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 Wagner Get-Together

The four siblings were quite literally spread across Canada.

As a result, they did not have many opportunities to all be together, in the same room, at the same time.

In July 1994, one of those rare instances occurred for Ellen’s father to get together with his Wagner siblings.

WAGNER Ivey Gordon Bernice Tess Phyllis Ralph

Seated (l. to r.) are Ivy (Harvey) Wagner, her husband Gordon Wagner, and Bernice (Wagner) Sexsmith. Standing (l. to r.) are Tess (Latimer) Wagner (Ellen’s mother), with Phyllis (Wagner) and her husband Ralph Moore.

As his absence in the photo is rather conspicuous, I suspect that the photo was taken by Ellen’s father Carl Wagner. It is likely that the four Wagner siblings got together likely in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Sadly, only Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Ralph are still with us, having just celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary!

Lest We Forget – The Hadden – Wagner Families Wall Of Honour

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we pause to reflect and remember those who went before us, bravely sacrificing their youth and in too many cases their lives, for our freedom.

Poppy
The following is the list of those known brave ancestors, some from my family and some from Ellen’s, who gave so much. Today especially, we remember them. They shall not be forgotten.

World War I

GAMMIE, James (1895-1918), Private, Canadian Expeditionary Force, killed in action

GAMMIE, Peter (1893-1984), Private, Canadian Expeditionary Force (enlisted, not sent overseas)

GORDON, Alexander Garrow Duncan (1891-1917), Private, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, killed in action

MERNER, Albert Edward ‘Herbert’ (1897-1917), Canadian Expeditionary Force, killed in action

TRIGGS, James Little (1899-1916), Cabin Boy, Royal Navy, killed in action

TRIGGS, Phillip (1899-1967), Cabin Boy, Royal Navy

FINDLATER, William (1880-1918), British Army, died at home from wounds

FILKIN, Carl William (1897-1976), Canadian Expeditionary Force, lost left arm to shrapnel gun shot wound in France

World War II

SENATO, Nicola F. (1913-1945), U.S. Army, killed in action, Japan

NUSBICKEL, Thomas Raymond (1923-2002), U.S. Army

GAULL, George Leonard ‘Lenny’ (1920-2013), Canadian Armed Forces

MORGAN, Bruce Evan, M.D. (1924-2007), Navigator, Canadian Air Force

WAGNER, Carl Francis (1917-1993), Canadian Armed Forces

WAGNER, Gordon Gilbert Henry (1914-1994), Canadian Armed Forces

Sentimental Saturday – The Sibling Gathering

I’m posting photos from my collection each Saturday along with a brief explanation of what I know about the picture.

They don’t get a chance to get together very often given that the oldest lives in the Yukon Territory.

So when there is an opportunity for the four Wagner siblings to all get together, they all attend the gathering.

That was case in 2006 when oldest brother Ted and his wife Marg were visiting.

The Siblings - (l. to r.)  Ted Wagner, Mary Jane (Wagner) Richmond, Ellen (Wagner) Hadden, and Scott Wagner in June 2006

The Siblings – (l. to r.) Ted Wagner, Mary Jane (Wagner) Richmond, Ellen (Wagner) Hadden, and Scott Wagner in June 2006

The photo was taken by Yours Truly at Iain and Jane Richmond’s home near Orangeville, Ontario in June 2006. The four Wagner siblings gathered along with their respective spouses for dinner and an evening of ‘catching up’ on family activities. The evening just begged for the sibling gathering to be captured in a photo.

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.

Calling All Merner Descendants – The Family Reunion Is On Saturday!

Cousin Marg has sent out the reminder!

The descendants of Jacob Emanuel and Susannah (Schluchter) Merner are gathering for the 63rd annual reunion. (Yes, you read that right – the family has been gathering annually now for 63 years!)

This year the reunion will be held at Merhaven Farms, the home of descendants Larry and Louise Merner in Zurich, Ontario on Saturday, July 11th where there will be games for all ages, swimming, a buffet potluck dinner capped off with an evening campfire. The reunion festivities kick-off at 1:00 p.m.

This family reunion draws together some of the many descendants of Jacob and Susannah who left their native Switzerland around 1837 and headed to British North America. The Merners settled on a farm in New Hamburg, Ontario, just west of present day Kitchener.

Over the years, subsequent generations moved further west, populating Oxford and Huron Counties in Ontario, eventually moving into the United States and Cedar Falls, Iowa, in particular.

Ellen and I attended the 2013 reunion and had a great time mingling and meeting new cousins. Ellen is a 3X great granddaughter of Jacob and Susannah so she had a wonderful time connecting with her  previously unknown cousins. I was simply introduced as ‘The Genealogist.’

Ellen (Wagner) Hadden at the 2013 Merner Family Reunion with two of her cousins - Liz on the left and Marg on the right

Ellen (Wagner) Hadden (centre) at the 2013 Merner Family Reunion with two of her cousins – Liz on the left and Marg on the right

My genealogy database currently holds information about almost three thousand four hundred Merner descendants. I hope that there are a good number of them that have a chance to get together on Saturday!

Please feel free to email me at ian.hadden@rogers.com for reunion contact information.