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

Levi Wissler[1, 2]

Male Abt 1818 - Yes, date unknown

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  • Name Levi Wissler 
    Born Abt 1818  Clay Twp., Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Eby ID Number 00031-2495.10 
    Died Yes, date unknown 
    Person ID I21301  Generations
    Last Modified 12 May 2024 

    Father Jacob Wissler,   b. 12 Nov 1776, Clay Twp., Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 Apr 1853, Clay Twp., Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 76 years) 
    Mother Anna Eby,   b. 9 Sep 1777, , Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Apr 1829  (Age 51 years) 
    Married 25 Mar 1800  [1, 2
    Family ID F3771  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • In the three years, from the spring of 1842 to 1845, the enterprise of Charles Allan and his partners had given Elora a good start, but no sooner was their business established than a formidable rival appeared in Sem Wissler, the founder of Salem, a village not more than a mile distant from Elora.

      Sem Wissler was born in Clay Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on the 21st of March, 1819. He was the youngest in the family of Jacob Wissler and his wile Anna Eby; and a descendant of a Jacob Wissler and his wife who emigrated from Switzerland and settled in Pennsylvania in the year 1720 Sem Wissler's father, Jacob Wissler, was one of the many Germans from Pennsylvania, who, during the first few years of the 19th Century bought land in Waterloo County, 'Ontario. Between 1802 and 1805 Jacob Wissler bought over 7000 acres in the Township of Waterloo, but although many years later he sent several of his family to Canada, he remained in Pennsylvania, where he lived all his life on the same farm. With the exception of two farms, he gradually sold all the land he had bought in Canada at a handsome profit.

      In 1834 the father gave the two farms, which he had reserved, to his son John who had learned the business of a tanner. John Wissler came to Waterloo township in 1834 and on the west bank of the Grand River, about two miles north from the village of Bridgeport he built a tannery long known as Eagle Tannery, and subsequently built a large brick dwelling for himself and a number of homes for his workmen. Here he carried on a large and profitable business, having, besides Eagle Tannery, a store, saddler shops, shoe shop, and farm.

      In 1837 his brother Levi came from Pennyslvania and entered into partnership with him, remaining four years. On the 24th of August 1839 Sem Wissler came to Eagle Tannery and worked for his brothers until 1841. His father was anxious that he should return home and take the homestead but he preferred to remain in Canada. On the 4th of May, 1841, he received $2,650 from his father and bought the interest of his brother Levi in the business at Eagle Tannery. Levi then returned to Pennsylvania and received the old homestead from his father. In 1845 a sister, Mary, and her husband Levi Erb, came to Canada and Mr. Erb, being a currier by trade, was at once taken into the firm.

      In 1841 Jane Robertson, a Scotch lassie of fourteen years of age, came to Eagle Tannery to nurse John Wissler's children, and being clever and pretty, with fair hair and rosy cheeks she at once became a great favorite with John Wissler and his wife. Jane Robertson was a daughter of John Robertson and his wife Janet Harvey and was born on October 15th, 1826, at Largie, in the parish of Insch, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. About 1830 her father died, leaving her mother and three children. In the spring of 1837 her mother married James Sims and they all sailed for Canada. The following winter was spent at the home of her aunt, Mrs. Arthur Walker, on their farm, lot 12, on the 16th concession of Upper Nichol, which is on the Owen Sound Road, north of Fergus. In the spring of 1838 they moved to Galt and in the fall of that year Mr. Sims took up a farm near Hawkesville. After this Jane Robertson lived partly at home, sometimes with Mrs. Arthur Walker and sometimes with the Rev. Alex. Gardiner, minister of St. Andrew's Church in Fergus, who had been appointed her guardian by the Court, in Scotland. But in 1841 the Rev. Alex. Gardiner died and Jane Robertson went to Eagle Tannery to nurse John Wissler's children.

      The reader may ask, what has all this to do with Salem? And yet it will be seen that had there been no Jane .Robertson, if she had not had her aunt to visit, and if her aunt, Mrs. Arthur Walker, had not lived north of Fergus, the chances are that there would have been no Salem.

      Sem Wissler and Jane Robertson were married on the 6th of August, 1843 and after that when Mrs. Wissler visited her aunt, Mrs. Arthur Walker, she was accompanied by her husband. On his different trips through Bon accord Sem Wissler saw several opportunities for developing the water power on the Irvine River and with that keen eye tor business which always distinguished him he saw that in the south west end of Mr. Keith's farm with. its waiter power and timber, money could be made. For in the neighborhood of Eagle tannery tan bark was becoming scarce and the firm was beginning to look for a suitable place in which to start a new tannery.

      On the 28th of October 1844 Sem Wissler brought his brother John to look over the situation. Evidently John Wissler was favorably impressed with what he saw for that same day he wrote offering to buy lot number 16 and the west half of lot 17, on the 11th concession of Upper Nichol for $700.

      In his reply Jasper T. Gilkison wrote on the 31st of October: "I am-not very anxious to dispose of these lots of land, but as I understand it is your intention to improve them and erect a tannery, and as I am desirous of promoting the prosperity of the township I will therefore sell you 100 acres in lot 16, and 58 acres in lot 17, for 25 shillings ($5.00) per acre; 100 pounds to be paid down and the remainder, 97 pounds 10 shillings, in two equal payments at 12 and 18 months," - which offer was accepted.

      Sem Wissler then completed an arrangement he had made with Mr. Keith (see page 86) and exchanged on terms that were mutually advantageous, the north east half of lot 16 for the south west half of lot 15, arid on this the principal part of Salem now stands. He then hired Robert Barkwell and James Longman to clear part of the land, which was then a dense and unbroken forest, and to erect a log shanty with a hemlock bark roof for himself and family.

      On a bright summer morning, the 9th of June, 1845, Sem Wissler with his wife and child, now Mr. J. R. Wissler, who was then nine months old, moved to the Township of Nichol and took up their residence in the log shanty prepared for them, and Mr. Wissler called his place Salem. For sixteen months they lived in this log house which was situated on the same site as he afterwards built his stone residence, and which is now owned by his son, Henry Wissler. For a cellar Mrs. Wissler used that small cave in the limestone rock which is a little east of the smaller bridge now crossing the Irvine.

      During the first season he built the dam, the flume, the saw-mill, and part of the tannery. In 1846 the tannery, which was a building 40 feet by 120 feet with basement of stone and upper storey and attic of frame, was completed, part of this large building was fitted up for a dwelling, part was used as a store another part for a shoe shop, and the rest for a tannery; and in the mechanical construction of his buildings, water wheels and other machinery, his principal adviser and assistant was John Keith, from whom he had purchased the land and waterpower.

      From the very commencement there was a great trade done in Salem, The tannery and saw mill were worked to their utmost capacity, the general store did a large business and in the shoe shop from fifteen to twenty shoemakers were constantly employed.

      Mr. Wissler had great business ability; he successfully managed his large business with little apparent effort, and as is the case with all strong characters he made no fuss about it, but did it quietly.

      Such was the beginning of Salem.

      The Early History of Elora, Ontario and Vicinity / John Robert Connon; Elora, 1906

  • 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..., 571.

    2. [S10] Book - Vol II 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..., 671.

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - Abt 1818 - Clay Twp., Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania Link to Google Earth
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