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

August Drechsler

Male 1821 - 1900  (79 years)

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  • Name August Drechsler 
    Born 1821  near, Halle, , Niedersachsen, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2, 3
    Gender Male 
    Birth 1827  , Prussia, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Occupation 1855  , Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Occupation 1861  Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Music Teacher 
    Religion 1861  Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    House of Industry and Refuge 1900  House of Industry and Refuge, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    The House of Industry and Refuge. In 1868, 141 acres was purchased on Frederick Street in Berlin (now Kitchener) and the house opened on June 15, 1869. The original building housed 100 and operated as an industrial farm, which raised crops and livestock. The residents worked for their keep if possible, those most did not. The House eventually became a strictly a residence of the aged and later relocated and renamed Sunnyside.
    Name August Drexler 
    Residence 1900  House of Industry and Refuge, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Eby ID Number Waterloo-26264 
    Died 17 Mar 1900  Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 3
    Cause: old age 
    Buried Mount Hope Cemetery, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I26264  Generations
    Last Modified 12 Jun 2019 

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 1821 - near, Halle, , Niedersachsen, Germany Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBirth - 1827 - , Prussia, Germany Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - musician - 1855 - , Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - Music Teacher - 1861 - Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsReligion - Lutheran - 1861 - Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsHouse of Industry and Refuge - 1900 - House of Industry and Refuge, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1900 - House of Industry and Refuge, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - Cause: old age - 17 Mar 1900 - Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Mount Hope Cemetery, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Notes 
    • August Drechsler, a violinist, who, for approximately 45 years wandered around this area for the most part barefoot and in slippers and in the lightest possible clothing, has finally come to rest. On Monday morning, he died in the poorhouse here, where he had lived for some years, at the age of 78 years. In addition to music, his favourite activity was translating from classical works. He used to get paper from printing houses and glued several sheets together, until the desired thickness was obtained. On this, he wrote a line of Greek at the top, and below that, the translation, line by line, in Latin, French, English and German, and in the most beautiful script possible. He was a polite, harmless human being, whom one had to like despite his peculiarities. He left his estate, consisting of approximately $60., to Mr. Jakob Hagey of Waterloo and his beloved violin to the latter's daughter. He was born in Saxony. - Translated by: Patricia J. Kauk November 4, 2005

      Berliner Journal 22 Mar 1900 pg 4 Col 3


      The following communications were read, viz: .....

      5th From Mr. August Drechsler, musician, asking the Council to provide suitable employment - (distributed to the member in printed form in English, German and French.)

      Journal of Proceedings and By-Laws of the Municpal Council of the County of Waterloo 1884



      W. H. Schmalz

      In the middle seventies a German approaching middle age came to Waterloo County and made his home among kindly disposed farmers, mostly in the neighborhood of Petersburg, St. Agatha and Wellesley. The man was August Drechsler. He proved to be a cultured man with exceptional gifts in music. He was a performer on the piano, organ and stringed instruments. The older he grew the more eccentric became his habits. He had few belongings outside of his violin, and he carried all with him wherever he went. He would make his home wherever he could, and in return for his keep he gave the children music lessons. He had a reticent and very sensitive nature, and never related how he came to settle in a foreign land It was rumored about, however, that Drechsler came from Leipzig, where he was an orchestral performer at the Royal Opera House. It was also whispered that he had a love affair and preferred to "forget" by emigrating to America. Here he hardly ever attempted any work outside of playing his beloved violin or viola (Braatsche, as he called the instrument) for the amusement of others, giving instructions, or occasionally playing for dances.

      Drechsler conceived the idea that by owning a string bass he would find more opportunity to broaden his art and widen the demand for his playing, as at that time the double bass was a rather rare instrument here. One fine day he took up his violin and bundle and walked to Hamilton to arrange for the purchase of such a mammoth fiddle. Arriving there, he called on the Grossman music firm and soon became the proud possessor of the coveted instrument. The load was too great for him to carry all together, so he trotted off with the bass on his back, meanwhile leaving his other belongings at Grossman's for safe keeping. Past Dundas, along the stone road, he carried his load and left it at a farmer's home where he felt it would be quite safe. Back. he went for his other possessions, the violin and bundle. These he carried on a good distance further, repeating the performance and relaying his trips until he reached home with violin, bundle and contra bass safely placed in his lodging house and feeling quite happy and satisfied. It was not related how long this trip took Drechsler, but it was no doubt a wearisome three days' toil.

