Zion Evangelical Church Members List 1915 – Part 2

Yesterday, I posted the first four pages of the 1915 members list for Zion Evangelical Church in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario.

The mainly typed members list was compiled in July 1915 and contains more than 800 church members names, many also with home addresses listed.

Here are the remaining four pages of the eight-page list.

BERLIN Ont ZION EVANG Church members list 1915 p5

Zion Evangelical Church, Berlin, Ontario, members list, 1915, page 5

BERLIN Ont ZION EVANG Church members list 1915 p6

Zion Evangelical Church, Berlin, Ontario, members list, 1915, page 6

BERLIN Ont ZION EVANG Church members list 1915 p7

Zion Evangelical Church, Berlin, Ontario, members list, 1915, page 7

BERLIN Ont ZION EVANG Church members list 1915 p8

Zion Evangelical Church, Berlin, Ontario, members list, 1915, page 8

Zion Evangelical Church Members List 1915, Part 1

Zion Evangelical Church was established in Berlin, Upper Canada, now known as Kitchener, Ontario, during the 1830’s. The first pastor to serve the church was assigned in 1839, the church previously being served by ‘itinerant’ preachers primarily from New York state.

Unfortunately in 2015, the church closed it’s doors, no longer viable due to high operating costs and a dwindling membership. During one of my trips through the area, I had a chance to visit and tour the church while it was was being decommissioned. Graciously, I was provided with a copy of the 1915 church membership list, which stands as an excellent source of genealogical information for those with ancestors who lived in that area.

The membership list was completed in July 1915 and contains more than 800 names of church members, many with their home addresses included. The list is comprised of eight pages, most of which is typed but also including some hand-written notations and additions to the list.

BERLIN Ont ZION EVANG Church members list 1915 p1

Zion Evangelical Church, Berlin, Ontario, members list, 1915, page 1

BERLIN Ont ZION EVANG Church members list 1915 p4

Zion Evangelical Church, Berlin, Ontario, members list, 1915, page 2

BERLIN Ont ZION EVANG Church members list 1915 p2

Zion Evangelical Church, Berlin, Ontario, members list, 1915, page 3

BERLIN Ont ZION EVANG Church members list 1915 p4

Zion Evangelical Church, Berlin, Ontario, members list, 1915, page 4

The final four pages of the church members list will be published here tomorrow.

Introducing: Edna Staebler

She first appeared as somewhat of a footnote.

At the bottom of page 274 of Ruth Merner Connell’s genealogy of the Merner family published in 1976, there is a listing of the two wives of Frederick Keith Staebler.

Frederick Keith Staebler, who went by his middle name of Keith, was listed in the genealogy as he was a great grandson of Jacob Staebler and his wife Anna Merner, who are in turn 2X great grandparents to my wife Ellen.

The entry on page 274 of the Merner genealogy states “Married #1: Edna ??”

It was one of those ‘I’ll get back to figuring out who you are someday’ moments in genealogy. Keith Staebler was my wife’s second cousin, once removed and, with other research underway, I was not quick in getting back to finding the identity of Keith’s first wife ‘Edna Unknown’.

That was until a few days ago when Ellen asked if I had read her Uncle Gordon Wagner’s book From My Window (published in 1987 by The Flying -W- Publishing Co.).

I had read the book but quite a number of years ago. Gordon had completed many years of genealogy research on Ellen’s Wagner family, building a ‘database’ of about 1,500 related individuals. Much of Gordon’s work had helped in my researching Ellen’s genealogy through the Wagner, Hailer, Breithaupt, Merner, Staebler, and associated families prominent in Waterloo County, Ontario, Canada.

I decided to have another look at Gordon’s book, which is a compilation of short stories and poems. As I first skimmed the pages, it jumped out at me.

There she was on page 30, ‘Edna Unknown’ was really Edna Staebler. Of course she was, I told myself, she had married Keith Staebler. More importantly though, the five or six page short story written by Uncle Gordon about thirty years ago contained numerous clues that helped in hunting down Edna’s story.

