Louis Henry Wagner began a diary, really a set of what turned out to be four leather-bound diaries, when he was 15 years old. The diaries document some of the milestones, good and bad, that occurred in his life. The diaries are important records of the events in the Wagner and Breithaupt families during the latter half of the 19th century as well as providing an interesting perspective on the life of a young man living in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario, Canada during that pre-cable television, pre-video game era.
Today, August 23rd, marks the ninety-fourth anniversary of the Ontario cabinet’s ‘order-in-council’ that officially changed the name of the town of Berlin to Kitchener. The name change became effective as of September 1, 1917. In recognition of this historic and then controversial decision, I am re-sharing a post from the past about the views and involvement of some of my wife Ellen’s family’s involvement in the controversy.
While on vacation during the past week, I had the opportunity to intersperse visits with family members in various Ontario, Canada cities with genealogy pursuits. I finally donated the Henry Erskine manuscript to the University of Guelph’s Centre for Scottish Studies and the professors at the university seemed genuinely thrilled to receive it.
I was also able to visit the Special Collections section of the Dana Porter Library at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario. The library holds about 125 linear feet of original family documents connected with my wife Ellen’s paternal ancestral family. In my two visits thus far, I think I have managed to go through only about one foot!
My goal on this visit, that I successfully completed, was to scan (the Special Collections section offers a great free scanning service) the four personal diaries kept by Ellen’s great grandfather, Louis Henry Wagner (pictured to the right). These old, leather bound diaries contain Louis’ descriptions of his activities and the activities of the family covering the period December 15, 1872 until November 30, 1891. They offer not only a great insight into the Wagner family but also into life in southern Ontario during that timeframe. I can only wish that my ancestors had left such great documentation for me!
Of the many entries that I will share over time, the following caught my attention as it is Louis’ thoughts and recollections on the christening day activities for his son, and eldest child, Ellen’s grandfather, Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner. The entry is dated:
“Saturday, January 1st, 1887
This morning finds us up in good time preparing for the christening of our dear little boy Louis Jacob Gordon.
We had quite a time getting a name for him. The first one selected was Jacob after his two grandfathers and three great grandfathers. The former – Jacob Wagner and Jacob Staebler and the three latter, Jacob J. Hailer, Jacob Staebler and Jacob Muerner. The second was Gordon after the English General Charles George Gordon, commonly called ‘Chinese Gordon,’ also ‘The Hero of Khartoum,’ a pious Christian soldier. The third we selected was Louis, after my Uncle and foster parent from my 13th year, Louis Breithaupt who died July 3rd, 1880.
Having the full name of my cousin Louis Jacob Breithaupt, he with his wife Emma kindly consented to be his Godparents. Rev. Father Wm. Schmidt who performed the sacred rite was the first to arrive – about 10:40 a.m. and very soon the old homestead erected by Grandfather Hailer over 50 years ago and now occupied by my mother, was filled with the pleasant faces of old and new relatives.
There were present beside ourselves and Mother’s family consisting in herself, Alma, Wesley, Samuel and Eusebius, Aunt Breithaupt, Albert, Melvina, Caroline, John, William, Louis and family of 3 children, Louisa Hailer and child Erna, A. B. Augustine (Carrie’s betrothed), Julius Knauf, Father and Mother Staebler, Ike K. Devitt with Annie and 2 children.
At 12:00 all was ready and we handed our boy to Louis and Emma and Father Schmidt preformed that beautiful and solemn ceremony baptizing in the name of “The Father, Son and Holy Ghost” in the German language. (Father S. also married my mother and two aunts). This was the first baptism in this old home, which was built by Grandpa Hailer about 1830.
Our charge is now publicly consecrated to God. May he grow up in the fear of the Lord, an honor to his Maker, a blessing to the world and a joy to his parents. May we train him up in the nature and admonition of the Lord! Amen – Amen.
The table set in the parlor was now surrounded and very soon all were busily engaged in supplying the physical wants of the body. We got two turkeys, one 18 pounds and the other about 8 pounds so there was enough and to spare. Immediately after dinner John took Will to Galt where he took the train for Kansas City and Albert B. Augustine also left about 3:00 p.m.
Mother was quite pleased that we had the christening at her house and everyone secured happy. In the evening we went out to Aunty’s and next morning I left for my appointment to Strasburg and Hespeler leaving Mary and the baby to remain a few days longer in Berlin.”
I have written a number of posts about my wife Ellen’s cousins in the Breithaupt family. Phillip Ludwig ‘Louis’ Breithaupt had immigrated to Buffalo, New York as a teenager with his father Liborius in 1844 where the elder Breithaupt established a tannery business. Phillip Ludwig learned the tanning business from his father and would often make trips through Upper Canada (now Ontario, Canada) and the U.S. mid-west to purchase hides for leather manufacturing.
One of Phillip Ludwig’s close friends in Buffalo was an Evangelical Association minister named Jacob Wagner, Ellen’s second great grandfather, who was married to Margaret Hailer. In 1851, when Liborius died, it was Rev. Wagner who officiated at his funeral. Eventually, Jacob would introduce Louis Breithaupt (he had dropped the Phillip and anglicized the Ludwig apparently to carry on the family business of L. Breithaupt) to the Hailer family in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario. In 1853, Louis married Catherine Hailer, thus making he and his friend Jacob brothers-in-law. In late 1861, Louis left his Buffalo, New York business and established Breithaupt Leather Goods in Berlin.
Although Louis was successful in building his Berlin tannery into a thriving business, twice the tannery burned to the ground, once in 1867 and again in 1870. The adversity slowed Louis down but he carried on and re-built.
Louis and Catherine had ten children, the first three born in the U.S. and the remaining seven born in Berlin, Ontario. Their seventh child and fifth son was Daniel Edward Breithaupt (pictured above), born in 1868. By all accounts, Daniel was a normal, healthy three year-old. On July 9th, 1871 Daniel attended a Sunday School outing in a small area near the Breithaupt tannery that was in the process of being re-built. When it began to rain, the group of children took shelter on the main floor of the tannery building. Unfortunately, the floor collapsed beneath them, plunging the group into the vats below. Although there were very few injuries, little Daniel drowned. Following his son’s death, Louis wrote in the family bible, “Gott schenke mir und uns allen die Gnade ihm Himmel einst wieder zu sehen,” loosely translated as ‘God grant me the grace and all of us to see him again in heaven.’
Their sixth child, and fourth son, Esra Carl Breithaupt was born in 1866 and although never physically considered to be robust, Carl, as he preferred to be called, was a capable student who graduated with a science degree from North-Western College in Naperville, Illinois in 1887. In 1892, Carl graduated as an Electrical Engineer from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Returning home, Carl (pictured above) transformed the horse powered Berlin and Waterloo railway to an electric railway. He also purchased a substantial stake in the railway company, becoming president and manager of the company. Carl was also a member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, where he joined the likes of Thomas A. Edison and Alexander Graham Bell in an association formed in 1884 “to promote the Arts and Sciences connected with the production and utilization of electricity and the welfare of those employed in these Industries: by means of social intercourse, the reading and discussion of professional papers and the circulation by means of publication among members and associates of information thus obtained.” Carl also held the position of Vice-President of the Canadian Electrical Association, formed in 1891.
During the evening of January 26, 1897, Carl was at the electric works when an explosion occurred. Early in the morning of the following day, Carl succumbed to his injuries.
A prosperous family was left to grieve.