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

Oliver S. "Willow King" Scheifele[1]

Male 1883 - 1933  (50 years)


Personal Information    |    Notes    |    Sources    |    Event Map    |    All    |    PDF

  • Name Oliver S. "Willow King" Scheifele 
    Born 18 Apr 1883  Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [2, 3, 4, 5, 6
    Gender Male 
    Business Waterloo City, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Willow King 
    Interesting suicide, story, business 
    Religion 1891  Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    Mennonite 
    Occupation 1901  Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Farmer Son 
    Occupation 1911  Conestogo, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Farmer 
    Religion 1911  Conestogo, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Mennonite 
    Misfortune 1933 
    committed suicide 
    Name O. S. Scheifele 
    Eby ID Number 00099-5556.7 
    Died 18 Apr 1933  Waterloo City, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Cause: suicide 
    Buried St. Matthews Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery, Conestogo, Woolwich, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I53708  Generations
    Last Modified 26 Jan 2020 

    Father Aaron G. Scheifele,   b. 6 Oct 1855, Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 Jan 1940, , Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 84 years) 
    Mother Angeline Stauffer,   b. 16 Dec 1852, Bridgeport (Kitchener), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 12 Oct 1915, Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 62 years) 
    Married 10 Aug 1875  [7
    Family ID F13892  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Laura Naomi Hought,   b. Aug 1888, Peel Twp., Wellington Co., Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 13 Jul 1979, , Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 90 years) 
    Children 
     1. Thelma Schiefele,   b. 10 Dec 1909, Conestogo, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 22 Jul 2004, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 94 years)
     2. William Schiefele,   b. Apr 1911, , Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
     3. John Morley Schiefele,   b. 24 Apr 1911, Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 12 Jun 1911, Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 0 years)
     4. James Garfield Scheifele,   b. 24 Apr 1911, Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 21 Oct 1911, Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 0 years)
     5. Audrey Scheifele,   b. 1914, , Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified 27 Jan 2020 
    Family ID F165478  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • Planting the seeds

      By Bob Vrbanac, Chronicle Staff

      We've all heard the story of how Abraham Erb's gristmill was Waterloo's first business and led to founding of the city.

      But did you know it was all a mistake? Erb was one of the Mennonite farmers who was attracted to the area from Pennsylvania because of the arable land.

      But when he arrived he found out the bottomland he owned was more than a little waterlogged. There was no way he could produce a decent crop.

      But the Beaver Creek, now known as Laurel Creek, did run through his property. It provided an excellent source of running water and lead to the construction of one of the area's first water-powered gristmills.

      Erb had no idea his little side project would become one of the best mill sites west of the Grand River, and farmers who needed their grain ground down to the flour of life would travel more than a day's journey to get in line with the others waiting for the service.

      That's just one of the stories on display at the City of Waterloo's newest exhibit celebrating the community's agrarian past called Agricultural Roots.

      "The grist mill formed the nucleus of the city and we grew out from there," said Karen VandenBrink, manager of heritage services for the city. "The exhibit starts out from our early origins and goes from there."

      And it's a colourful past. Have you heard of the story of the Willow King, who pioneered a novel solution to riverbank erosion that was patented and shipped around North America?

      Oliver Scheifele's revolutionary method of using willow branches to shore up the banks of waterways in 1921 might have been inspired by the willow trees he saw in Waterloo Park, said VandenBrink. He might have noticed how once a willow shoot was submerged in water it would quickly grow roots along its length and it would stabilize the earth around it.

      Scheifele came up with the idea of using hundreds of those poles interwined to hold riverbanks in place. He quickly won contracts with big players like Dominion Public Works, Ontario Highways and Canadian Pacific. He also branched out into the United States, winning contracts from the U.S. government to monitor the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, before opening an office in Buffalo.

      But the Great Depression seemed to affect his business like many others in 1931, and his enterprise began to struggle. He was down to working out of his own garage by 1933 and was fulfilling an order for London, Ont., to plant 4,000 willow shoots along the Thames River when tragedy struck.

      His wife became worried when he didn't show up for dinner on the night of April 18, 1933. She might have even had something special planned for his 50th birthday.

      She found him dead, and the official cause of death was suicide by gun shot to the head.

      Unfortunately, what could have been one of Waterloo's most interesting green businesses is now lost to the sands of time. His widow sold his business along with his patents, and his legacy was lost.

      VandenBrink said the only remnants of his business might be the willow trees that still populate Waterloo Park. "We think there are definite connections to the willows around Silver Lake," she said.

      While that provides some dramatic tension to the story of Waterloo's agricultural roots, there is still one business that continues to carry the city's banner into the world \emdash Ontario Seed Company.

      Founded in 1906 by Otto Herald as the Pioneer Canadian Seed Growers in Waterloo, it was bought by Jacob Uffelman in 1916 and his family continues to run the business at its King Street location in uptown Waterloo. "They still operate it today, and it still is a huge business," said VandenBrink.

      It is still one of the largest wholesale seed suppliers in Canada, she said, as Ontario Seed Company ships out more than 40 million packets of seeds a year.

      If you want to see why it's been so successful for more than 100 years, the exhibit has some of the early advertising and seed catalogue's that helped establish the roots of the company.

      To call it artwork would be an understatement as vibrant colours and mouthwatering vegetables dominate the original advertising. It is interesting to see the use of language used in the print ads, loaned to the City of Waterloo for display. All of them have words like "massive" and "giant" implying the high yields that farmers would get. "Everything is luscious looking," said VandenBrink.

      The exhibit Agricultural Roots is on until Mar. 1 at the museum located at Conestoga Mall. To see its special holiday hours visit www.waterloo.ca/museum.

      Planting the seeds. (2012). WaterlooChronicle.ca. Retrieved 17 November 2018, from https://www.waterloochronicle.ca/whatson-story/5891294-planting-the-seeds/

  • Sources 
    1. [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..., 224.

    2. [S177] Census - ON, Waterloo - 1901, Woolwich f-2 Page 1.

    3. [S148] Census - ON, Waterloo, Woolwich - 1901, Woolwich F-2 page 1.

    4. [S348] Census - ON, Waterloo, Woolwich - 1911, Div. 14 Page 1.

    5. [S1821] Census - ON, Waterloo, Woolwich - 1891, Div. 2 Page 19.

    6. [S2121] Census - ON, Waterloo, Woolwich - 1921, Sub Dist.. 13 Page 15.

    7. [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..., 523.

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 18 Apr 1883 - Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBusiness - Willow King - - Waterloo City, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsReligion - Mennonite - 1891 - Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - Farmer Son - 1901 - Woolwich Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - Farmer - 1911 - Conestogo, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsReligion - Mennonite - 1911 - Conestogo, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - Cause: suicide - 18 Apr 1933 - Waterloo City, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth