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: Rev. Louis Henry Wagner (1857-1945)

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.

A switch again this week to one of my wife Ellen’s direct ancestors. This week the story of her paternal great grandfather Rev. Louis Henry Wagner. 

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner (photo taken about 1918)


I have always found Louis to be an interesting man. Born in New York State, he was raised and received his early education in Berlin, Waterloo County, Ontario, apprenticed at a young age as a tanner and leather belt maker, attained post-secondary education in the State of Illinois as a land surveyor only to return to work in Ontario as an accountant and salesman before settling into life as an itinerant preacher for the Evangelical Association.

Louis Henry Wagner was born in Grove, Alleghany, New York on April 11, 1857. His father was Rev. Jacob Wagner, an Evangelical Association preacher whose ‘territory’ included not just western New York state but also parts of southern Ontario. On his trips into Ontario, and the German community in Berlin, Jacob would stay with Jacob and Margaret Hailer. Jacob Hailer was said to have been the first German to settle in Berlin and he would offer up the space of his woodworking shop to serve as a church gathering place for the Evangelical Association. It was here that Jacob Wagner met his wife, the Hailer’s eldest daughter Margaret (or Margaretha), the mother of Louis and his older sister Catherine, or ‘Katie’ as the family called her.

Before he was a year old, Louis’ family was moving to Berlin to live close to his maternal grandparents because his father Jacob Wagner had decided to change careers, moving to the business world, establishing a tannery in partnership with his friend and by then brother-in-law Louis Breithaupt. Mere months after the family move was complete, and just one week after Louis’ first birthday, Jacob Wagner died.

Fortunately for Louis, his family rallied around and supported him, his mother and sister. It appears that Jacob Wagner had died intestate, that is, he did not leave a Will naming a guardian for his children and the laws at the time did not automatically cede guardianship to the mother. So on September 3, 1859, letters of Guardianship were granted by the court to Jacob Hailer for both Louis and his sister Catherine. With his Berlin pioneer grandfather as his guardian, Louis went to live with his uncle Louis Breithaupt, after whom he had been named. Interestingly, Louis took up maintaining a diary as a teenager in December 1872 and much can be learned about 19th century Berlin, Ontario life in the pages of Louis’ diary volumes. His first diary entry, dated Sunday, December 15, 1872 begins with “We were all in church as usual ….” 

Over the years, the maturation of Louis is evident as his writings evolve from descriptions of the numerous times he was off to church, to his arguments to be allowed to apprentice in his uncle’s leather business, to his frustrations with the apprenticeship progress and his desire to find excitement in life, eventually leading to the anguish he experienced when his wife Mary Staebler died of typhoid fever in 1887, leaving him a widow with a one year old son.

Louis was educated as a land surveyor at Northwestern College in Naperville, Illinois although he does not seem to have ever practised that profession. When he returned home to Berlin, he took up employment as an accountant and salesman – again with his uncle Louis Breithaupt’s Eagle Tannery. In 1882, he made his final career change. After having been so involved in his church, Louis applied to the Canada Conference of the Evangelical Association, who that year were meeting in nearby St. Jacobs, Ontario, and on April 20, 1882, he was granted his first preacher’s license as a “Preacher on trial.” His first appointment was as assistant pastor in Sebringville, Ontario. 

On May 20, 1884. Louis married Mary Staebler in Berlin, Ontario. Their only child, Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner was born on May 10, 1886 in Hespeler, Ontario. On July 4, 1889, Louis married for a second time to Sarah Lodema Moyer with whom he had three additional children: Ida Louisa Wagner, Carl Henry Wagner, and Margaret Florence Wagner.

Louis spent the remainder of his long life continuing his work as a minister and officiating at many family events including the June 2, 1901 wedding of his cousin Albert L. Breithaupt to Lydia Anthes in which childhood friend and future longest serving Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King served as Best Man.

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner holding his great grandson Carl Edward ‘Ted’ Wagner


Even late in life, Louis continued to officiate at family events including baptizing his great grandson Carl Edward ‘Ted’ Wagner, Ellen’s brother. 

Louis Wagner died in his residence at 253 Weber Street in Kitchener, Ontario on January 8, 1945 at the age of 87. He rests in peace in Kitchener’s Mount Hope Cemetery with his wife Sarah.

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner and Sarah Lodema Moyer gravestone, Mount Hope Cemetery, Kitchener, Ontario (photo by Ian Hadden)