Ontario. This is the tannery and leather goods company formed through a partnership between my wife, Ellen's second great grandfather Jacob Wagner and his friend and brother-in-law Louis Breithaupt.

Following Jacob's unexpected and early death in 1858, Breithaupt continued the company under his name. The tannery, known in Kitchener, Ontario as the Eagle Tannery, once one of the largest tanneries in Canada, perhaps North America, closed in 1950. Below is an image of the used post cards from the Breithaupt Leather Company that the philatelic society posted in it's newsletter.



The newsletter contained more importantly an excellent article written by Chris Ellis that details the history of the leather company, including Jacob Wagner's involvement. The article also as a bonus cites the source of much of its information including a PhD dissertation.

Lesson learned - expect the unexpected! Findings additional sources of family history information may turn up in the most unusual places.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Young Louis Henry Wagner


Louis Henry Wagner began a diary, really a set of what turned out to be four leather-bound diaries, when he was 15 years old. The diaries document some of the milestones, good and bad, that occurred in his life. The diaries are important records of the events in the Wagner and Breithaupt families during the latter half of the 19th century as well as providing an interesting perspective on the life of a young man living in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario, Canada during that pre-cable television, pre-video game era.

Louis began his diaries on December 15, 1872. His accounts of life at that time are filled with church services that were clearly at the centre of the family's life, completing a range of chores and errands like "fetching" hides for the Breithaupt's Eagle Tannery or loads of hen dung for use as fertilizer, and fishing with his cousins. Christmas 1872 is described as a time of for church services in the morning and the evening. In between, the family "had a splendid turkey for dinner." Louis received a 'cravat' from his mother Margaret (Hailer) Bean (previously Wagner) and her sister "Aunt [Catherine (nee Hailer)] Breithaupt (pictured above right in 1907)." In addition, he received 25 cents from "Grandmother Breithaupt" [Barbara Catharina Goetze].

Louis was born in Grove, New York, USA in 1857. When he was only one year old, his father Jacob died, just a couple of months after moving the family to Berlin, Ontario. Louis' mother, Margaret re-married in 1862, shortly after Louis' fifth birthday. Interestingly, among all of his recording of the family member visits to his home and trips being taken by family members to neighbouring towns and villages to visit relatives, Louis always refers to his mother's second husband, Daniel Bean, as "Mr. Bean" and never references him as his step-father. While I can't assume that there were any problems between Louis and Daniel Bean, the references don't suggest to me a close relationship.

By the time Louis had begun his diaries he was living with the Breithaupt family, his Uncle Louis Breithaupt and Aunt Catherine along with their children, Louis' cousins. It is clear from many of Louis' early diary entries that he felt a particular affection for his Aunt Breithaupt. In early December 1872, Aunt Breithaupt gave birth to her ninth child, Catherina Louise 'Katie' Breithaupt. Aunt Breithaupt, as Louis consistently referred to her as, experienced a tough time recovering from the childbirth. As Louis described in his January 2, 1873 entry, "I had to go along to Preston with the teams to fetch hides today. Aunt Breithaupt was very weak this evening. Johnny [cousin John Christian Breithaupt] and I had to go and fetch Doctor Bowlby. We brought Aunt Brehler [referring to Harriet Brehler (nee Hailer)] along out. When we came home Aunt Breithaupt had given them all a farewell in this world, she thought she had to die, but she got better again."

In addition to describing the gradual recovery to good health of Aunt Breithaupt, Louis left behind a record of weather reports for his southern Ontario town and a unique glimpse into teenage life during a time long past.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Town of Berlin Becomes Kitchener


Today, August 23rd, marks the ninety-fourth anniversary of the Ontario cabinet's 'order-in-council' that officially changed the name of the town of Berlin to Kitchener. The name change became effective as of September 1, 1917. In recognition of this historic and then controversial decision, I am re-sharing a post from the past about the views and involvement of some of my wife Ellen's family's involvement in the controversy.

When the Wagners and their cousins, the Breithaupts, settled in what was originally Canada West, now the province of Ontario, Canada, they chose to live, naturally enough, in the predominantly German settlement of Waterloo County, specifically in the town of Berlin. Jacob Wagner and Louis Breithaupt married Mary and Catherine Hailer, respectively, who were the daughters of the first German settler in the region, Jacob John Hailer. The area also featured a large Mennonite community that had immigrated from Pennsylvania.

With the outbreak of World War 1, however, things changed quickly as the German heritage became the focus a growing enmity lead by non-German residents. A bust of Kaiser Wilhelm II went missing twice from Victoria Park in the centre of the town and then disappeared for good. Recruitment for the local battalion was seen as being too slow, perceived as a symptom of an unpatriotic community heritage.

