map of Wilmot Township

jump down to view Lisbon history jump down to view Berlet's Corner history jump down to view New Prussia history jump down to view Josephsburg history jump down to view Wilby history jump down to view Philipsburg history jump down to view St. Agatha history jump down to view Waldau history jump down to view Petersburg history jump down to view Baden history jump down to view Mannheim history jump down to view Shingletown history jump down to view Wilmot Center history jump down to view Holland Mills history jump down to view New Hamburg history jump down to view Punkeydoodles Corners history jump down to view Haysville history jump down to view Pinehill history jump down to view Rosebank history hump down to view New Dundee history

History of Wilmot Township

Compared to that of other townships in Waterloo County, the settlement of Wilmot Township occurred very quickly. Settlement of the township began in 1824, and it is commonly believed that the township was essentially settled in just twenty years.[1] This was in part due to the development of an organized roadway system which provided easy access to supplies and goods in the previously developed townships of Waterloo County. Wilmot Township was originally an area of land comprised of Crown and Clergy Reserves. It was not one of the blocks of land contained in the Six Nations grant from which the townships of Woolwich, Waterloo, and North Dumfries were created. Wilmot Township comprised of three tracts of horizontally divided land: the German Block, Block B in the north, and Block A in the South. The German Block was controlled by the Crown. It was settled primarily by immigrants of German heritage (by which influence it acquired its name) including those from Pennsylvania, Europe, and Waterloo Township. Blocks A and B to the south and north of it, respectively, were controlled by the Canada Land Company. Although Blocks A and B were also settled by immigrants of German heritage, they were part of a mix of other immigrants of Scottish, English, and Irish origins who also settled in these areas. When Blocks A and B were acquired by the Canada Land Company in 1825, they were incorporated with the German Block and given the name Wilmot Township.[2] The Township most likely received its name from Sir Robert John Wilmot-Horton who was Under Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in Lord Liverpool's administration.[3] Moreover, Wilmot-Horton was also involved with the Canada Land Company when it purchased Blocks A and B.

The earliest settlement of Wilmot Township occurred in the German Block. This area of land was prepared for settlement by the work of Christian Nafziger, an Amish Mennonite from Bavaria, Germany.  Nafziger first came to Pennsylvania in 1822 with the intent of purchasing land for a large number of Amish families in his homeland. Discovering that land in Pennsylvania was too expensive, he moved on to Upper Canada where he learned that land was cheaper. With the aid of several Pennsylvania German Mennonites from Waterloo Township, including Jacob Erb and Jacob Snider, Nafziger applied to the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada for a large grant of land which could be settled by a large number of his people.

Nafziger subsequently secured the German Block which was later divided into 200 acre lots and sold to willing settlers. According to this deal, settlers were to receive fifty acres of each lot free if they built both a house on their property and cleared the land along its front for the development of three roadways through the Block.[4] After securing this deal, Nafziger returned to Germany where he received its official confirmation from most likely the Duke of York.[5] Although Nafziger did not return from Germany until 1826, his land dealings had set in motion the settlement of the German Block which began in 1824.

The first settlers to arrive in the German Block were Amish Mennonites. Amish Mennonites took their name from Jacob Amman, a Swiss Mennonite leader who established a branch of the Mennonite church in the late seventeenth century.[6] From the mid-1820s to the early 1830s, a number of Amish Mennonite groups associated with either Mennonites in Waterloo Township or Nafziger in Europe settled in the German Block. These groups came from areas in both Pennsylvania and Alsace-Lorraine, (an area where the north-east of France and Germany meet along the Rhine River), settling primarily in the Petersburg-Baden locality.[7] Immigrant groups from Pennsylvania began settling in the area during 1824, and those from Europe in 1826. By 1829, 130 Amish settlers had claimed lots in the Township. Fifty-eight of these were from Pennsylvania, sixty-six from Europe, and the remaining six of other heritage.[8] By 1830, Wilmot Township had reached a population of 1,272 and had scarcely been settled by immigrants other than those of the Amish faith in the German Block.[9]

Coinciding with the settlement of the German Block was the development of three horizontal roads that had been part of Nafziger's land deal. Allowances for these roads were made in a survey of the Block undertaken by Deputy Surveyor John Goesman just prior to settlement in 1824.  Settlers undertook the development of the roads, completing them by the early 1830s.[10] Running east to west, they were located between every two of the six concessions, passing through Wilmot Township into Waterloo Township where there was access to three mills. They included: the Upper Road which led to Abraham Erb's mill (subsequently called Erb's Road); the Middle Road which led to Joseph Schneider's mill (Snyder's Road); and the Lower Road which led to Philip Bliehm's mill (Bleam's Road). These roads not only provided an immediate means and incentive for the settlement of the township, but also a blueprint for its development. Because they provided direct access to neighbouring townships and to mill sites previously established in Waterloo Township, settlers of Wilmot Township could acquire more easily the supplies and goods they needed for establishing their own settlements.[11] Such advantages had not been available to the earlier settlers of Waterloo County where development was restricted for many years by the confines of isolation.

Although the majority of immigrants into the area by the early 1830s were of German heritage, the basis of a diverse cultural persona had begun to develop. This was in part due to the efforts of the Canada Land Company. This company was organized in England in 1824. After purchasing Huron Tract lands, it discovered that sections of it were swampy and useless for settlement. In compensation, the Company was given Blocks A and B from the Crown. The Company's primary aim was to promote English, Scottish, and Irish settlement in its lands.[12] In doing so, it constructed another large roadway through Block A, which became known as the Huron Road. It was blazed from Guelph to Goderich in 1828, and connected with other roads to stretch from Lake Ontario to Lake Huron. This roadway was the first to provide communication between the two lakes. It was the dominant roadway for business and travel through Waterloo County and Upper Canada until the railway was built there in the mid-1850s.[13] As with Upper, Middle, and Lower Roads, Huron Road significantly increased the Township's accessibility to outlying areas which contributed to its speedy settlement. Although only a small Anglo-Saxon population would settle in Wilmot Township in the 1830s, particularly in the southern third of the township, the building of Huron Road helped lay the foundations for all immigrant groups into the area.

Threshing Crew in Wilmot Township, ca. 1914

Threshing Crew, Wilmot Township, ca. 1914. DHC 984.067.012

From the early 1830s, a number of immigrant groups settled in the township. Anglican and Methodist immigrants from the British Isles established themselves mainly in the Block A-areas of Haysville and New Dundee. From the mid-1830s, a large number of Roman Catholic immigrants from Alsace Lorraine settled in areas of the German Block and Block B, including St. Agatha (which became the centre of Catholicism in Wilmot Township), New Prussia, and Josephsburg.[14] German Lutheran immigrants also settled in a number of communities throughout the township, including St. Agatha, New Dundee, and New Hamburg. Another group of settlers to the area were second and third generation Mennonites from Waterloo Township. They brought pioneer experience, expertise, and capital to the township which no doubt contributed to its timely settlement.[15]

In the 1830s and 1840s, other settlements developed along the four major roadways. For example, the settlements of Philipsburg and St. Agatha developed along Erb's Road; Baden and Petersburg developed along Snyder's Road; New Hamburg and Mannheim developed along Bleams Road; and Haysville and Rosebank developed along Huron Road. Because these roadways provided the best transportation and communication links to outlying areas, settlement along them was practical and desirable, especially since the majority of road clearing was undertaken by settlers themselves. However, settlements were also founded in areas located elsewhere. New Dundee, for instance, which was one of the most prominent settlements in the township at the time, was founded in the south-east corner of Block A. However, a road connecting the two locations most likely contributed to New Dundee's continued settlement and sustenance.

