Waterloo Region Generations
A record of the people of Waterloo Region, Ontario.

Joseph Oberholtzer

Male 1786 - 1868  (81 years)

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  • Name Joseph Oberholtzer 
    Born 18 Dec 1786  , Pennsylvania, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2, 3
    Gender Male 
    Name Joseph Oberholtzer 
    Occupation Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    mill owner 
    Occupation 1861  Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Saw Miller 
    Residence 1861  Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Eby ID Number Waterloo-127150 
    Died 23 Feb 1868  Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Person ID I127150  Generations
    Last Modified 18 Nov 2021 

    Father Isaac Oberholtzer,   b. 1759, Of, Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Mother Elizabeth Schlichter,   b. Abt 1759, Of, Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Family ID F2354  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Margaretha Allemang,   b. 1808, , Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Last Modified 18 Nov 2021 
    Family ID F34872  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • On the 23rd of February, 1868, in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, JOSEPH OBERHOLZER, aged 81 years, 2 months, 5 days. He had never connected himself with any church. He had a species of Separatist faith, yet during his illness, he seemed to be concerned for his soul's salvation. He leaves a wife, to mourn her loss.

      Herald of Truth, - Volume V, Number 6 - June, 1868, page 95


      About the year 1822, Joseph Oberholtzer, a sawyer, and Cornelius Pannabecker, a blacksmith, both sound men, had come to the conclusion that, having regard to the fact that so many new buildings were being put up by the settlers, a saw mill in this locality would pay.

      In 1823, Joseph Oberholtzer bought from Christian Strome (Strohm) 24 acres of land lying both sides of the River Speed at some distance below the present D. W. & W. Buildings and on it they erected a small saw mill building, installed sawing machinery and built a dam on the Speed to furnish power to operate it.

      After it had been in operation for a time they discovered to their sorrow that their mill was not big enough to handle the huge logs the farmers were hauling in to be sawn, and so, later, when their frail dam went out in a flood it was not replaced; They salvaged what they could and wrote off the rest to profit and loss. They had made the mistake of building too small and they paid the shot. Oberholtzer, notwithstanding the failure of the first attempt remained convinced that he had been right; And he knew it had to be a bigger mill, bigger machinery; more power to operate it and of course, a bigger dam to supply the power.

      And a big dam was not feasible on the portion of the river he owned. On May 2nd, 1833, under deed 286 he bought a further 22 acres from Christian Strome adjoining his original 24 acres and extending from it upstream both sides of the river roughly as far as the dividing line between lots nine and ten in the second concession. His purchase being in the second. His land ran easterly along this lot line to the north limit of Queen Street. (In this deed, spoken of as the highway leading from John Groh's to Michael Bergey's.) From this point which is about the Norman Schweitzer property his land ran westerly along the north side of Queen Street to a point below the present Lower Mill buildings and, after leaving enough land on the left bank to serve the purposes he had in mind, his line continued on downstream to the 24 acre parcel. So that his holdings on the river were now 46 acres, more or less.

      After taking possession of his latest purchase, Mr. Oberholtzer went ahead and put up a strictly first-class mill, equipped it with the most modern machinery and erected subsidiary buildings, dwelling houses, barns, sheds, etc., and in 1837 (Historical Society Report) built a dam just above the present one at the Lower Mill. He operated this saw mill successfully from 1837 until 1863 when he sold out the whole shooting match, land, buildings, mill, waterpower, dam and some chattels to Jacob Hespeler.

      The Oberholtzer Mill and the mill machinery were purchased by Lewis Kribs and by him, removed to Forbes Street where it was operated by him and later by his son, William A. Kribs, until 1904, and then it was again moved, this time to the Avenue Street Factory - now Simplicity Products. The Mill was operated at this site for many years, until Mr. Kribs started making Washing Machines. He then discontinued sawing and the building was converted into storage space.

      And if you are interested in the subject and can gain "Simplicity's" consent, you can still see the huge hewn beams that Oberholtzer used in the frame of his second saw mill.

      Mr. Oberholtzer was 76 years old when he sold out to Jacob Hespeler at the Lower Mill and the remaining years of his life he lived in the house on the south side of the front road to Galt, immediately east of the Roos Cooper shop which some may recall as "The Log Cabin".