      Age seemed to show in the appearance of this veteran, although almost to the last his step was firm, and he was never known to suffer from any illness. His hair and beard were white, the locks falling on his shoulders while his full beard was always his shoulders unkempt. Drechsler will no doubt be remembered by some of the older citizens as lie looked walking along the country roads, wearing in summer a long linen duster, large straw hat, and either barefooted or having under his feet a sort of sandal. A "dickie" served the purpose of a shirt, and he was truly an interesting figure.

      In 1886, when a Grand Saengerfest was to be held in Berlin Drechsler came to town and interviewed Prof. Theo. Zoellner requesting, if possible, to be allowed to play in the large orchestra. He was told that he could not be tolerated in his rags (Lumpen), and that before he could be accepted he would have to allow his friends to transform him. He consented. The first operation was a bath ; then the barber trimmed his hair and beard and his musical friends undertook to furnish him with shoes, socks, shirt, a suit of clothes, and a nifty black hat, all donated by various acquaintances. In the evening before the first rehearsal, a fine and distinguished looking old gentleman, wearing a Prince Albert coat, was seen on the street looking up in the direction of Concordia Hall, where the orchestra met for practice. It was none other than August Drechsler. The transformation was complete, but he felt rather uncomfortable. A member of the orchestra, who has this story to relate, took him in hand, piloted Drechsler to the hall, and there assigned him a seat among the first violins. The rehearsal was successful, and our old friend felt happy to be among a lot of musicians playing a part for which he had so often longed. He remained with the orchestra for some years, although not always a regular attendant. On one occasion he had not been at any of the rehearsals for several weeks, and when Professor Zoellner asked the reason for his absence, Drechsler coolly remarked that some friend had given him a lot of apple butter (Latwerg) and he wished first to dispose of it meaning that he was busy eating Latwerg morning, noon and night!

      His power of endurance was wonderful. The writer, who was always pleased to have a little private chat with Drechsler, often exchanged ideas on music with the old man, who was a profound admirer of stringed instruments. He did not like the blatant brass as produced by players in this country. It was too rough and harsh, and only in Germany could one acquire the correct technique with these instruments. One evening, coming from the practice hall, which was the old Gaukel Street rink, at eleven o'clock Drechsler and I parted on King Street. He turned westward and I asked him:" Wo gehen Sie hin ?" "Ei nach Welleslei," was the laconic reply. Imagine, if you can, an old man sitting down and playing for three straight hours, and then a midnight march of seventeen miles! On another occasion, when Drechsler accompanied the Zoellner orchestra to keep an he was missed on the return trip after engagement at Port Elgin, the train had left Walkerton. Two days later he turned up and stated he had found the railway coach too stuffy and at Walkerton decided to walk the rest of the distance. Such were the whims and caprices of our old musician friend.

      During the winter of the early nineties Drechsler spent most of his time in. Berlin and was at that time very much interested in writing, when not playing his violin. He needed a convenient space where he could spread his manuscripts before him and, above all, a warm room. The writer's old office afforded just such a place, as there was more than enough room at the public counter and it was here that Drechsler was permitted to do his work. Just what the work consisted of was never learned, but he was weeks at it and became quite familiar with his new surroundings. He wrote in hieroglyphics all his own and used black and red ink-the red, no doubt, to emphasize certain expressions or quotations. On being asked what language it was, Drechsler replied that it was his own language but that it read English. He guarded his manuscripts very carefully, and whatever was done with his voluminous writings, or to what use they were put, is not known.

      Our old friend spoke German to those who could speak the language well, as he preferred his mother tongue, but when it came to the writing of letters he used the English language, and from the two following specimens will be seen how accurate he was at all times in expressing himself. The letters show his extreme eccentricity, his love for music, and hint at his Saxon dialect, which was always very pronounced in conversing with him in German. He makes an explanation at the end of one of the letters as to the meaning of certain words which he calls "grapical (graphical) innovations."

      June, 1890.


      My state of health has now begun to be so precarious dat I feel myself obliged to make to you de proposal dat I play on 1st of July only for de ball and not for de concert, in order to be dat night quite healty, wakeful, mindful & vigorous and so to be able & reliable to play my viola part or parts quite orderly, correctly & vigorously and after dat to be able to march several miles out of town in order to sleep in a real bed dere and remain dereby healty.

      Please write your answer and send it to St. Agatha as soon as convenient, because it would be a very wrong tought about me, dat I would go on dat day to Berlin unemployed & unengaged, be it for pleasure's or for curiosity's sake, for I hate even to walk along in a trong of merry, frivolous, idle males & females, who seek merely to enjoy pleasures, excitements, frivolities, etc.


