Friday, August 15, 2008

More on Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Technical Note: Clicking on the images below will not enlarge them for reasons known only to Google. I will try to fix, but in the meantime, you can see larger images by linking to my Gallery at Picasa (blogger album). Scroll down, right-hand column.

My thoughts are still on my recent trip to Ontario (see last two entries). It was actually several years ago that I discovered the 1945 probated estate of Thomas Dawson which mentions that two of his children had migrated to "Galt", in Ontario, Canada. I was a little confused of exactly where Galt was located. Well, it turns out that the town was incorporated about 1975 into the town of Cambridge along with 3 or 4 other municipalities. I also read about nearby Kitchener which was formerly known as Berlin but had undergone the name change during WW I. It seemed like the area had an identity crisis. One landmark that I particularly wanted to visit was the Joseph Schneider Haus in Kitchener- a museum which would explain the area's early history. The Following image is a tourist map of Kitchener, tagged with the locations of our room at the Comfort Inn, the Joseph Schneider Haus, and the Kitchener Public Library which houses the Grace Schmidt Room for genealogical research.

It was pretty easy to catch a ride on the Grand River Transit bus which traveled down King Street into downtown Kitchener. I paid the base rate of 2.50 dollars Canadian so I could travel anywhere in the Waterloo Region for 90 minutes. The first time I got on the bus, I was 50 cents short of the exact amount. But a kind lady offered to make up the difference. Nice people, these Canadians. With gas prices rising though the roof, we all might get used to public transportation. I might add that you see things on a bus ride that you would never see riding in your own car. I'll save those episodes for later. I got off the bus at the major intersection of King and Queen Streets which was central to my destinations.

On the way to the Kitchener Public Library, I ran into several landmarks which provided a glimpse into the multi-ethnic nature of Kitchener's founding. At the entrance to the courthouse, there were three identical historical markers with the exception that each was written in a different language: German, French, or English.

Rather than have you squint, I will read some of it for you:

"Waterloo County held its first council meeting on January 24, 1853, on this site, at the newly built county courthouse in Berlin (now Kitchener). Council's 12 members came from 5 districts (North Dumfries, Waterloo, Wellesley, Wilmot, Woolwich), and two villages, (Galt, Preston) and selected the reeve of Waterloo Township, Dr. John Scott, as the county's first Warden. ..."

Still further down Queen Street, I came upon a small green or park which was dedicated to Emil Vogelsang (1834-1894) who was Berlin's first button maker. His Germanic name translates "bird song". Later at the library, I picked up a history book which had a picture of one of Vogelsang's buttons made out of ivory wood. Real ivory would have been rather expensive for buttons- realize that buttons have a pretty unique history themselves. Does anybody remember collecting a big jar of buttons? If you didn't, then your grandmother certainly did.

Later in the afternoon, with dark clouds threatening, I made my walk to the Joseph Schneider Haus. The historical marker above about says it all. You may have to click on the image to read it (sorry, glitch; you'll have to link to my Picassa album). Schneider's house, built in 1820, is Kitchener's oldest dwelling. The owner was a Mennonite who migrated to the area from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His brother-in-law was well-known in the region as the Mennonite Bishop, Eby. That name and other German names such as Weber (pronounced like Weeeber) can be found on street signs all around the town.

Image: Exterior view of the Joseph Schneider house.

I entered the Haus just as the interpreters were cleaning up after their lunch. They occupy the house during the day, but don't actually live there. Incidentally, the automatic dishwasher in my house has never been used. I can't justify the expense of heating up water to clean the dishes of it's sole user- me. My daughters will verify this: I tried to convince them to wash dishes by hand because I still believe it builds character.

I walked upstairs to look at the room pictured below- the computer room. Just kidding.

And finally after a hard day's touring, I sat down to a nice big slice of homemade elderberry pie- the whole thing. Just kidding again. But wish I wasn't. Has a museum treated you recently with such hospitality?

Y'see if I was really a member of Joseph Schneider's family, I would have donned my straw hat and overalls, gone out to the garden and worked off a few calories. Not that I need to.


Joseph Scheider Haus . Be sure to click on Joseph's biography and the "On-line collections"

The Grace Schmidt Room for genealogists, Kitchener, Ontario


Carolyn said...

Hi, I came across your blog while searching for a picture of the Schneiders packing plant.(Oh how I miss those sausage) My husband and I are now in California but my family settled in Kitchener in about 1850. It never occurred to me to take pictures of the multilingual signs. (that was just the way things were) Thank you for doing so!
I did the bus ride frequently as a student and it can be quite an experience.:) said...

I just started a site with photos of people who were employees of a factory in Kitchener in 1928. It's called Ancestors of Kitchener, Ontario.

Best regards,
Lynn Shwadchuck