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

Abraham Erb[1, 2, 3]

Male 1772 - 1830  (58 years)

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  • Name Abraham Erb 
    Born 12 Jul 1772  Warwick Twp., Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Gender Male 
    Historic Building Abt 1812  172 King St. S., Waterloo, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    Erb Kumpf 
    • The original portion of the Erb-Kumpf House was built around 1812 by Abraham Erb, the founder of Waterloo, making it one of Waterloo's oldest homes. It was a three-bay structure facing a mill situated near the south-west corner of King and Erb Streets.
      Abraham Erb came from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1806 and settled on Lots 14 and 15 of the German Company Tract, land which now comprises the central business district of Waterloo. He established a sawmill on Beaver (Laurel) Creek in 1808 and a grist mill in 1816. In 1828, he sold his mills and a considerable quantity of land to Jacob C. Snider.
      Magdalene Erb sold the home to Barnabas Devitt, her adopted son, in 1835. His son Benjamin served as Mayor of Waterloo from 1881 to 1883.
      An addition to the house was probably built by Devitt in 1849. A slight hump in the roof on the north side indicates the location at which it joins the original structure. The application of a vertical board and clapboard which does not align is further evidence that it was added at a later date. The second addition, probably built by Hoffman around 1855, included the two-storey verandah at the front.

      Elias Snider acquired the home and later sold it to Christian Kumpf in 1869. Kumpf was a newspaper owner, Mayor of Waterloo from 1879-1880, as well as Postmaster for 42 years. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Dominion Life Assurance Company in 1889. His son Ford, who became affectionately known as "Mr. Waterloo", was born in the home in 1877 and assumed ownership in 1899. One of the community's most public-spirited citizens, he served as Treasurer of Waterloo and Clerk/Manager of the Water and Light Commission. He was President of the Waterloo Red Cross Society and The Dominion Life Assurance Company.
      At present, the house demonstrates a mixture of architectural styles. Among its Georgian characteristics is the six-over-six window pane arrangement. The facade, with its two wings, treillage, Gothic barge board and Doric columns, reflects the Regency influence.
      In 1979, the home was sold to a law firm which has maintained the integrity of the exterior. A third addition in keeping with the style of the building has since been constructed.1a

      1aDesignated Properties www. waterloo.ca
    Historic Building 1816  13 King St. S., Waterloo, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Commonly referred to as the "old mill", Abraham Erb's original Union Mills was built in 1816 at 13 King Street South and had been in the Snider family since 1861. The building was demolished in 1927. The Snider Mill continued at 45 Erb Street West, until its 1958 demolition.

      Photograph Waterloo Pubic Library Digital Collection
    Abraham Erb's Mill
    Abraham Erb's Mill
    Commonly referred to as the "old mill", Abraham Erb's original Union Mills was built in 1816 at 13 King Street South and had been in the Snider family since 1861. The building was demolished in 1927. The Snider Mill continued at 45 Erb Street West, until its 1958 demolition.
    Public Service 1822  Waterloo Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [6
    Tax Collector - Waterloo Township 
    Died 6 Sep 1830  Waterloo City, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Land Bef 1831  Waterloo Township - German Company Tract Lot 014, Waterloo County, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location  [7
    Land Bef 1831  Waterloo Township - German Company Tract Lot 015, Waterloo County, Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location  [7
    Hall of Fame - Waterloo Region Bef 2012  , Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [8
    Interesting education, public service, pioneer, story, building 
    Eby ID Number 00032-2834 
    Buried First Mennonite Cemetery, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [9
    Person ID I1442  Generations
    Last Modified 12 Jun 2019 

