So how does a man, born in New York state, educated in Ontario, Canada, who apprenticed as a tanner and leather belt maker and, who was educated as a land surveyor at Northwestern College in Napierville, Illinois, wind up as a minister of the Evangelical Association? This was a question that didn’t seem to have a direct answer until I found a historical sketch about my wife’s great grandfather, Louis Henry Wagner, in Rev. A. J. Fretz’ 1895 book, A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Christian and Hans Meyer and other pioneers: Together with Historical and Biographical Sketches.
As Rev. Fretz recounted:
“Quite early in life impressions of a higher calling, that to which his sainted father sacrificed his energies and life, made themselves felt, but not until the Winter and Spring of 1882 would he consent to give it any attention…. Being fond of business and not desiring the staid realities of an itinerant preacher’s life, he would, for the time being, drown these inner promptings in the interests of his employments and at times even in actual folly. But now the thought would not leave him, and after many prayers and consultations, he decided to apply to his class for recommendation to preach, which was freely given him. At this time he was holding the important offices of Sunday school superintendent and exhorter in the Evangelical church at Berlin. A few weeks later the Canada Conference of the Evangelical Association met at St. Jacobs, Ont., who unanimously granted him his license, received him into the itineracy and appointed him assistant to his former pastor, Rev. J. J. Klipphardt, at Sebringville…. At the conference session of 1886 he passed all the examinations and completed the full course of study creditably, was ordained an elder and admitted into full connection in the conference. In 1887 he was assigned to Blenheim Circuit….”
Rev. Fretz concluded his biographical sketch of Louis with this: “Mr. Wagner has for eight years held the office of conference missionary treasurer. He is in the prime of life, having just passed his 38th birthday. His future is full of prospects, bright and encouraging.”
Rev. Fretz’ words suggest a strong friendship between the two men. His words were also somewhat prophetic as Louis lived for 50 years after Rev. Fretz wrote his book, passing away in January 1945 at the age of 87. He was buried in Kitchener (formerly Berlin), Ontario’s Mount Hope Cemetery, close to the Breithaupt aunt and uncle who had taken a keen interest in him when he was a young man.