Waterloo Region Generations
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Marie Bolardtowa[1]
Female 1865 - 1929


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  • Birth  Nov 1865  Austria Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Gender  Female 
    Immigration  1909  , Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Religion  1911  Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Roman Catholic 
    Misfortune  1929  Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location 
    died in fire - possibly murdered 
    Rsrch. Note 

    • As Kitchener prepares to restore Schneiders Creek, engineers are unearthing old questions about a secret the Balzer Creek tributary area has long held '97 a suspicious death and unsolved mystery.nextplay/pausepre1/3

      Waterloo Region Record
      By Greg Mercer

      KITCHENER '97 Tucked between a rusting rail line and a knot of subdivisions, Balzer Creek is a such a hidden, quiet smudge of green on Kitchener's west side you probably had no idea it's there.

      Once in a while, the tributary of Schneider Creek comes alive. In August, a heavy rainstorm roared through, washing out the creek's banks and crippling a train bridge further downstream.

      But as city engineers prepare to turn back the clock on the creek, undoing decades of man-made storm water damage, they're also unearthing old questions about a secret the Balzer Creek area has long held '97 a suspicious death that remains one of Waterloo Region's oldest unsolved mysteries.

      In the 1920s, before the city expanded westward and before it ran telephone lines out here, the Balzer family farmed a 50-acre plot of land in the area near Block Line Road and Courtland Avenue.

      The Balzer family, as you might have guessed, worked the land around what later became known as Balzer Creek and Balzer Road, a short stretch of asphalt that runs west from Courtland Avenue.

      On a drizzly March afternoon in 1929, a fire tore through the farmhouse and barn owned by Fred Balzer, the bachelor farmer who settled near the hamlet of German Mills.

      Neighbours saw the black smoke and rushed to help. But the house, and adjacent barn, could not be saved. In the hours after the blaze was distinguished, the rescuers realized Mary Balzer, Fred's diminutive 63-year-old mother, was missing.

      Something about the fire didn't add up. A neighbour claimed Mary Balzer's husband, Victor Balzer, was seen on the road driving away from the farm with his daughter-in-law about an hour before the place burned down.

      When he returned to find his home destroyed, another neighbour testified Victor Balzer was more concerned about the well-being of his cattle. He blamed his wife for the fire, according to witnesses who were questioned at an inquest into the death.

      Mary Balzer's remains were not found until 10 days later, when a pick and shovel gang of provincial police and local farmers was organized to dig through the farm yard from end to end. They scoured the charred ashes of the house, tore off the cover of the cistern and checked inside.

      After several days of searching, investigators found "stumps of arm bones and pelvis," according to a front-page story in The Daily Record on March 26, 1929. But whether or not Mary Balzer was alive when the flames broke out may never be known.

      The story has long fascinated local historian rych mills, who thinks that after almost 90 years there's slim chance the cause of Mary's death will ever be known.

      "I've always been interested in these kind of stories. It's the type of crime that just gets your attention," he said. "I don't think at this point it'll ever be solved … But maybe somebody's grandpa remembers something."

      The Balzers became farmers thanks to the military service of their eldest son, Frederick, also known as "Fritz."

      Fred or "Fritz" Balzer, a First World War veteran who enlisted with Waterloo's 118th Battalion, was born in the town of Radesin in what's now the Czech Republic. He immigrated to the Kitchener area with his family in 1907, and his father found work as a labourer in a sugar factory.

      For his service in the Canadian army, Fred Balzer was loaned $5,000 by the Soldier Settlement Board to buy 50 acres of land on the city's western frontier. In the 1920s, this was little else but rural pasture and woodlot, long before the City of Kitchener annexed the land from the now-dissolved Township of Waterloo.

      It wasn't great farmland '97 partly scrub bush and prone to flooding '97 but the Balzers tried to scratch out a living. Tax records from 1929 suggest the land had an assessed value of $1,900 on the eve of the Great Depression.

      The Balzers, who name is sometimes spelled Balsar or Balcer in old marriage or census records, were prototypical immigrants in Kitchener's early industrial boom. Knowing little English, the German-speaking family took factory jobs in the city when they first arrived, before eventually buying a farm, adding livestock and trying to make a new life.

      Fred Balzer, a short, slight man with a ruddy complexion, was released from the military in 1919 with only an esthetic mark on his body '97 a tattoo on his leaf forearm of a girls' head on a Canadian maple leaf, according to his military records.

      On the morning of the fatal fire a decade later, he told police his mother made him breakfast before he went to his job at the Dominion Tire factory in Kitchener. That contradicted the claims of neighbours, who said they hadn't seen Mary around the farmhouse for months.

      The fire itself was suspicious. Neighbours who rushed to the scene said the barn and house seemed to have caught fire almost simultaneously. Police felt the blaze was "probably set by a human hand," according to a story in The Daily Record on March 12, 1931.

      Mary's 63-year-old husband pointed the finger at an unknown culprit, speculating publicly his wife was killed before the fire was set.

      The case and the inquiry that followed gripped the citizens of Kitchener. Its grim details filled the pages of The Daily Record for months after the fire, and large crowds gathered at the courthouse to hear witnesses take the stand.

      But if local citizens were looking for any satisfying answers into what happened at the Balzer farm, they didn't get any.