    Father Christian Erb,   b. Oct 1734, Warwick Twp., Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Jul 1810, Doon (Kitchener), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 75 years) 
    Mother Maria Scherch,   b. 1737, Of, Warwick Twp., Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 17 Aug 1814, Doon (Kitchener), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 77 years) 
    Married 1756  [10, 11
    Family ID F1128  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Magdalena Erb,   b. 3 Mar 1780, Warwick Twp., Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Jul 1858  (Age 78 years) 
    Married May 1804  [1, 4
    Children 
     1. Benjamin Erb,   b. 3 Jan 1807,   d. 29 Sep 1814, Waterloo, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 7 years)
     2. Rachel Winson,   b. 23 May 1827,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified 14 Jun 2019 
    Family ID F472  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 12 Jul 1772 - Warwick Twp., Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsHistoric Building - Erb Kumpf - Abt 1812 - 172 King St. S., Waterloo, Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsHistoric Building - 1816 - 13 King St. S., Waterloo, Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsPublic Service - Tax Collector - Waterloo Township - 1822 - Waterloo Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 6 Sep 1830 - Waterloo City, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsLand - Bef 1831 - Waterloo Township - German Company Tract Lot 015, Waterloo County, Ontario Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsHall of Fame - Waterloo Region - Bef 2012 - , Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - First Mennonite Cemetery, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Notes 
    • Abraham Erb, "the fourth son of Christian and Maria (Scherch) Erb, was born July 12th, 1772. He was married to Magdalena, daughter of John and Anna Erb, in May, 1804. She was born March 3rd, 1780, and died July 25th, 1858. In 1806 they, in company with Jacob Schneider and family, Christian Schneider and family, Jacob Erb and family, Simon Cress and family, Widow Brech and family, and others, forty-eight persons in all, moved to Canada and arrived in safety at Preston where John Erb had settled the year previously.

      Old Abraham Erb pushed his way northward on the west side of the Grand River to where now the beautiful town of Waterloo is situated. His first clearing was a little to the south where now the Union Mills are situated. He soon became the possessor of 900 acres of land and in a few years after his arrival he erected a saw mill, as his brother John had done several years previously. In 1816 he erected a grist mill; this and his brother's at Preston proved to be the only mills in the township.

      Abraham Erb had but one child, a son named Benjamin who was born January 3rd, 1807, and died in Waterloo, September 29th, 1814. He died September 6th, 1830. After Mr. Erb's death, his widow was married to Bishop Benjamin Eby. Abraham Erb and his wife had adopted two children whom they raised; one was the late Barnabas Devitt (see Barnabas Devitt's family) of Waterloo, and the other was Rachel Winson, born May 23rd, 1827. She was married to Jacob Bomberger. They resided on a beautiful farm near Strasburg, Waterloo County, Ontario, but not living happy together, they separated, he went to the Middle States and she was again married and resided between New Hamburg and Shakespeare where she raised a numerous family."

      Eby, Ezra E. (1895). A biographical history of Waterloo township and other townships of the county: being a history of the early settlers and their descendants, mostly all of Pennsylvania Dutch origin: as also much other unpublished historical information chiefly of a local character. Berlin [Kitchener, Ont.]: [s.n.].

      ___________________________

      ERB, ABRAHAM, miller; b. 12 July 1772 in Warwick Township, Pa, fourth son of Christian Erb and Maria Scherch; m. May 1804 Magdalena Erb in Lancaster County, Pa; d. 6 Sept. 1830 in Waterloo, Upper Canada.

      The history of Waterloo County, Ontario, is much indebted to two Mennonite brothers, Abraham and John Erb, who in the early 19th century decided to leave Pennsylvania in search of new opportunity in the wilderness of Upper Canada. Both Abraham and John, as well as two other Erbs (a brother Jacob and a cousin Daniel), were founding members of the German Company, established in Lancaster County in 1803 to purchase a 60,000-acre tract of land in that part of Upper Canada later known as Waterloo County [see Samuel D. Betzner*]. In 1806 Abraham and a group of 48 other Mennonites left Pennsylvania for the German Company tract. Stopping briefly at the home of his elder brother John, who had immigrated a year earlier and founded the settlement of Preston (Cambridge), Abraham journeyed a dozen miles farther north.

      The later emergence of the village of Waterloo was to occur within the confines of land held by Abraham Erb. He had acquired his land prior to his departure, having purchased a large tract from Jacob and Daniel Erb on 20 July 1805. His holdings of 900 acres included several watercourses, which provided waterpower for mills. As early as 1808 he is recorded as having constructed a saw-mill. In 1816 he expanded his operation to include a grist-mill. It is reported that this mill and his brother John's in Preston were the only two in the region north of Dundas.
      Abraham's role in the founding of Waterloo appears to have been important in two areas - early industry and pioneer education. With respect to industry, he was personally responsible for giving accommodation, training, or employment to a considerable number of Pennsylvania immigrants who found their way to his doorstep in the early part of the century. Among the prominent people who engaged themselves to work in some capacity in his enterprises were cooper Joseph Bauman and millers Jacob S. Shoemaker and Andrew Groff. That the grist-mill was a busy social gathering-place is shown by one account, according to which Erb had erected a large fireplace and installed a wooden floor and some rough furniture in the basement of the mill to accommodate farmers who would stay overnight (there were as yet no hotels in the area) while awaiting the conversion of their grain to grist.

      The earliest program of education in this pioneer region received an impetus from Abraham Erb, who played a prominent role in the building of the first school in 1820. In his will, dated 3 Sept. 1829, he left a fund for the use of certain schools, to be administered by trustees appointed by the Mennonite Society of Waterloo Township, the interest to be used "for the benefit and education of the poor and needy children, and such as the trustees shall think proper."

      The early growth of the village of Waterloo was slow, undoubtedly impeded by the fact that Abraham Erb did not wish to sell his property, preferring to keep it for his heirs. A major portion of the land and of his business enterprise went out of the family when, on 1 Sept. 1829, Erb sold his sawmill and flour-mill to Jacob C. Snider. A comparatively short but energetic career ended with Erb's death on 6 Sept. 1830. He and his wife Magdalena had had one child, who died at the age of seven; they also adopted two others, one of whom, Barnabas Devitt, became a successful miller in nearby Bridgeport (Kitchener). After Abraham's death Magdalena married Mennonite bishop Benjamin Eby*.

      Michael S. Bird

      AO, Hist. plaque descriptions, "John Erb, 1764-1832, founder of Preston," 20 June 1960. Waterloo Hist. Soc. (Kitchener, Ont.), Abraham Erb, day-book, 1822-26. Valley of Six Nations (Johnston). E. E. Eby, A biographical history of Waterloo Township . . . (2v., Berlin [Kitchener], Ont., 1895-96); repub. as E. E. Eby and J. B. Snyder, A biographical history of early settlers and their descendants in Waterloo Township, with Supplement, ed. E. D. Weber (Kitchener, 1971). L. J. Burkholder, A brief history of the Mennonites in Ontario (n.p., 1935). F. H. Epp, Mennonites in Canada, 1786-1920: the history of a separate people (Toronto, 1974). G. E. Reaman, The trail of the black walnut (Toronto, 1957). W. V. Uttley, A history of Kitchener, Ontario (Kitchener, 1937; repr. [Waterloo, Ont., 1975]). W. H. Breithaupt, "Waterloo County history," "The settlement of Waterloo County," and "First settlements of Pennsylvania Mennonites in Upper Canada," OH, 17 (1919): 43-47; 22 (1925): 14-17; and 23 (1926): 8-14; "Museum report," "Waterloo County millers," and "Historical notes on the Grand River," Waterloo Hist. Soc., Annual report (Waterloo), 1927: 381-84; 1928: 78-80; 1930: 219-29. I. C. Bricker, "The first settlement in central western Ontario," OH, 30 (1934): 58-65. Mabel Dunham, "A short history of the new city of Waterloo," Waterloo Hist. Soc., Annual report (Kitchener), 1947: 34-38. M. A. Johnston, "A brief history of elementary education in the city of Waterloo," Waterloo Hist. Soc., Annual report, 1965: 56-68. A. B. Sherk, "The Pennsylvania Germans in Waterloo County," OH, 7 (1906): 98-109. E. W. B. Snider, "Waterloo County forests and primitive economics," Waterloo Hist. Soc., Annual report, 1918: 14-36. C. W. Wells, "A historical sketch of the town of Waterloo, Ontario," Waterloo Hist. Soc., Annual report, 1928: 22-67.

      Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online 2000 University of Toronto/Université Laval

      ______________________


      Abraham Erb was the first settler in what is now the Town of Waterloo, coming from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1806.

      He purchased 900 acres of land that was not considered valuable, as much of it was low-lying cedar swamp, marshy and uninviting. However, notwithstanding that his brother John advised him to the contrary, Abraham Erb located on this property, and this beginning later developed into the present Town of Waterloo.

      The County Registry Office records show that Richard Beasley sold a block of land to Daniel and Jacob Erb in 1805 as agents of the German Company. This was the bulk of Waterloo Township, 60,000 acres, for which 10,000 Pounds were paid, or at the rate of 81 1/10 cents per acre, and they, in turn, sold Abraham Erb 448 acres on July 20th. 1805, this being part of the site of the Town of Waterloo.

      Those of us, who have spent many years in the town, are familiar with the fact that the land is low-lying for the residents have been moving the hills into the swamps for over one hundred years, in order to bring the lots up to a level where they could be sufficiently drained for residential or other purposes, and many a building has its foundations on oak planks, resting on quicksand or black swamp muck.

      Not so many years ago, in excavating for a sewer on King Street, a block south of the original Abraham Erb mill, an old corduroy road made of elm logs was encountered, eight to ten feet below the present street level; also in October, this year, (1928), on lower King Street, cedar stumps, large pieces of elm wood, and good samples of peat were brought up from a depth of nine to ten feet below the present surface.

      Abraham Erb erected a saw mill, and later, in 1816, a grist mill , propelled by water with the old-fashioned overshot wheel. The power was secured by making a dam on Laurel Creek, and for many years known as the Waterloo dam, and more recently as Silver Lake since it was acquired and is now a part of the Waterloo Park System.

      When he erected his mill in 1816, Abraham Erb built a large fireplace in the basement and added a wooden floor and some rough furniture, making this part of the mill comfortable and inviting, especially on cold wintry days when a log was burning on the hearth. The fireplace was made of brick and massive field stone, and was built into the foundation, with an opening five feet wide and proportionately deep and high.

      Such fireplaces were common in those days, as stoves had not been invented, and all cooking and heating of houses was done by means of fireplaces. It was not strange that Abraham Erb should have built a fireplace in his mill, for it proved to be a necessity.

      As this mill was one of the first in this section of the country, farmers had to bring their grain long distances to be ground into flour. Even if the distance was not great, a trip over poor trails, and over corduroy roads through swamps was a difficult one and slow as well, for oxen were used for teaming. Consequently, a trip to the mill was often a matter of two or three days, instead of that number of hours in the present age of good roads and rapid transit.

      While waiting for his grist the farmer lounged about the basement where it was warm and comfortable, and where he met his friends, the other farmers, so that it became a social centre, and a business mart as well, for many business trades were made there and many things discussed. They warmed their victuals and made coffee at the fireplace, and at night wrapped themselves in their blankets and slept on the floor, or on the bags of bran, or anywhere so long as they received the warmth of the fire place.

      They had to camp in the mill for there were no hotels then; during their stay in the mill settlement, the farmers' oxen were comfortably stabled in a building which stood on the site now occupied by the block of stores on the south side of Erb Street and East side of King Street, directly opposite the Bank of Montreal .

      Dundas wharf was the nearest shipping point in the old days, and all produce had to be teamed by oxen to that point, while salt and other supplies were brought back.

      Until mills were established in Waterloo County, all wheat had to be taken to the mill at Dundas to be ground, and many a trip was made on horseback with part of a bag of grain carried on the horse's back, in order to relieve more quickly the shortage in the forest home away back in the Waterloo Settlement.

