The German in Canada

H. H. Miller July 1 1908

The German in Canada

H. H. Miller July 1 1908

The German in Canada

Wherever he is Found he is Industrious, Thrifty, Enterprising and EconomicalCharacteristics of the Men who Have Won Distinction in Various Lines of Endeavor —The Part These Settlers are Playing in the Prosperity and Progress of the Dominion.

H. H. Miller


“ I do not ask the Immigrants from our parent isles to forget the dear land of their birth across the ocean—far from itThe man that has ceased to love his native soil will never be true to his adopted country. But I do call upon them to merge all distinctions under the sweet and honored name of Canadian, representing, as it does, the land of their adoption —the home of their choice-and with many of us, the birthplace of those that are nearest and dearest round our own firesides, and probably the last resting place of their and our bones." REV. DR. McCAUL.

IN these days when our politicians are discussing the all important matter of immigration and the great question so

vitally affecting the foundation work of our Canadian nationality is being seriously considered by our people generally, are not some of us inclined to too hastily and thoughtlessly take it for granted that the whole work of our country's upbuilding to date has been done by those of English. Scotch, Irish or French birth or descent? As an evidence that such is not altogether the fact I beg to call attention to the splendid work that German-Canadians have done and are doing for Canada.

When I speak of the German settler in Canada, I speak of him as I have met him and known him in my own Province of () hitario. I know that the German settler in

'Canada has not played the very important part in the discovery of the country and in the laying of the foundations of the country that has been played by our French-Canadian friends ; yet I do contend that the German settler in Canada has taken, is taking and is likely to take a much greater part in the development and progress of Canada than most of our Canadian people who have not come into immediate contact with him have any idea of. The earliest settlement of German people in the Province of Ontario was, I think, in the Niagara Peninsula. and there are to-day considerable settlements of German people in the Counties of Norfolk. Lincoln and Essex. But the German settlements that have thrived most and that seem to have taken the deepest root in Ontario arc the settlements originallv formed in the County of Waterloo and that have extended into the neighboring counties. In the year 1800 two Germans named Joseph Sherk and Samuel Betzner. came to the present County of Waterloo and settled near the present Village of Doon on the Grand River. They were the first

German settlers, and the first permanent white settlers in the County of \\ aterloo. In the following year. ISOI. they were followed by a number of other German families—Bechtels, Kinseys. Rosenburgers, Biehns and other families of German names and German nationality. These people

came from the State of Pennsylvania to what is now the Township of Waterloo. The distance from that part of the State of Pennsylvania in which they had their homes to the County of Waterloo was about five hundred miles, which they traveled, not bv railway train, for in those

days there were no railways, but by horses and wagons, coming over the Alleghany Mountains, through swamps and forests, over roads that were bad, and through much country where there were no roads at all. The ingenuity of the German, the manner in which he adapts himself to his

circumstances, may be shown by one little instance, that of Joseph Sherk, to whom I have already referred. The first table used in the County of Waterloo was in the house of Mr. Sherk. It consisted of a pine stump some five feet in diameter, around which this German pioneer built his first.

rude settler's cabin. The Township of Wilmot, in the County of Waterloo, was settled by a society of non-conformists under the leadership of one Christian Naffsiger, who was a Hollander. He left his home in Amsterdam and went to New Orleans. From New Oreleans he journeyed northward to Lancaster County, in the State of Pennsylvania. Acting on information and advice given by German friends in Pennsylvania he made his way northwestwardly to the Township of Waterloo, to the little German settlement there. Looking about for a tract of

land on which to settle German friends he

intended to bring to the country, he arranged with the then local Government to obtain on easy terms what is now the Township of Wilmot. Having concluded his bargain with the local Government he went to Britain where he interviewed King George IV., and by the British Government the bargain he made with the local Government was confirmed. That was in 1822. The Township of Woolwich, in the County of Waterloo, was settled in the first place by German people about the year 1810, and German pioneers settled in the Township of Wellesley, in Waterloo County in 1832.

