A number of my wife Ellen’s ancestors successfully entered the political arena of public service with four serving as Mayor of the Town of Berlin and, as of 1916, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. While I knew of some of the political lives of her ancestors, our recent genealogy quest to Kitchener highlighted these four men in particular, presented here in chronological order of mayoral service:
1. Phillip Ludwig ‘Louis’ Breithaupt
Louis Breithaupt (Ellen’s 2X great granduncle) moved to the town of Berlin, Ontario from Buffalo, New York, USA in the late 1850’s. He had been introduced to the area by his friend and brother-in-law, the Rev. Jacob Wagner (Ellen’s 2X great grandfather). Catharine Hailer, the younger sister of Jacob’s wife Margaret, subsequently married Louis. On April 1, 1858, Louis and Jacob completed a written agreement to go into the tannery business together but, unfortunately, Jacob died on April 19th. Louis opened the tannery on his own and built the business into a family enterprise that spanned four generations before it was sold to the A. R. Clarke Co. Louis was elected Mayor of Berlin in 1879 and died while in office in 1880.
2. Louis Jacob Breithaupt
Louis Jacob (LJ) was Louis’ son (and Ellen’s first cousin, three times removed) and served as Mayor of Berlin from 1888 – 1889. He had previously served on the local school board and had been a town councilor, deputy reeve and reeve. Subsequent to his service as town mayor, LJ represented the area as the Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) from 1899 – 1902. When not serving in public office, LJ was president of the family leather company.
3. Jacob Merner Staebler
Jacob (Ellen’s great granduncle) established a highly successful insurance company in Berlin in 1873. No longer in the family, the Staebler Insurance Company still operates as a multi-million dollar per year insurance firm. First elected to town council in 1880, J M Staebler held successive public offices leading to a term as Mayor in 1891. An interesting side note about J M Staebler – when he first established his business, he had his initials placed over the main entrance door to the company offices. Subsequently, the building was sold to another man who shared the same initials and who, understandably, was thrilled to purchase a building for his new business that already bore his initials. That man was J. M. Schneider and his company went on to become one of the largest producers of meat products in Canada.
4. Louis Orville Breithaupt
‘LOB’ (Ellen’s second cousin, twice removed) became, up to that time, the youngest Mayor of Kitchener in 1923. Louis subsequently went on to represent the area in 1940 as Member of Parliament in Ottawa, Canada, in the government of Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister, and old Breithaupt and Wagner family friend, William Lyon MacKenzie King. Louis left Parliament in 1952 to take up the appointment as Ontario’s 18th Lieutenant Governor. He died suddenly in 1960 while serving as Chancellor of Victoria College at the University of Toronto, Ontario.