      "How she died or how the fire started … are two details which remain as mysterious as before," read a report in The Daily Record on April 4, 1929. "It was as impossible to prove the blaze was deliberately set, as it was to established it was of accidental origin."

      The police reopened the investigation two years after Mary Balzer's death. Victor had come forward with new information '97 he told investigators he'd been getting death threats in the days before the farm burned to the ground.

      "It is understood that the relation of threats against his life and property occupy considerable of Balzer's report to police," read a story in The Daily Record on March 31, 1931.

      The old man blamed the German-to-English interpreter at the original inquest for not relaying this to police at the time. And he disputed the coroner's findings that his wife died in the fire.

      "Balzer … does not doubt that his wife's body was consumed in the fire. What he is concerned with are the events which transpired in the farmhouse immediately preceding the fire," read a story in The Daily Record on March 13, 1931.

      Archival records suggest a rift in the family emerged following her death, too.

      Eight months after their mother died, Fred Balzer sold his brother Henry Balzer half of his land for $1,250, according to provincial land transfer records from the era.

      What his brother likely didn't know is that Fred Balzer didn't have the right to sell the land. It belonged to the Soldier Settlement Board, which loaned him the money to buy the farm in the first place '97 a loan he'd apparently defaulted on.

      In 1932, Henry waived his claim to the land for one dollar, and forfeited any rights to the old farm back to the government.

      Portions of the old Balzer farm were eventually carved up and altered by private development, although a good chunk is now owned by the City of Kitchener, which bought up stretches of property around Schneider Creek for storm water control.

      The last residence on Balzer Road was destroyed '97 coincidentally, also by suspicious fire '97 in 2000. Today, only a handful of businesses, including a scrap metal yard, call it home.

      The investigation into Mary Balzer's death has long since gone cold. No one was ever charged in the case, and it's unclear if police did anything with her husband's claims about threats against his life and house.

      Whatever questions Victor had about his wife's death, he likely never got answers. The old farmer, who some neighbours initially eyed with suspicion, eventually remarried and lived another 15 years. He died in 1943 and is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Waterloo.

      Mary's son Fred died in 1964, at 75, and is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Kitchener. His brother Henry would go on to raise four kids with his wife Rose, and is also buried in Woodland Cemetery.

      The Balzer family has long since left the land that bears their name. Any trace of their farmhouse and barn are long gone, buried under redeveloped land.

      All that's left here now is the Balzer surname '97 and some old, forgotten questions about what happened in Mary Balzer's final hours.


      gmercer@therecord.com , Twitter: @MercerRecord
    Name  Marie Balzer 
    Eby ID Number  Waterloo-183920 
    Died  Mar 1929  Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID  I183920  Generations
    Last Modified  29 Aug 2017 

    Family  Victor Balzer,   b. Jul 1865, Austria Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1943 
    Children 
     1. Private Frederick "Fred" "Fritz" Balzer,   b. 27 May 1889, Radesín, , , Czech Republic Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 20 Mar 1964
     2. Henry Balzer,   b. May 1890, Austria Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1967
    Family ID  F177250  Group Sheet

  • Notes 
    • ;;;"On a drizzly March afternoon in 1929, a fire tore through the farmhouse and barn owned by Fred Balzer, the bachelor farmer who settled near the hamlet of German Mills.

      Neighbours saw the black smoke and rushed to help. But the house, and adjacent barn, could not be saved. In the hours after the blaze was distinguished, the rescuers realized Mary Balzer, Fred's diminutive 63-year-old mother, was missing.

      Something about the fire didn't add up. A neighbour claimed Mary Balzer's husband, Victor Balzer, was seen on the road driving away from the farm with his daughter-in-law about an hour before the place burned down.

      When he returned to find his home destroyed, another neighbour testified Victor Balzer was more concerned about the well-being of his cattle. He blamed his wife for the fire, according to witnesses who were questioned at an inquest into the death.

      Mary Balzer's remains were not found until 10 days later, when a pick and shovel gang of provincial police and local farmers was organized to dig through the farm yard from end to end. They scoured the charred ashes of the house, tore off the cover of the cistern and checked inside.

      After several days of searching, investigators found "stumps of arm bones and pelvis," according to a front-page story in The Daily Record on March 26, 1929. But whether or not Mary Balzer was alive when the flames broke out may never be known."....

      Kitchener's Balzer Creek has dark history. (2016). Therecord.com. Retrieved 22 October 2016, from http://www.therecord.com/news-story/6924121-kitchener-s-balzer-creek-has-dark-history/

  • Sources 
    1. [S721] Vit - ON - Marriage Registration, marriage certificate 15993 (1913), Balcer-Yacyniak..
      Henry Balcer, 23, b. Bohemia, res. Berlin, son of Victor Balcer and Mary Bolardtowa Married Theola Yacyiniak, 17, b. Galicia Austria, res. Berlin, daughter of Elias Yacyiniak and Magdalena Medecki, Witness(s): Michael Kiffman and Mary Mac Both of Berlin, 19 August 1913 in Berlin

    2. [S340] Census - ON, Waterloo, Berlin - 1911, Div. 31 Pg. 5.

  • Event Map
    Event
    Link to Google MapsBirth - Nov 1865 - Austria Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsImmigration - 1909 - , Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsReligion - Roman Catholic - 1911 - Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMisfortune - died in fire - possibly murdered - 1929 - Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - Mar 1929 - Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario Link to Google Earth
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     = Link to Google Earth