Gordon Wagner had wanted to learn more about the family’s Staebler ancestors so he visited the Kitchener, Ontario area that his ancestors had come to as pioneers. There, without the aid of the still decades away Internet, Gordon looked through the local telephone directory, eventually calling “E. Staebler.” Edna answered and invited Gordon to meet with her.

“She’s famous, and I’m not used to famous people,” Gordon tells of their meeting.

Edna as it turns out, was a famous author, probably best known for her cookbook Food That Really Schmecks, featuring recipes that she learned living in the Mennonite community around the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo in Ontario. As a writer, Edna’s articles were featured in Maclean’s, Chatelaine, Saturday Night, and Reader’s Digest amongst others. She was the author of more than twenty books. Edna counted great Canadian writers like Pierre Berton and Margaret Laurence amongst her friends. Most importantly, I learned from Gordon’s short story of his visit with Edna, she was simply a friendly and down-to-earth person who happened to be a great writer.

STAEBLER Edna at Sun Fish Lake

Edna Staebler at her Sunfish Lake (Waterloo County, Ontario) home, as photographed by Gordon Wagner, for his book ‘From My Window’

Edna was born January 15, 1906. In the town of Berlin, Ontario. On February 13, 1906, about four weeks later, her father John G. Cress attended the local registrar’s office and registered her birth under the name Cora Margaret Cress. At the bottom of the birth registration is a notation, obviously added much later that reads “Edna Louisa new name see letter 1910.”

The 1910 letter referred to is not included with the birth registration and I have often wondered at the humour it might contain. Can you imagine what John Cress’ wife Louisa might have written had she been the letter’s author? Perhaps something like ‘Dear Registrar, I have learned that my husband John G. Cress really screwed up when he registered the birth of our daughter. I have no idea as to where he came up with the name Cora Margaret. Please excuse my husband’s error and correct my baby girl’s registered name to be Edna Louisa.’

Ah, the possibilities of that letter.

For her contributions to Canadian literature, Edna Staebler was awarded the Order of Canada in 1995.

Edna Louisa Cress married Frederick Keith Staebler in 1933 but sadly, they divorced in 1962. Edna passed away on September 12, 2006 at the age of 100 leaving a legacy of great Canadian writing and an endowment awarded annually in her name through Wilfred Laurier University.

It is great to know who ‘Edna Unknown’ is and we are honoured to count her among our family.

 

Hailer Artefacts – Holding Pieces Of Family History Because I Asked

Jacob Hailer was a true pioneer of Waterloo County in Upper Canada (now Ontario).

A variety of records show that a 24-year old Jacob (also known as Johann Jacob Hailer) left his native Germany and arrived at Baltimore, Maryland in the United States on October 1, 1829. On board the ship that brought him to America, Jacob met Jacques Riehl, a 55-year old shoemaker from the then French Province of Alsace.

Jacob followed the Riehl family to Buffalo, New York in 1830 where Jacob married Jacques Riehl’s daughter Margaret.

Soon after the birth of their first child in 1831, a daughter they named Margaret, Jacob moved his family, following the difficult route of the ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’ settlers to Waterloo County. After spending their first year in a log house in an area called German Mills, Jacob purchased his first acre of land from Mennonite Bishop Benjamin Eby in 1833.

The land on which Jacob would build a home for his family and his workshop to conduct his wheelwright and furniture making business was in a place soon to be called Berlin (now Kitchener). Jacob’s home was reported to be only the fifth or sixth house constructed in the new town.

Significantly, several sources report that Jacob was the first German-born settler in the area. The few settlers prior to Jacob were born in America of German-born parents. As a pioneer, Jacob has long held a place of prominence in the history of Waterloo County and he was honoured as an inductee into the Region’s Hall of Fame. Jacob is also my wife’s 3X great grandfather.

Bleached Beech Tree Segment, inscribed by Louis H. Wagner in 1901

Jacob Hailer Bleached Wood “cut from a beech tree in the grove, behind the barn at the Breithaupt homestead”, inscribed by Jacob Hailer’s grandson Louis H. Wagner in 1901

The Waterloo Region Museum showcases the story and culture of the region with its strong German cultural heritage and manufacturing history.

I have visited the museum on a couple of occasions in the hope of seeing the Jacob Hailer artefacts that it might hold. Unfortunately, nothing was on exhibit. Most recently, I noted in the 2015 annual volume of the Waterloo Historical Society that the museum reported the donation of a Jacob Hailer made chair to its collection.

This prompted me to do something a bit on the edge of my personal comfort zone. I sent an email to Tom Reitz, the manager and curator of the museum, explained our family connection and asked if there was any way that we could have a chance to see the Jacob Hailer items that they hold. Without hesitation, Tom arranged an appointment for Ellen and I to visit the museum offices where he and his staff laid out a number of the pieces manufactured by Jacob Hailer.

Oil Lamp made by Jacob Hailer and donated to the Waterloo Region Museum by Hailer's grandson Rev. Louis H. Wagner

Oil Lamp made by Jacob Hailer and donated to the Waterloo Region Museum by Hailer’s grandson Rev. Louis H. Wagner who received as a gift from his grandmother Margaret (Riehl) Hailer in 1885

There is a special connected feeling when you can see and touch the objects that your ancestors made and treasured in their lives. That happiness was evident for Ellen as she held items once held by her great grandfather Rev. Louis Henry Wagner and made by her 3X great grandfather Jacob Hailer. Special genealogy moments are available sometimes just for the asking – and it helps to have a great museum curator and staff like Tom and the folks at the Waterloo Region Museum!

Ellen (Wagner) Hadden at the Waterloo Region Museum with a chair made by her 3X great grandfather Jacob Hailer in 1847

Ellen (Wagner) Hadden at the Waterloo Region Museum with a chair made by her 3X great grandfather Jacob Hailer in 1847

A good source for finding family artefacts is the Artefacts Canada website. The artefacts database is searchable but be aware that contributing institutions, like museums, provide updates to Artefacts Canada so the current listing may be out of date.

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.

Zion Evangelical Church Follow-up And Church Records I Didn’t Expect To Find

In my last post, I recounted my wife Ellen’s family connection to Zion Evangelical Church, now Zion United Church, located in Kitchener, Ontario. Ellen’s paternal great grandfather, Rev. Louis Henry Wagner, and paternal great-great grandfather, Rev. Jacob Wagner, were both pastors of the church.

At the time of our visit to the church in late October, the church was closed and we learned that the church building had been sold to a Kitchener developer, the sale to be finalized in June 2015. One month later, we returned to Kitchener and visiting the church was on our priority list of things to do. Really, what we wanted was just a chance to take a photo of the church sanctuary and pulpit used by Ellen’s great grandfather. We were seeking a family keepsake; what we got was so much more!

Ellen (Wagner) Hadden standing in front of the sanctuary and pulpit where her great grandfather, Rev. Louis Henry Wagner, held Sunday services and preached at Zion Evangelical Church (now Zion United Church) in Kitchener, Ontario


We were greeted by the current church Pastor, secretary, and treasurer. After a warm welcome, we explained our interest in their church and they immediately pointed us to a collage they maintain of all the pastors in the church’s more than 170-year history. The collage (seen below) is located in a display case and includes photos of both of Ellen’s ancestors.

Collage of Ministers who have served Zion Evangelical/United Church in Kitchener, Ontario. Rev. Jacob Wagner is top row, fourth from the left, and Rev. Louis Wagner third row, fourth from the left (my apologies for the glare from a fluorescent ceiling fixture that partly obscures the top row of photos).


Unexpectedly, we were provided by the church treasurer with a private tour of every part of the church building, including an accounting of some of the church’s history.

As an added bonus, when our tour was wrapping up, we were shown a display of some church artifacts that had been found as the church begins it’s decommissioning. The church will be sending it’s records and artifacts to the United Church of Canada Archives and so what we were shown were some of the duplicate copies of church records from 1914-1915. 

Copies of the church’s annual reports listed all members of the congregation and the amounts of their financial contributions to the church and it’s missionary endeavours. The church congregation list, complete with the addresses of all the church’s members. Special church service programs such as that used in September 1954 to mark the centennial of Kitchener, complete with a church history and photos compiled by Ellen’s first cousin, three times removed Albert Liborius Breithaupt.

