Sentimental Saturday – The Bender Family Attend Ted’s Christening

Sometime around late October or early November 1943, Ellen’s oldest brother Edward ‘Ted’ Wagner was christened. The baptism was conducted by Ted’s great grandfather, the Rev. Louis Henry Wagner.

Among the family photos of the occasion is the photo below showing young Ted being held by Margarette Otilla ‘Alma’ (Bean) Bender. Alma was Rev. Louis Henry Wagner’s sister, well, technically half-sister. They shared the same mother but had different fathers.

Louis’ father was Rev. Jacob Wagner, the partner of Louis Breithaupt in the establishment of the Eagle Tannery in Berlin, Canada West (now Ontario). Jacob died when Louis was just one year old. Louis’ mother, Margaret (Hailer) Wagner re-married, her second husband being Dan Bean (Biehn).

Alma was the youngest of the six children that Daniel and Margaret had together. Alma was also 19 years younger than Louis Wagner, her oldest sibling.

In the photo below, Alma is with her husband Alfred C. Bender and their son Paul Adolph ‘Dolph’ Bender. We’re fortunate that Ellen’s mother Tess wrote the identities of everyone on the back of the photo or we might still be trying to identify everyone.

BENDER Alfred C - Alma - Ted Wagner (15 weeks) - Peter Adolph 1943

Alfred, Alma and ‘Dolph’ Bender with young Ted Wagner, about 1943

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.

 

Sentimental Saturday – A Wedding Anniversary

I am sharing photos from my collection and offering a brief explanation about what I know about the photos.

Today, September 26th would have been my parents 62nd wedding anniversary. On Saturday, September 26, 1953, Anna (‘Anne’) O’Neill married Lewis Hadden in St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The photo below of my parents on their wedding day was taken at the wedding reception, which was held at the Guild Inn in Scarborough, Ontario. Strangely enough, The Guild Inn was the former estate home of my wife’s second cousin, twice removed Rosa (Breithaupt) Spencer. My parents were married for 40 years prior to my mother’s death in 1994.

Anna and Lewis Hadden on their wedding day, September 26, 1953

Anna (O’Neill) and Lewis Hadden on their wedding day, September 26, 1953

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.

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. 


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.

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.