These fertile tracts in Waterloo County, in those early days settled by German people are occupied by German people to-day, and 'Rere is no tract of agricultural land more productive, no matter where it is, within the bounds of Canada, than those German townships of Waterloo County, and no people engaged in agricultural pursuits in Canada that man for man are possessed of greater wealth or have met with greater success than the German people who occupv and cultivate them. The German settlements in Waterloo County extended in later years to the adjoining counties, so that we now have very considerable German settlements in the Counties of Perth, Wellington, Huron, Oxford, Bruce and Grey, and there are no men in the Dominion of Canada who have made better settlers than these German people, whose names are rarely found on the lists of our courts and are seldom or never seen in any of our police records. The German as we find him in Canada is naturally a religious man, and the German citizens of Canada are probably the most faithful church attendants of any of our Canadian citizens. In Germany the people were for the most part members of either the

Roman Catholic or the Lutheran Church ; but in Canada we have German people belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Association, whose people are commonly known as German Methodists, the Baptist Church, the Mennonite Church and some to the Presbyterian Church. The German is a man of domestic habits, fond of his home and of his home life; and while the German families are not usually so large as those of our Erench-Canadian friends, yet the head of a German household usually rules over a nest in which there are many younglings, to be clothed and fed. The German people whatever may be their position in life, whatever may be their possessions or their financial standing, teach their children that honest toil, whether of muscle or brain, is no disgrace. The ( lerman people are brought up to work, and they all work, and are characteristically industrious. It is supposed by a great many people who do not know them so well as 1 do that the German, as we have him in Canada, is addicted to the excessive use of strong drink. This is an erroneous idea ; in fact, the very reverse is the case.

He is usually a sober man. Perhaps a very small percentage of the German population would be in favor of a prohibitory liquor law ; not a very large percentage of them may be classed as total abstainers : many of them drink moderately of their liquors of lighter brew ; yet they are a sober people, and the German communities in Canada will be found to contain a much smaller number of men who are addicted to the immoderate use of strong drink than

will be found in a communitv of Irish-Can-

adians of Scotch-Canadians, or EnglishCanadians.

While it would not be correct to say that the German in Canada is the best farmer we have, I may correctly and truthfully say that we have no better farmers in Canada than the Germans. One characteristic of the German farmer is that he will not settle upon poor soil. He may settle upon a farm that is out of order, that w;ll require a great deal of labor to make it a comfortable home, but he will see to it that he will settle

on a soil that by his own hard work he can convert into a good, productive farm. The German will prefer to settle on a piece of good land and struggle to pay off a large mortgage to taking a piece of poor and unproductive land without the debt. As I have said, the German, whether upon a farm or wherever else he may be found, is industrious, thrifty and economical and usually succeeds.

But if our German-Canadian succeeds as a farmer he succeeds in no less degree as a manufacturer. It seems to me that the German is naturally a man of mechanical ingenuity, that he is naturally a mechanic and, therefore, in that tract of Ontario through which more than a century ago the German pioneers either followed or created a blazed trail to guide them in their way

through the Canadian forest, they now have large, busy, thriving, manufacturing centres. The chief of these German manufacturing centres in Ontario is the busy Town of Berlin in the County of Waterloo. A directory published in 1846 described Berlin as being a village of 400 people, principally Germans. Now the Town of Berlin, in place of a population of 400, has a population of 12,000 people; but as they were in 1846 so they are in 1908, principally Germans. In that busy German town that today prefers to be the largest town rather than the smallest and youngest city in Canada, you will find a greater variety of manufacturing industries than in any other town of similar size in Canada. They manufacture event hing from a button to a piano, a traction engine or a threshing ma-

