The Strange Case of Jacob Elias Wagner

One record. Just one.

Discovered yesterday, naming Jacob Elias Wagner as the son of Jacob Wagner and his wife Margaretha (Hailer) Wagner.

That one mention is in the 1855 New York State Census. The document records that Jacob Elias Wagner was enumerated, on 15 June 1855, as the son of Jacob Wagner, a clergyman, aged 30, born in Germany and his wife Margaret, aged 24 and born in Canada West. The census document also lists their daughter Catherine as a four year-old who had been born in Erie County, New York.

On that June day in 1855, the Wagner family was living in North District of the 10th Ward in Rochester, Monroe County, New York.

Other records show that Jacob, the clergyman, began to experience some health problems attributed at the time to his work as a preacher. Jacob had met his wife Margaret in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario, Canada while visiting the Hailer home in the course of his ministerial duties. They married in 1849. According to church records, Jacob had even served from 1852-1854 as the minister of the Zion Evangelical Church in Berlin, a church that he and his father-in-law Jacob Hailer had helped to establish.

Jacob had introduced his good friend from New York State Philip Ludwig ‘Louis’ Breithaupt to Margaret’s family. Louis married Margaret’s sister Catherine in 1853, during the time when Jacob was pastor of the Berlin church the Hailer family worshiped at.

And so it came to pass that Jacob entered into a partnership with his brother-in-law Louis to open and operate a tannery in Berlin (the original partnership agreement is archived in the University of Waterloo special collections).

Jacob gave up his role as clergyman and moved his family from upper state New York north to the town of Berlin in Canada West.

Multiple records give evidence to Margaret and Catherine moving with him as well as his son Louis Henry Wagner, born after the 1855 New York State Census was taken. The move took place likely sometime in late 1857. Jacob established the tannery in Berlin in early 1858 but died in April 1858 just two months after the business started. But it appears that there is nothing more to be found about little Jacob Elias Wagner.

The only possible clue an Ontario death registration for a Jacob Wagner, aged 16 years, 8 months and 19 days, born in Rochester, New York. This Jacob died on May 26, 1870 of as the result of accidental gun shot wound in Toronto. He was right age as Jacob Elias and but Jacob Elias was born according to the 1855 census record in Canada. Perhaps the death registration informant only knew that gun shot victim Jacob was from Rochester?

Well, another ancestor has been found, a great grand-uncle to my wife. And, another trip to the University of Waterloo Archives is in order to sift through the family papers again, now with a focus on mentions of Jacob Elias Wagner.

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