In 1916, a movement began to rename the town and although it did not have popular support, names were put forward to be decided upon through a referendum. Those in favour of the name change argued that maintaining the name of Berlin was unpatriotic and bad for business. Those in favour of keeping the name pointed to the bustling manufacturing sector unharmed by the town name and argued that the time was not right to be spending time on a name change debate when raising recruits and funds for the war effort should be the focus of attention.

The opinion of the Breithaupt family, as prominent citizens of the town, was considered to be of importance. The Breithaupts opposed the name change and suffered attempts at intimidation as a result. On May 12, 1916, about a week before the scheduled referendum, W. H. Breithaupt (pictured above right), then president of the Berlin and Northern Railway, had his home vandalised by "men in uniform" who cut his telephone line and rang his front door bell repeatedly before slipping a threatening note under in front door "stating what would happen if he did not support the change of name bylaw."

On May 19th, 1916 only 892 citizens out of about 15,000 cast their votes. W. H. Breithaupt the following day lamented in a letter, "We had a citizens vote yesterday on the question of changing the name of our city, a name it has had for nearly a hundred years, and I regret to say that those who want to change won by a small majority. No new name is as yet selected." The name was subsequently changed to Kitchener in honour of Lord Kitchener, Britain's Minister of War who died when his ship hit a mine and sank off the Orkney Islands.

The Breithaupts remained a family of prominence in the newly named city and today a city park and neighbourhood bears their name.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Diaries of Louis Henry Wagner


While on vacation during the past week, I had the opportunity to intersperse visits with family members in various Ontario, Canada cities with genealogy pursuits. I finally donated the Henry Erskine manuscript to the University of Guelph's Centre for Scottish Studies and the professors at the university seemed genuinely thrilled to receive it.

I was also able to visit the Special Collections section of the Dana Porter Library at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario. The library holds about 125 linear feet of original family documents connected with my wife Ellen's paternal ancestral family. In my two visits thus far, I think I have managed to go through only about one foot!

My goal on this visit, that I successfully completed, was to scan (the Special Collections section offers a great free scanning service) the four personal diaries kept by Ellen's great grandfather, Louis Henry Wagner (pictured to the right). These old, leather bound diaries contain Louis' descriptions of his activities and the activities of the family covering the period December 15, 1872 until November 30, 1891. They offer not only a great insight into the Wagner family but also into life in southern Ontario during that timeframe. I can only wish that my ancestors had left such great documentation for me!

Of the many entries that I will share over time, the following caught my attention as it is Louis' thoughts and recollections on the christening day activities for his son, and eldest child, Ellen's grandfather, Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner. The entry is dated:

"Saturday, January 1st, 1887

This morning finds us up in good time preparing for the christening of our dear little boy Louis Jacob Gordon.

We had quite a time getting a name for him. The first one selected was Jacob after his two grandfathers and three great grandfathers. The former - Jacob Wagner and Jacob Staebler and the three latter, Jacob J. Hailer, Jacob Staebler and Jacob Muerner. The second was Gordon after the English General Charles George Gordon, commonly called 'Chinese Gordon,' also 'The Hero of Khartoum,' a pious Christian soldier. The third we selected was Louis, after my Uncle and foster parent from my 13th year, Louis Breithaupt who died July 3rd, 1880.

Having the full name of my cousin Louis Jacob Breithaupt, he with his wife Emma kindly consented to be his Godparents. Rev. Father Wm. Schmidt who performed the sacred rite was the first to arrive - about 10:40 a.m. and very soon the old homestead erected by Grandfather Hailer over 50 years ago and now occupied by my mother, was filled with the pleasant faces of old and new relatives.

There were present beside ourselves and Mother's family consisting in herself, Alma, Wesley, Samuel and Eusebius, Aunt Breithaupt, Albert, Melvina, Caroline, John, William, Louis and family of 3 children, Louisa Hailer and child Erna, A. B. Augustine (Carrie's betrothed), Julius Knauf, Father and Mother Staebler, Ike K. Devitt with Annie and 2 children.

At 12:00 all was ready and we handed our boy to Louis and Emma and Father Schmidt preformed that beautiful and solemn ceremony baptizing in the name of "The Father, Son and Holy Ghost" in the German language. (Father S. also married my mother and two aunts). This was the first baptism in this old home, which was built by Grandpa Hailer about 1830.

Our charge is now publicly consecrated to God. May he grow up in the fear of the Lord, an honor to his Maker, a blessing to the world and a joy to his parents. May we train him up in the nature and admonition of the Lord! Amen - Amen.

The table set in the parlor was now surrounded and very soon all were busily engaged in supplying the physical wants of the body. We got two turkeys, one 18 pounds and the other about 8 pounds so there was enough and to spare. Immediately after dinner John took Will to Galt where he took the train for Kansas City and Albert B. Augustine also left about 3:00 p.m.

Mother was quite pleased that we had the christening at her house and everyone secured happy. In the evening we went out to Aunty's and next morning I left for my appointment to Strasburg and Hespeler leaving Mary and the baby to remain a few days longer in Berlin."

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.