chine. A peculiar riling about these German manufacturing industries is that they were not established by the aid or assistance of large municipal grants. They were not established by men w ho went into these German manufacturing towns with large capital, but are rather the outgrowth of the business of men who began in a very small way. As an instance of that. I may say that there is to-day in Berlin a large and successful boot and shoe factory, and the man who to-day controls that successful boot and shoe manufacturing business began his career as a boot and shoe manufacturer in Berlin by making slippers by hand, and the market for his slippers was found by his good wife who sold them on the streets of the town from a basket which she carried on her arm. Very close to Berlin is the other German manufacturing Town of Waterloo, with a population about half that of Berlin. As an evidence of the success of the manufacturing industries of the Town of Waterloo, I may say that I do not think there is any other town of its size in Ontario that pays such a large annual revenue into the treasury of Canada by its excise and customs duties. In the County of Waterloo there are also the thriving manufacturing towns of Preston. Hespeler and Elmira. In my own County of Grey, we have the busy, live German manufacturing towns of Hanover, Neustadt and Ayton. In Hanover we have the German names of Knechtel. Peppier and Messinger among our manufacturers. Our town is supported almost entirely by manufactories and they are almost altogether in the control of German citizens or men who have learned their trade and acquired their business knowledge in the offices and factories of German-Canadians. As another instance of the manner in which German manufac-' luring industries are built up, let me say that there stands to-day in Hanover an inconspicuous frame dwelling, one and a half storeys high, of small size, that in the beginning of his manufacturing career, was the combined residence and manufacturing establishment of Mr. Daniel Knechtel. who is now the president and chief shareholder of the Knechtel Furniture Company, one of the largest furniture manufacturing companies in Canada having a very large factory in Hanover, another in Walkerton and another in Southampton.

In the adjoining County of Bruce, there

are the busy manufacturing towns of Chesley, Walkerton and Southampton. These towns have all been for vears towns of more or less importance, but they have never been busy and progressive towns until in recent years German people have gone into them and established manufacturing industries. I may particularlv point out the case of the Town of Southampton on Lake Huron, that onlv a few vears ago was a sleepy, quiet fishing village and summer resort; but now by manufacturing in-

dustries in the hands entirely of German people, has become a busy, thriving, progressive town. In connection with these comparatively small manufacturing German towns let me say they are principally engaged in the manufacture of furniture, and that the furniture manufacturing business of Canada to-day is very largely in the hands of our German people.

One reason why our German manufacturers are so successful is because of their mechanical skill, their enterprise, their

economy, their thrift, and their general business ability. But there is another reason why the German manufacturer succeeds as lie does and that is because of the high character of the German workmen whom he employs. Amongst them we have no trouble from unions, strikes, or lockouts, and this is largely because the German employe of to-day feels that he is likely to be the employer of to-morrow ; or if he is himself not in the immediate future an employer of labor, that at least his sons will be employers, rather than on the pay-rolls of other taskmasters. Another peculiarity of the German workmen is that the majority of them live in attractive homes of which they are themselves the owners. In connection with these attractive homes of the German workmen, you will almost always find a very neat, well cultivated, carefully tilled fruit, flower and vegetable garden. The German in Canada does not hold quite so tenaciously, it may be, to the use of the language of his fathers as do our FrenchCanadian friends, and yet our German people are fond of the language that is spoken in the Fatherland.

They keep up the use of their language bv holding their church services in the

tongue of the old land, oftentimes when it would be quite as convenient to hold those services in English. They also perpetuate the use of the German tongue by forming local associations for the study of that language and by establishing in various parts of Ontario and the Canadian West newspapers printed in German. Let me say that the various German settlements in Canada are being constantly added to by new arrivals from Germany. And it is astonishing, and very much to the credit of the German people, the readiness with which they acquire at least a speaking knowledge of the English language. The German, too, is fond of music and skilled in it. As an evidence of that musical talent and skill let me say, there are no church choirs anywhere in Canada that are, perhaps, equal to the choirs of the German churches whatever their denomination. Their bands and orchestras, too, are the best we have in the country. Any one desiring to enjoy a great musical treat cannot do better than attend at Berlin one of the many Sangerfests that are held in that town. As an evidence of the musical skill of the German, let me refer to an

article in the April number of The Busy Man’s Magazine, upon Dr. Augustus Stefan Vogt, the now famous leader of the Mendelssohn Choir of Toronto, who was born in the Village of Elmira, in the County of Waterloo, and is the son of a German organ builder.