      Notwithstanding if I would not propose not to play in dis concert if I were dere de only one good & reliable viola player but I hear & I know dat very many excellent players & real musicians who reside out of de country, are appointed to work for de concert, and dat to dese gentlemen also belongs an excellent viola (& violin) player who is appointed to play de viola in it. So and dere fore I concluded or conjectured or presumed that it may amount to only little or very little difference if I be absent or if I be present and (what is to be added) if I play quite well wid him (in de orchester). So you cannot be reasonably angry by my proposal.

      Grapical innovations.

      b-t ; d-th softly pronounced.

      June, 1890.

      Sir : When I asked you how much I would get for de concert, you answered me : two or tree dollars. Now to get no more dan two dollars for it I found far too little for my many rehearsals whereto I came often from afar & wherefrom I went sometimes far away. Indeed several days later you have told me dat for de times of employment I am lodged in a hotel like any oder foreigner. But I have considered : Whatfore shall I live at so dear expense of de committee (& in consequence dereof get so little cash money in de pocket) ? where I can take my meals by self-pay far cheaper outside of Berlin (but not far from it) in de house of a befriended farmer, and especially whatfore shall be paid for me 25 cents for a bed one night now dat it is high summer and derefore dat certainly now I can sleep comfortably enough in a barren dere supossing dat he may get unexpectedly to dat time well befriended, related or honoured visitors. After having experienced for your sake, for de saturday rehearsals sake very uncomfortable nights I will now positively not at all dat any quarter dollar be paid for a bed for me, for I can at least now sleep far cheaper. Derefore in myself paying de boarding I charge you four & a half dollars for playing in concert & tree dollars for playing to de ball, but as to de orchestral street parade I wish dat I be dispensed of participation of it for bodily quality's sake. Besides I have to say dat I go to de celebration not in de least degree for enjoying pleasure, but only for needing & gaining money and dat I would be far more pleased, if I were ordered now by a farmer to pick up potatoe bogs day by day dan to play & to sweat & to spoil de eyes by artificial light in a crowded hall wid closed doors & windows & dereby to risk to become very sick after dat.


      After being in the orchestra some years he relapsed into his old mode of life. His hair grew longer and whiter, his beard more straggly, and his general appearance and habits were such that he was no longer welcomed by his former musical associates. The writer does not know much about the close of this old gentleman's career. Suffice it to say that he died in the Old People's Home and his remains found repose in the burial ground of that institution.

      Waterloo Historical Society Annual Volume


      Drexler Dead - The Wandering Musician Will Roam No More -

      August Drexler, known around this vicinity as "Old Drexler", the wandering violin player, is dead. His troubles have ceased having departed this life on Saturday at the House of Refuge at the advanced age of 79 years. With his long white duster, old-fashioned coat and slippers, and silvery locks he had been a familiar figure to the people of this vicinity for many years.

      August Drexler was born near Halle, Germany, of poor parents. He studied music, becoming a master in that line, but his ambition was to become a physician. By playing the violin at dances and different entertainments he was able to save enough money to secure the needed education but at the State examinations he failed. The law required a candidate who failed, to start from the very beginning again and this was next to impossible for poor Drexler. He was then between 30 and 40 years of age. The shock left a trace on his mind. He came to Canada, direct to Preston, and from that day to this has been "a wanderer on the face of the earth". He has never had a place he could call home. His trusty violin earned him his livelihood and he has kept up his wanderings from place to place in this vicinity for over forty years. Prof Zoellner has often had him play at his entertainments, the first time being on the occasion of the International Saengerfest held in Berlin in 1886. He then played the violin and in future entertainments played the viola or tenor violin.

      For the past two years he has been an inmate of the House of Refuge. Life for "old Drexler" has been a sad failure, but it is only with the kindest of feelings that he will be regarded by the people among whom he has for so many weary years trod life's rough and uneven journey.

      The funeral took place on Monday afternoon from the House of Refuge to Mount Hope Cemetery for interment. Some time before his death the veteran musician deposited money in the bank payable to the order of Mr. J.B. Hagey, of Waterloo, which was utilized in giving him a decent burial.3a

      3aWaterloo-Telegraph Mar 22 1900 pg 1

  • Sources 
    1. [S7] News - ON, Waterloo, Kitchener - Berliner Journal (1859-1917), Obituary of August Drechsler - 22 Mar 1900 pg 3 Col 3.

    2. [S915] Census - ON, Waterloo, Woolwich - 1861, Township of Woolwich 1861 Div. 6 Page 55.

    3. [S713] Vit - ON - Death Registration, death certificate 26926 (1900), August Drexler.
      August Drexler, d. 17 Mar 1900 House of R & I, aged 78, musician, b. Germany, cause: old age, Lutheran