      When Abraham Erb's mill was taken down and removed in 1927, after being in continuous use for 111 years, most of the foundations were blasted and the stone hauled away. I believe, however, that part of the foundation and the old fireplace was left in place and covered over with mother earth, an invisible monument to the courage, energy and enterprise of the first settler and founder of Waterloo, Abraham Erb.

      After the building of the mill, others were anxious to join the settlement to carry on various enterprises, but Abraham Erb was reluctant to parcel out his land in small lots, and settlement was therefore retarded.

      The Waterloo Historical Society is in possession of Abraham Erb's daybook, from 1822 to 1826. Most of the entries are in English, but some are in German. Values are denoted in pounds, shillings and pence, and a few in dollars and cents. This book was found about 1875 when tearing down a very old building. The workmen had discarded it amongst a heap of rubbish, and my father, the late Walter Wells, rescued it and thus preserved a valuable record.

      On September 1st, 1829, Abraham Erb transferred 240 acres of land including his saw-mill and flour-mill to Jacob C. Snider, who had moved from Pennsylvania to a farm a little west of the present town, and Mr. Snider, great-grandfather of Frederick W. Snider, who is now, with his partner, the owner of the same flour mill, carried on business here for many years.

      As the waterpower was not sufficient for his purposes, he installed a steam plant. As he then had more power than he required, he added a distillery to his other lines, and this branch of the business was carried on actively for a long time.

      His son Elias then rented the mill, and, as he objected to having the still, his father removed it to his own farm. Jacob C Snider transferred 320 acres to his son Elias in 1853, (see County Records), including the mill property and much of what is now the central part of town. A landmark for many years was a tall poplar tree which stood near the mill. It was said that early in the century a poplar switch was used to drive a team of horses from Pennsylvania, and, on his arrival, the driver planted the switch near the mill. It grew to be a very large tree, five feet or more in diameter, and for many years a heavy cable circled it several times as an anchor for a tall iron smokestack, the bark finally growing over the cable. The tree was cut down in the 90's to make way for street improvements, the tree having been planted before there was a street.

      The community had a very slow growth for three decades or more after Abraham Erb first located in the cedar swamp, for Jacob C. Snider, like his predecessor, was not anxious to sell his land in small lots to intending settlers. He had a large family and preferred holding his lands as an inheritance.

      Sixteenth Annual Report of the Waterloo Historical Society, 1928, A Historical Sketch of the Town of Waterloo, Ontario, Clayton W. Wells, L.D.S., D. D. S.

  • Sources 
    1. [S3] Book - Vol I A Biographical History of Waterloo Township and other townships of the county : being a history of the early settlers and their descendants, mostly all of Pennsylvania Dutch origin..., 629-630.

    2. [S3] Book - Vol I A Biographical History of Waterloo Township and other townships of the county : being a history of the early settlers and their descendants, mostly all of Pennsylvania Dutch origin..., 553.

    3. [S3] Book - Vol I A Biographical History of Waterloo Township and other townships of the county : being a history of the early settlers and their descendants, mostly all of Pennsylvania Dutch origin..., 341.

    4. [S3] Book - Vol I A Biographical History of Waterloo Township and other townships of the county : being a history of the early settlers and their descendants, mostly all of Pennsylvania Dutch origin..., 629.

    5. [S873] Wateloo City - designated properties list, Bean-Wright House.

    6. [S1449] Book - Grassroots Government Biographies of Waterloo Township Councillors.

    7. [S1322] Land - Founding Families of Waterloo Township 1800-1830, 24.

    8. [S220] Waterloo Region Hall of Fame Waterloo Region Hall of Fame.

    9. [S47] Cemetery - ON, Waterloo, Kitchener - First Mennonite CC#4507 Internet link First Mennonite Cemetery online.

    10. [S3] Book - Vol I A Biographical History of Waterloo Township and other townships of the county : being a history of the early settlers and their descendants, mostly all of Pennsylvania Dutch origin..., 615.

    11. [S3] Book - Vol I A Biographical History of Waterloo Township and other townships of the county : being a history of the early settlers and their descendants, mostly all of Pennsylvania Dutch origin..., 615-616.