As financiers, our German-Canadian friends excel, and, as an evidence of this, I may say that the towns of Berlin and Waterloo, in the Province of Ontario, are the homes of very progressive, popular and successful life insurance and fire insurance companies, the shareholders, directors and managers of which are almost exclusively German people. The German-Canadian excels also as a sport and athlete. We have all heard in recent weeks of Tommy Burns, the world’s champion heavy-weight pugilist, who has been chumming with Lord Alverstone in England. Tommy Burns’ real name is Noah Brusso. He was born and brought up in my own riding of South Grey and in my own town of Hanover, and is the son of Frederic Brusso, who was a workman in the factory of the Knechtel Furniture Company of that town.

Leaving the field of sport and going to the higher ground of science, the German in Canada is noted as a scientist, as is the German in his own land. And in evidence of this, it is only necessary for me to call attention to one man, Dr. Otto Klotz, who has been for many years in the employ of the Canadian Government and is now at the head of its astronomical work. Our German-Canadian friends, too, are adapted to public life and have taken an interest in public affairs in Canada. In the Provincial Legislature to-day, we have Dr. Lackmer, member for one of the ridings of Waterloo, Mr. C. M. Bowman, the popular member for North Bruce, whose father. Mr. I. E. Bowman, was at one time a member of the House of Commons, and also Hon. Adam Beck, who has achieved considerable notoriety and celebrity in Ontario because of the power scheme he has advocated. And. in the House of Commons, the German-Canadian is well represented. We have the very popular and always industrious member for West Hamilton, Mr. Adam Zimmerman; the very popular and deservedly popular re-

preservative of South Waterloo, Mr. G. A. Clare, and also the equally popular representative of North Middlesex. Mr. \ alentine Ratz, all of German descent. In the field of law, the German-Canadian has held his own and taken a leading part. W hen I speak of the lawyers in Canada of German descent. I will mention but one, Mr. A. B. Klein, who is one of tire County Court judges of Bruce. Judge Klein, who is of German descent, was one of the ablest and most popular lawyers having a country practice in Canada, and is not less popular on the bench as one of our Canadian

judges. And he showed his loyalty to Canada by the interest he took in the affairs of our militia, having retired from the 32nd Battalion of Bruce with the rank and title of major.

W'e have large German settlements in every city in Canada. For instance, there is a large settlement of this nationality in Toronto, and in that city many of our most prominent men are of German extraction, as, for instance, the Breithaupts and the Heintzmans, who are well known in the business world. There is a large German settlement in Ottawa, and in Hamilton.

There are many Germans in Montreal and also in Winnipeg. We have Germans engaged in agricultural pursuits in considerable numbers in the County of Russell, Ont., and in part of the Province of Quebec and also in Nova Scotia. In fact, there is not a Province in Canada in which we have not a considerable number of German settlers.

The German settlers in Northwestern Canada will make, no doubt, quite as good settlers as did the Germans in the Province of Ontario. Had it cost the Government of Canada, not $5, or $20, but $10.000 apiece to bring to Canada some of the German people whose names I have mentioned, the investment would have been a good one and one by which we should have very largely profited.

I was pleased when Hon. Mr. Oliver. Minister of the Interior, stated to me that

there are no settlers that his department welcomes more heartily and considers more satisfactory than the German settlers. I trust that no legitimate effort will be spared, whatever direction that effort may take, to continue the immigration to this country of the German people. I may say that in every respect we have no better people than the German residents of Canada, they make very loyal and in every way very satisfactory Canadians. The German settler as we have him in Canada, when he looks back to the history and traditions of the land from which he came, sings with great enthusiasm that national song of which he is so proud. Die Wacht Am Rhein. And when he looks around upon his home in Canada, which he expects to be the home of his children, he sings with equal zeal and equal fervor, and with still greater interest, and with true loyaltv, "The Maple Leaf" and “God Save the King."