      As to the children of Joseph Oberholtzer, I have no information but I do know that on the 17th day of June, 1851, he was married to Margaret Wiffler, widow of Carl Wiffler, the Blacksmith, by James Spencer, a Minister of the Wesleyan-Methodist Church in Canada in the presence of Frances Harrison and Mary Ann Howes.

      Mrs. Wiffler, whose maiden name was Allemang, had three children; Charles who learned the Waggon Making trade, Catharine who married Gideon Ochs and Elizabeth who never married, but for many years worked as a seam-stress. By that I mean she went to a house where the Ladies had materials they wanted made up into dresses; and her work was, in the main, with the top notch families in the district hereabouts. She made, for instance, most of the gowns for the daughters of Jacob Hespeler, and she kept little bits of pretty-much all the nice materials she worked with and years after when Minnie Ochs, her Niece, was building a crazy patch quilt, Aunt Lizzie brought her down a lot of these patches and went over them telling what dress this was from, that this other patch was of the dress that Miss Hespeler wore to someone's wedding, etc. All that sort of history. It must have made a fine afternoon of it for Minnie.

      Le Rue De Commerce, Other Times Other Customs Other Days Other Ways, Winfield Brewster 1954


      About the year 1840, the third saw-mill in New Hope was erected. It was located just below the Forbes Mill site by a partnership composed of another great-grandfather of the write, the late Cornelius Pannebecker, and one Joseph Oberholtzer, whose sister was married to Bergy.

      Cornelius Pannebecker arrived from Montgomery County, Pa. in 1810 and was the son of a Mennonite minister who lived on the Schuylkill River at the present site of Spring City. Joseph Oberholtzer was evidently a native of the same county in Pennsylvania and located here probably in 1826 and information in hand also points to his having been the son of a Mennonite preacher. The family was of Swiss descent, while Pannebecker was descended from a Dutch family which had migrated for a few years into Germany about Kriegaheim near Worms, before participating in the exodus of Quakers and Mennonites to Pennsylvania, about the year 1700.

      It would appear that Bergy's first saw-mill was too far up the river and the partnership mill too far downstream to quite meet the tastes or requirements of the times, for within a few years Cornelius Oberholtzer erected the fourth saw-mill about midway between these two points, and with it a small foundry or shop, probably for mill repairs etc. Some particulars of this fourth mill are available.

      It continued in operation until sometime in 1864, although it evidently changed ownership, September 27th, 1863, to a partnership composed of George Randall, then of Berlin, Herbert M. Farr of Waterloo and Shubel H. Randall of New Hampshire, the purchase price according to the Galt Reporter files of that time being $8,000. The old mill was used to saw the timber and lumber for the Randall-Farr Woolen Mills, two stone structures erected in 1864, but as the saw-carriage had capacity only for logs up to 16 feet in length, the large timbers for the new Woolen Mills had to be hewn and were not sawn. It had been said with perhaps some little exaggeration, that the process of sawing logs of large diameter with the vertically operated drag-saw then in use was so slow that the operator after starting to log, had time to walk up town a half mile or more to the hotel, for liquid refreshments and return before the cut was finished.

      The timbers of white-pine, taken out of this Oberholtzer mill when the woolen-mill buildings crowded it out of its place were used in the construction of the Lewis Kribs saw-mills which in 1865 were located close to the old public school site. When Mr. W. A. Kribs erected his present manufacturing buildings alongside the G. T. R. lines in 1902, these same old timbers were for the third time used and are at the time of writing, as sound as when first used in 1840.3a

      3aTenth Annual Report of the Waterloo Historical Society, 1922, pages 213 - 224.

  • Sources 
    1. [S32] News - Herald of Truth, June, 1868 - Death Notice of Joseph Oberholzer.

    2. [S7] News - ON, Waterloo, Kitchener - Berliner Journal (1859-1917), 5 Mar 1868.
      Joseph Oberholtzer died 23 Feb 1868 near Hespeler, 81 yrs, 2 mths, 5 days.

    3. [S1837] Census - ON, Waterloo, Hespeler - 1861, Div. 1 Page 8.

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 18 Dec 1786 - , Pennsylvania, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - mill owner - - Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - Saw Miller - 1861 - Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - Christian - 1861 - Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 23 Feb 1868 - Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth