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Wilhelm "William" Hespeler 

Wilhelm "William" Hespeler

Male 1830 - 1921

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  • Birth  29 Dec 1830  Gernsbach, Gernsbach, , Baden-Württemberg, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2, 3, 4
    Gender  Male 
    Occupation  1852  Preston (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Clerk 
    Occupation  1854  Baden, Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    merchant 
    Residence  1855  49 Albert St., Waterloo, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Elected Office  1861  Waterloo City, Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Waterloo - councillor 
    Occupation  1861  2 King St. S., Waterloo, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location 
    merchant 
    1861 Tremaine's Map of Waterloo
    1861 Tremaine's Map of Waterloo
    Elected Office  1863  Waterloo City, Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Councillor - Waterloo City 
    Died  18 Apr 1921  Burnaby Lake, British Columbia Find all individuals with events at this location  [2, 4
    Website  2007 
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Hespeler 
    Name  William Hespeler 
    Eby ID Number  Waterloo-35103 
    Buried  St. John's Cathedral Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Person ID  I35103  Generations
    Last Modified  14 Aug 2017 

    Father  Johann Georg "George" Hespeler,   b. 8 Nov 1784, , Wuerttemberg, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Bef 1881, , Germany Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Mother  Anna Barbara Wick,   b. 26 Nov 1791, Ehningen, , Baden-Württemberg, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 21 Dec 1881, Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married  27 Jul 1809  Eningen, , Baden-Württemberg, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID  F22526  Group Sheet

    Family 1  Mary Hope Keachie,   b. 1828, , , USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 19 May 1872, Freiburg (Woolwich Township formerly Waterloo Township), Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married  21 Dec 1854  Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    Children 
     1. Alfred Aemilius Hespeler,   b. 16 May 1858, Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 31 May 1928, Vancouver, , British Columbia, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location
     2. Georgina Hope Hespeler,   b. 1863, , Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 19 Dec 1887, Winnipeg, , Manitoba, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location
     3. Wilhelm Hespeler,   b. 7 Apr 1863, , Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Aug 1866, Waterloo Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location
    Family ID  F32806  Group Sheet

    Family 2  Catherine Robertson Keachie,   b. 1836, , Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 9 Jun 1920 
    Family ID  F32807  Group Sheet

  • Photos
    Hespeler, Wilhelm formal.jpg
    Hespeler, Wilhelm formal.jpg
    William Hespeler about 1903
    William Hespeler about 1903
    Source: Archives of Manitoba

  • Notes 
    • William Hespeler was born at Baden-Baden, Germany on 29 December 1830, son of George H. and Barbara Hespeler, he was educated at the Institute at Karlsruhe. At the age of 19, he arrived at Preston, Ontario where his elder brother had a milling, distilling, and general merchandising business. From 1854 to 1868 he was a partner in the firm of Hespeler and Randall at Waterloo, Ontario. While visiting Germany, he discovered that a large number of Mennonites in southern Russia were contemplating emigration to the USA. Hespeler forwarded this information to the Canadian government, which asked him to travel to Russia to induce the group to come to Manitoba. This resulted in 284 families of Mennonites settling in 1874, with further groups arriving in 1875 and 1876.

      In 1873, Hespeler became Commissioner of Immigration and Agriculture, which he filled until 1883. He was then appointed German Consul for Manitoba and the North-West Territories until 1909. In 1889, he was elected to the provincial legislature and chosen speaker of the house, the first foreign-born citizen to be so in the British Empire. He served as chief commissioner of census for the Province of Manitoba, 1881; appointed German Consul for Manitoba and NWT, 1883; decorated by the German Emperor with the Order of Red Eagle, 1903, and upon resigning office was decorated with Zaeringer Loewen Order by the German Emperor for long and faithful services. From 1883 to 1894, he was Manager of the Manitoba Land Company, then later a member of the board of the Royal Trust Company and the North of Scotland Mortgage Company. In 1880, he organized "The Northwestern," a German language weekly, the first German newspaper in the Northwest. He was a member of the board for the Winnipeg General Hospital starting in 1874, and president of the same starting in 1884, resigning from the board in 1909.

      He was married twice; first to Mary H. Keatchie of Galt, Ontario (1855) then to Kate R. Keatchie. He had one son. Hespeler died on 18 April 1921, in Vancouver, BC1a

      1a http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/hespeler_w.shtml 2007

      ________________


      7,000 immigrants arrived in six years

      Hespeler honored for bringing in Mennonites

      The man who played the principal role in bringing the first Mennonites to Steinbach and area in 1874 was officially honored in Winnipeg Monday. A plaque commemorating William Hespeler (1830-1921) for his immigration work throughout the prairies was unveiled by Winnipeg MP Joy Smith on behalf of the federal government.

      The trilingual plaque, produced by Parks Canada for the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, recognizes Hespeler as a person of national historic significance. His namesake continues today, most notably in Niverville, which has a 94-acre park named in his honor, and who will be further recognized at this summer's community fair. It was just southwest of Niverville, at the junction of the Red and Rat rivers, where the first Mennonite immigrant group landed. Hespeler Park, at the south side of town, is equipped with ball diamonds, soccer pitches, picnic shelter, toboggan hill and an area set aside to further honor Hespeler's work.

      Jim Buys, the town's chief administrative officer, who was part of a Niverville contingent attending the unveiling of the plaque at the University of Winnipeg, explained his community has worked closely with Parks Canada in this project. Former mayor Clare Braun, for one, began discussions years ago with the federal agency to look into ways of honoring Hespeler at the local level, Buys said. Sponsoring proponent to designate Hespeler is the German-Canadian Congress, Manitoba. The Niverville group on hand for the ceremony, in addition to Buys, included Mayor Greg Fehr and three members of the community's historical committee-Walter Rempel, Fred Kaita and Jake Isaac. It also included Mary DeGrow, great-great-granddaughter of William Hespeler, who lives in Winnipeg.

      Buys said DeGrow is scheduled to visit Niverville in June during the annual fair. Her mother, who lives in southern Ontario, while unable to make the trip, may be able to send a message to the community in a video. The plaque unveiled on Monday will be placed in Niverville at a later date, said Lianne Roberts, executive services officer for the Manitoba field unit of Parks Canada in Winnipeg. Plans also call for planks from the elevator Hespeler built in Niverville in 1878 to be used in a commemorative project at the community's Heritage Centre. The cylindrical elevator, holding 25,000 bushels, was the first in Western Canada. The elevator years ago was adopted as the town's official symbol. The Hespeler name further lives on through a road named for him in the neighboring RM of Hanover as well as a major road in Steinbach. "William Hespeler was truly a remarkable man," said Smith at Monday's ceremony. "Entrepreneur, immigration official, commissioner of immigration and agriculture, politician and philanthropist, William Hespeler played a key role in the first great wave of immigrants to Manitoba, and helped demonstrate the enormous agricultural potential of the Canadian Prairies."

      Coming to Canada from Germany at the age of 19, Hespeler first joined his brother's business in the German-speaking community of Waterloo, Ont. Toward the middle of the 1860s, Hespeler left his lucrative business ventures and, in mid-life, made a career change to become an immigration official for the Dominion of Canada. He succeeded in attracting some 7,000 Mennonites to emigrate from Russia to Canada between 1874 and 1880. This new Canadian of German descent put his determination and ingenuity at the service of his adopted country.

      In addition to his role in Mennonite immigration, and hence in the settlement of Western Canada, Hespeler distinguished himself for over 45 years following his settlement in Winnipeg as a philanthropist and politician representing the interests of German-speaking communities. "William Hespeler's success was a result not only of his dedication and commitment but also due to his ability to seize the opportunity, his assertive personality and his ingenuity," added Smith. For many years Hespeler was actively involved in all aspects of the immigrant movement, beginning with trips to Russia to recruit prospective immigrants to hands-on work in Canada when they arrived. Niverville historical committee members Walter Rempel, Fred Kiata and Jacob Isaak join Mayor Greg Fehr and Jim Buys at unveiling of plaque honoring William Hespeler.2a

      2a The Carillon Newspaper 22 Feb 2007

      _______________________________

      WILLIAM (Wilhelm), businessman, office holder, politician, and jp; b. 29 Dec. 1830 in the Grand Duchy of Baden (Germany), second son of Johann Georg Hespeler and Anna Barbara Wick; m. first 21 Dec. 1854 Mary H. Keatchie (d. 1872) of Galt (Cambridge), Upper Canada, and they had three children, two of whom survived to adulthood; m. secondly 15 Dec. 1874 Mary Meyer (d. 1883) of Seaforth, Ont.; m. thirdly 6 April 1887 Catherine Robertson, née Keatchie (d. 1920), a sister of his first wife, in Port Arthur (Thunder Bay, Ont.); no children were born of the second or third marriages; d. 18 April 1921 in Vancouver.

      William Hespeler grew up in a bourgeois household in Baden, his father a prosperous merchant and his mother related to Hungarian aristocracy. The family's nine children, two boys and seven girls, received extensive education in German, French, and English. They were steeped in the family's mercantile tradition and imbued with a sense of adventure which was tempered only by the inherent social conservatism of their class. The Hespelers believed not only in technological but also in political progress. Their hopes for democratic reform in Baden were dashed when the revolution of 1848 failed. The family valued service to the public and its members would frequently participate in civic and political affairs.

      Through chain migration started by William's elder brother, Jacob, most of the family eventually came to settle in Upper Canada, in the area around Berlin (Kitchener) and Waterloo. In this largely German enclave, Hespeler, who arrived in 1850, demonstrated his willingness to reach beyond his ethnic and religious background (he was Lutheran) by marrying a Canadian-born woman of Scottish-Presbyterian descent. He soon proved his business acumen as well, working initially in his brother's milling, distilling, and general merchandising business in Preston (Cambridge). In 1854 he set up a similar business in Waterloo with George Randall. A few years later the partners built the Granite Mills and the Waterloo Distillery. By 1861 the flourishing business was producing 12,000 barrels of flour and 2,700 barrels of whiskey; it employed 15 men.

      In the 1870s Hespeler's career took a different turn. According to one account, Hespeler, a naturalized British subject, briefly served as a stretcher-bearer during the Franco-German war of 1870-71. He returned to Canada but by the spring of 1872 he had left his business in the care of an employee, Joseph Emm Seagram*, and had taken his ailing wife and two surviving children to Baden. On 2 Feb. 1872 he had been appointed special immigration agent for Germany by the Canadian government. With the help of shipping agents of the Allan Line [see Sir Hugh Allan*], he recruited new settlers, especially from the war-ravaged province of Alsace. That summer the Canadian government sent him to southern Russia, a region from which large numbers of German-speaking Mennonites wanted to immigrate. Despite considerable opposition from Russian authorities and little support from British diplomats, he arranged for several thousand Mennonites to move to Canada [see Gerhard Wiebe*].

      Rewarded by the federal minister of agriculture, John Henry Pope*, with an appointment as dominion immigration agent for Manitoba and the North-West Territories (a position he would hold until 1882), the recently widowed Hespeler moved permanently to Winnipeg in 1873. Through his work in providing temporary shelter and emergency provisions as well as in directing newcomers to available lands, he had close dealings not only with the Mennonite settlements but also with the early Icelandic settlements [see Jón Bjarnason*]; he was similarly involved in organizing relief for Jewish refugees [see Benjamin Zimmerman]. Uncomfortable with the government's laissez-faire approach to the establishment of recent arrivals, he took a paternalistic view of aid. He did not mind combining the government's relief with his own economic self-interest as a grain merchant. He delighted in planning new settlements, such as Niverville, and in exploring agricultural innovations. Together with his son he erected what is said to have been the first grain elevator in western Canada, in 1879. He deftly explored the entrepreneurial opportunities of the frontier, acquiring rural and city plots, dealing in mortgages and loans, and acting as a middleman between the Winnipeg business community and the Mennonite settlements. From 1886 to 1905 he would serve as manager of the Manitoba Land Company. He soon became known as an expert on western Canadian development.

      By the mid 1870s, remarried and at his energetic best, Hespeler proved his civic-mindedness in many ways. He was elected alderman for Winnipeg's South Ward in 1876 and 1878, joined the board of the Winnipeg General Hospital (he would serve as its president for more than a decade, starting in 1889), and on 25 Nov. 1876 was appointed to the provisional council of Keewatin to deal with the smallpox epidemic of 1876-77. By 1876 he had also been appointed a justice of the peace. Involved in the Anglo-Saxon community of Winnipeg, he was also active among the city's small German population. His second wife was of German origin and he himself participated in German singing and social clubs in the late 1870s and mid 1880s.

      When the German government sought an honorary consul for Winnipeg and the North-West Territories in 1882, Hespeler was a natural choice. This unsalaried position allowed him to pursue his business interests and it would help him overcome personal tragedies - the death of his second wife in 1883 and that of his daughter, Georgina Hope, wife of Augustus Meredith Nanton, in 1886. As consul, he maintained his connections with the growing German community of the city. In 1888, for example, he supported the establishment of a German Lutheran congregation in Winnipeg. The following year he was instrumental in setting up a German-language newspaper, the Nordwesten. Although the consular workload became increasingly heavy in the new century, he would stay on until July 1907. In 1903 he was rewarded with the German Order of the Red Eagle for 20 years of service.

      At age 69 Hespeler moved into the political arena. His reputation for thoroughness and common sense and his close association with the Mennonite community won him the rural seat of Rosenfeld in the provincial general election of 7 Dec. 1899 as an independent candidate with Conservative leanings. Once elected, however, he declared himself against the government of Conservative premier Hugh John Macdonald. On 29 March 1900 he became speaker of the Legislative Assembly, one of the earliest persons who were not born British subjects to hold this position in any legislative body in the British empire - but not the first, as has been claimed. Lacking vanity and a sense of self-importance, he left politics a few years later to make way for a younger person.

      Hespeler's business activities had laid the foundation for considerable wealth that promised a comfortable old age with his third wife, Catherine. He continued to serve on the boards of numerous financial institutions and could have lived out his final years quietly enjoying the fruits of his labour in his luxurious apartment block in Fort Rouge (Winnipeg), designed for him by noted architect John D. Atchison in 1906. World War I intervened, however. Hespeler's German connections suddenly tainted the man and his achievements. He refused to be cowed by the nativist hostility of the period and devoted his energy to helping recent German immigrants who had lost their jobs. The city, and the rest of Canada, soon forgot him.

      In his final months, after the death of his third wife in 1920, Hespeler moved to Vancouver to be with his son, Alfred. He died there and was buried in St John's Anglican cemetery in Winnipeg, among the city's pioneers. His obituary remembered him as a man "who was at one time so foremost in the life of the province."
      Angelika Sauer

      AO, RG 80-5-0-42, no.2961.
      Man., Legislative Library (Winnipeg), Biog. scrapbooks.
      Univ. of Waterloo Library, Special Coll. Dept. (Waterloo, Ont.), GA 104 (Seagram Museum fonds), sousfonds 1 (Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, Ltd fonds); sousfonds 2 (Seagram family fonds).
      Berliner Journal (Berlin [Kitchener, Ont.]), 1858-72.
      Dumfries Reformer (Galt [Cambridge, Ont.]), 27 Dec. 1854.
      Manitoba Free Press, 19 April 1921.
      Nordwesten (Winnipeg), 1889-1921.
      Winnipeg Tribune, 15 April 1911, 29 May 1930.
      Alexander Begg and W. R. Nursey, Ten years in Winnipeg: a narration of the principal events in the history of the city of Winnipeg from the year A.D. 1870 to the year A.D. 1879, inclusive (Winnipeg, 1879).
      George Bryce, A history of Manitoba: its resources and people (Toronto and Montreal, 1906).
      Mrs George Bryce, [Marion Samuel], "Historical sketch of the charitable institutions of Winnipeg," Man., Hist. and Scientific Soc., Trans. Can., Parl., Sessional papers, reports of the Dept. of Agriculture, 1871-82.
      Ernst Correll, "Mennonite immigration into Manitoba: sources and documents, 1872, 1873," Mennonite Quarterly Rev. (Goshen, Ind.), 11 (1937): 196-227, 267-83.
      CPG, 1901.
      Werner Entz, "William Hespeler, Manitoba's first German consul," German-Canadian yearbook (Toronto), 1 (1973): 149-52.
      Arthur Grenke, "The formation and early development of an urban ethnic community: a case study of the Germans in Winnipeg" (phd thesis, Univ. of Manitoba, Winnipeg, 1975).
      Angelika Sauer, "Ethnicity employed: William Hespeler and the Mennonites," Journal of Mennonite Studies (Winnipeg), 18 (2000): 82-94.
      W. H. E. Schmalz, "The Hespeler family," Waterloo Hist. Soc., Annual report (Kitchener), 57 (1969): 21-29.
      (Winnipeg), no.54 (Feburary 1899): 1-31.
      F. H. Schofield, The story of Manitoba (3v., Winnipeg, 1913)3a

      3aDictionary of Canadian Biography Online 2000 University of Toronto/Université Laval

      __________________________

      HESPELER, WILLIAM (Wilhelm)... m. first 21 Dec. 1854 Mary H. Keatchie (d. 1872) of Galt (Cambridge), Upper Canada, and they had three children, two of whom survived to adulthood; m. secondly 15 Dec. 1874 Mary Meyer (d. 1883) of Seaforth, Ont.; m. thirdly 6 April 1887 Catherine Robertson, née Keatchie (d. 1920), a sister of his first wife, in Port Arthur (Thunder Bay, Ont.); no children were born of the second or third marriages; d. 18 April 1921 in Vancouver.4a

      4aDictionary
      of Canadian Biography VOl XV (1921-1930)

  • Sources 
    1. [S270] Census - ON, Waterloo, Preston - 1852, Pg 3.

    2. [S605] Cemetery - Manitoba, Winnipeg - St. John's Cathedral Internet Link.
      IN LOVING MEMORY OF WILLIAM HESPELER BORN DEC.29th 1830 DIED APRIL 18th 1921 AND HIS WIFE CATHERINE ROBERTSON BORN 1836 DIED JUNE 9th 1920 HESPELER

    3. [S1885] Census - ON, Waterloo, Waterloo City - 1861, Waterloo 1861 Dist. 2 Page 14.

    4. [S1888] British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986; 1992-1993, GS Film number: 1927296 , Digital Folder Number: 004437844 , Image Number: 01334 , Registration Number: 82460.
      Wm Hespeler Event Type: Death Event Date: 18 Apr 1921 Event Place: Burnaby Lake, British Columbia, Canada Gender: Male Age: 91 Marital Status: Widowed Birth Date: 29 Dec 1830 Birthplace: Gronsbach, Duchy Of Ba* Father's Name: * George Hespeler Mother's Name: Anna *Arba* Wick

    5. [S110] Church Records - ON, Waterloo Co., Cambridge - First United.
      William Hespeler, Merchant of Baden, Married Mary Reachie, Spinster of Galt, Witn: Adam Warnock & Alexander Young, 21 1854 By License In Galt

  • Event Map
    Event
    Link to Google MapsBirth - 29 Dec 1830 - Gernsbach, Gernsbach, , Baden-Württemberg, Germany Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - Clerk - 1852 - Preston (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - merchant - 1854 - Baden, Waterloo Region, Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 21 Dec 1854 - Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1855 - 49 Albert St., Waterloo, Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsElected Office - Waterloo - councillor - 1861 - Waterloo City, Waterloo Region, Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - merchant - 1861 - 2 King St. S., Waterloo, Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsElected Office - Councillor - Waterloo City - 1863 - Waterloo City, Waterloo Region, Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 18 Apr 1921 - Burnaby Lake, British Columbia Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - St. John's Cathedral Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Maps 
     = Link to Google Earth