Mr. and Mrs. Habel in Wilmot Township, ca. 1876

Mr. and Mrs. Habel, Wilmot Township, ca. 1876. DHC 978.065.001.21

Mr. and Mrs. Mogk in Wilmot Township, ca. 1876

Mr. and Mrs. Mogk, Wilmot Township, ca. 1876. DHC 978.065.001.17

The majority of early immigrants in the township were farmers. The existence of a rich agricultural potential in the area attracted settlers, like the Amish, who wished to develop farmsteads as a means to continue their traditional way of life. Moreover, the existence of the four major roadways through the township, especially Huron Road, offered a means by which farm produce could easily reach markets.  As well, a significant number of immigrants to the township were tradesmen and artisans. The German Lutheran immigrants of New Hamburg, for example, were carpenters, shop keepers, inn keepers, merchants, and millers.[16] Furthermore, a number of waterways existed including Smith's Creek (now the Nith River), Alder Creek and Spring Creek which could be utilized to provide power for the running of mills. For example, Joseph Goldschmidt and David Kropf had built sawmills by 1831, and Josiah Cushman both a gristmill and sawmill by 1837.[17]

By 1850, Wilmot Township had grown to a population of about 4, 863.[18] The majority of available land had by this time been claimed by settlers, and the township possessed a number of thriving communities. Settlers had cleared land and built houses, established farmsteads, mills, and distilleries. They had established a number of secondary businesses including stores, shops, and inns. They had built a network of both local roads and township roads. And they had established a number of schools and church meeting places. Although the majority of settlers were farmers, a number of industrial communities had also developed. New Hamburg, for example, was an industrial community with a population of about 500 in 1850.[19] The population of Berlin a year later was only 750.  When the Grand Trunk Railway arrived in Waterloo County in the mid-1850s, New Hamburg was one of the most vibrant communities in the area.

Uriah Snyder Saw Mill Outfit at Fried's Woods, ca. 1905

Uriah Snyder Saw Mill Outfit at Fried's Woods, ca. 1905. DHC 2003.514.018

The Grand Trunk Railway arrived from Toronto through Berlin to Wilmot Township in 1856. Three settlements in the township received railway stops including Petersburg, Baden, and New Hamburg. Railway building was a huge source of employment for settlers of the township, as well as for workers from other townships who moved into the area for this reason. Moreover, in anticipation of the railway boom, many settlers developed enterprises along the railway's intended path. Jacob Beck of Preston, for example, moved into the Baden area during the early 1850s. At this time, the only community that existed in the area was a small hamlet known as Weissenburg which had been established amongst several farms. Beck purchased 200 acres of land there which he had surveyed and laid out for settlement.[20] He built several mills in the area by 1855, and renamed the community Baden after his hometown in Germany.[21] Before long, Baden grew into a lively industrial centre. For example, by 1864 it possessed several flourmills, a flax mill, an iron foundry, two sawmills, a number of general stores, a distillery; and a pail, tub stave, and heading factory.[22] The railway played a significant role in the industrial development and success of this village. Other settlements too developed substantially during the railway boom, including New Hamburg. For example, in 1858, New Hamburg had reached a population of 1000 and had become an incorporated village. Industry there had grown significantly and it housed two German newspapers, a substantial number of mills and factories, several general stores, and eight taverns.[23]

However, the railway had substantially less of an impact on the industrial growth of Wilmot Township than it did on other townships of Waterloo County. For example, by 1906, no village in the township had surpassed a population of about 1,300 and between 1891 and 1911, the population of the township had decreased noticeably.[24]  The majority of population growth and industry had taken place during the railway's construction in the 1850s. However, after the railway boom subsided, little industrial growth took place.

Instead, the railway contributed to the growth and sustenance of farming in the township which became the dominant economic foundation and social fabric of its people. The railway opened markets locally to which farmers could sell their produce, and offered the means by which farmers could export their products on a large scale. Wheat markets in the township were first stimulated by British demand during the Crimean War in 1854 and 1855.[25] Later, the railway helped sustain or create many other markets. By the turn of the century, other than a little industry found in New Hamburg, Baden, and New Dundee, the citizens of Wilmot Township were by all means a farming populace. Today, Wilmot Township is still home to a large farming community including Amish and Mennonite farmers who depending on their level of conservatism have adopted a variety of modern farming technology.


[1] Ontario Agricultural Commission 1881. See also: Lorna L. Bergey, "A History of Wilmot Township," Waterloo Historical Society, (1962), 59.

[2] 1881 Ontario Agricultural Commission. See also: Lorna L. Bergey, "Lands and Peoples of Wilmot Township," More Than A Century In Wilmot Township, Historical Committee of the New Hamburg-Wilmot Township Centennial Committee, (1967), 15.

[3] W.J. Wintemberg, "Origin of the Place and Stream Names of Waterloo County, Ontario," Waterloo Historical Society, (1927), 353. See also: Alan Rayburn, Place Names of Ontario, (University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1997), 375-76.

[4] E. Reginald Good, Frontier Community to Urban Congregation , First Mennonite Church, Kitchener 1813-1988, (Kitchener: 1988):14. See also:  Geoffrey Hayes, Waterloo County: An Illustrated History (St. Jacobs, 1997), 11.

[5] Orland Gingerich, "Amish Pioneers,"  More Than A Century In Wilmot Township, Historical Committee of the New Hamburg-Wilmot Township Centennial Committee, (1967), 18; and Catherine Schumilas and Joan Williams, St. Agatha, 1867-1967, (1967), 10.

[6] Hayes, 10.

[7] Lorraine Roth, The Amish and Their Neighbours: The German Block, Wilmot Township, 1822-1860, Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario, (1998).

[8] Roth, 43.

[9] Florence Diamond, "Wilmot Township Municipal History," More Than A Century In Wilmot Township, Historical Committee of the New Hamburg-Wilmot Township Centennial Committee, (1967), 6.

[10] Roth, 69.

[11] Bergey, 15.

[12] Bergey, "A History of Wilmot Township," 51.

[13] Waterloo Historical Society (1917). See also: Bergey, "Lands and Peoples of Wilmot Township," 16.

[14] Catherine Schumilas and Joan Williams, St. Agatha, 1867-1967: Commemorating Canada's Centennial, ed. Don Collins, (1967), 3.

[15] Bergey, "Lands and Peoples of Wilmot Township," 16.

[16] Roth, 54.

[17] Roth, 64.

[18] W.H.E. Schmalz, "Postal History of Waterloo County," Waterloo Historical Society, (1968), 55.

[19] Ernest F. Ritz, "New Hamburg 1850-1860: A Period of Rapid Growth," Waterloo Historical Society, (1981), 74.

[20] Evelyn Haufschild and Beatrice M. Snyder, "Baden," More Than A Century In Wilmot Township, Historical Committee of the New Hamburg-Wilmot Township Centennial Committee, (1967), 21.

[21] Alan Rayburn, Place Names of Ontario, (University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1997), 20.

[22] Haufschild and Snyder, 22.

[23] Ritz, 82-7. See also: Hayes, 39-40.

[24] Bradstreet's book of Commercial Ratings, (The Bradstreet Company: New York, 1906).

[25] Hayes, 40.

Josephsburg
An area of settlement at the intersection of present-day Berlett's Road and Notre Dame Drive in Wilmot township, Josephsburg was part of the mid-1830s wave of Roman Catholic settlement by immigrants from Alsace Lorraine. A blacksmith shop, two hotels and a school were located here. Late nineteenth century maps indicate that there was postal service at Josephsburg.
Wilby
Located on the Nith River (Smith's Creek) at the present-day intersection of Wilby Road and Sandhills Road in Wilmot Township, Wilby was the short-lived site of a sawmill, a hotel, brickyard, blacksmith shop and cheese factory. Although plans for a village were drawn in 1861 by Christian Shantz the owner of property at the proposed site, local wisdom that "Wilby will never be" proved true.
Baden