The cover of the Zion Evangelical Church service program celebrating 
the Centennial of the City of Kitchener in 1954


When we think of church records there is a tendency to restrict ourselves to baptisms, marriages, and funerals or burials. The records I saw, a couple of which I now possess, thanks to the good folks at Zion United Church, show the opportunity to have a different view into the church life experienced by our ancestors. What great finds!

Sadly, the final church service at Zion United Church will take place on June 7, 2015. We intend to be there.

The End Of An Era For A ‘Family’ Church

The end is drawing close.

Zion United Church, located at 32 Weber Street in Kitchener, Ontario, has been sold and will cease to function as Zion United Church in 2015.

Zion United Church (formerly Zion Evangelical Church), 32 Weber Street, Kitchener, Ontario (photo by Ian Hadden, 2014)


The Evangelical Association was basically a German Methodist church that eventually merged with the United Church of Canada. Sadly, the decline in the number of parishioners and attendance, down to 25% of what it was forty years ago, means that the church’s operating costs are much higher than it’s revenue. So, the church has been sold. Fortunately it’s exterior is protected under the Ontario Heritage Act.

For my wife’s Wagner ancestors, this church played a central role in their lives dating back more than 150 years. 

Third great grandfather Jacob Hailer was instrumental in helping to establish a church for what was then the Evangelical Association. He allowed his workshop to be used as the first church Sunday School. He also permitted the traveling Evangelical Association ministers to stay in his home when they visited the then village of Berlin, Canada West.

One of those itinerant ministers, Jacob Wagner married Jacob’s eldest daughter Margaret in 1849. Their eldest son, Louis Henry Wagner, my wife’s great grandfather, would follow in his father’s foot steps, become a minister, and eventually pastor of the Zion Evangelical Church.

Margaret’s sister, Catherine married Jacob’s best friend Louis Breithaupt in 1853 and, as their family grew to prominence in the growing community of Berlin, they too centered their lives around Zion Evangelical Church.

When Margaret died in 1918 (shortly after Berlin was re-named as Kitchener), her son Louis as church pastor used the church’s stationery to pen a poem in tribute to his mother.

Zion Evangelical Church stationery used by Rev. Louis Henry Wagner to author a tribute poem to his mother Margaret Hailer Wagner Bean on her death in 1918. (Note that the church address at the time was 10 Weber Street (now 32 Weber Street) and that the central steeple of the church is now missing)


The tribute poem for Margaret Hailer Wagner Bean of Rev. Louis Henry Wagner reads as follows:

Memories of Our Mother


Our Mother’s gone.
The fields, from which she gleaned
The fallen stock of golden grain
Have long since given their ripened store
To other hands. The orchard, bright in bloom,
And promise of a full supply,
Will yield its burdened bough to others
Will these too be as generous with their gifts
As she was want to be?
Or withholding much, impoverish but themselves?
Her home, where, through these many years
Of saddened widowhood,
She reigned serenely well,
— Her word was law,
Respected every wish —
That home, of daughters well brought up,
And sons much loved and honored true,
Will miss the mother’s smile.
Her gentle words of caution and of love
Will n’er be heard again.
Her voice is gone. Her hand,
So warm to welcome home,Will never give its kindly hold
To those she loved so well.

The stranger, made a noble friend,
Will miss her cordial help.
Her church has long since ceased
To see her in her wanted place;
But when the ring of bell will call to worship here,
Her memory still continues fresh and sweet
And long to come, when we
And here this house of God have passed away,
She still will linger on in hallowed thought.

Our Mother’s gone? No. Never.
Her disembodied spirit may linger near,
And still its good unfold.
Her smiles, her words, her loving deeds
Will never pass away.
She lives. Though to its place
We lay her washed frame, she lives.
Our Mother lives, and loves us still.
And when this sad requiem is o’er,
And each his weary way
To distant home we break,
The memory of our mother dear will linger.
Her soothing hand will still be laid on throbbing brow.
Her smile will cheer the lonely heart.