Previous Name: Weissenburg

The village of Baden was named by Jacob Beck (father of Sir Adam Beck) after his birthplace in the town of Baden in Germany. Established on the site of the earlier settlement of Weissenburg on Snyder's Road, Wilmot Township, its development was spurred by the Grand Trunk Railway, built in 1855. Early industries were the Beck Foundry, the Perine Brothers' flax mill, a flour mill, saw mills and a cooperage. The Baden post office was established in 1854. The main industry that sustained Baden in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the Livingstone Brothers' flax and linseed mill, begun in the 1870s. In 1891, Baden's population was 700. By 1913, it had grown to 1,200. In 2001, its population was 1,810.

Berlet's Corner

Previous Name: Berlet's Corners

A small Wilmot Township settlement in the area of present-day Berlett's Road and Sandhills Road, north-west of St. Agatha. Berlett's Corner was the location of a Lutheran church established in 1840 by Pastor F.W. Bindemann of Berlin, now closed, with a cemetery nearby. It also once had a hotel, a cheese factory and a school. Before 1887, the school was known as Horn's School.

Horn's School

Wilmot Township S.S. No. 19 Horn's School.
DHC X.961.072.001

New Prussia

Situated at the intersection of present-day Berlett's Road and Nafziger Road in the north west portion of Wilmot Township, New Prussia was a small settlement of Roman Catholic immigrants from the Rhine Province of Prussia (what is today West Germany). Many immigrants in that area moved further west to purchase Crown lands near Lake Huron, and New Prussia declined in the late nineteenth century. Wilmot Township S.S. No. 18, the New Prussia Public School remained active until 1966.

group of people at New Prussia School, 1917

Wilmot Township S.S. No. 18 New Prussia School,
1917. DHC 984.067.013

Lisbon
With its post office in Perth County, Lisbon sits on either side of the county line, at the junction of Wilmot-Easthope Road and Lisbon Road in the north-west corner of Wilmot Township. Its hotel and other small businesses served the needs of the surrounding farming communities. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Hohl's brickyard near Lisbon excavated clay soil from a large acreage to manufacture bricks and tiles.
Petersburg

Located at the present-day intersection of Snyder's Road East and Notre Dame Drive in Wilmot Township, Petersburg was named for Peter Wilker who came to the locality from Germany in 1830s, as did many other settlers in that locality. Wilker developed a large farm and the beginnings of the community. Petersburg was a station on the Grand Trunk Railway from 1856, ensuring its survival as a shipping point, as other isolated hamlets slowly declined. Petersburg had a school from 1848 and a post office from 1842.

Petersburg Public School, ca. 1889

Petersburg Public School, ca. 1889.
DHC 969.066.013

Peter Wilker, ca. 1880

Peter Wilker, Founder of Petersburg,
ca. 1880. DHC 969.003.001

gas station and Blue Moon Hotel 1954

Gas Station and Blue Moon Hotel, Petersburg, 1954.
DHC 989.037.001. The Record Photograph Collection, University of Waterloo.

Philipsburg

The hamlet of Philipsburg is at the present-day intersection of Erb's Road and Nafziger Road in Wilmot Township. It was predominantly an area of German Lutheran settlement, beginning in the 1840s. Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church has been active there from 1843. The first school in the area opened in 1844. A post office opened in 1851, closing in 1915.

Philipsburg Village, ca. 1915

Philipsburg Village, ca. 1915.
DHC 984.067.018

Christina Eidt, ca. 1865

Miss Christina Eidt, Philipsburg, ca. 1865.
DHC 978.065.001.23

Mr. and Mrs. Eidt, ca. 1865

Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Eidt, Philipsburg, ca. 1865.
DHC 978.065.001.39

St. Agatha

History of St. Agatha

As with many communities in Wilmot Township, the history of St. Agatha begins in 1824. Located in the German Block of the township, St. Agatha was founded along Upper Road (Erb's Road). Located at a crossroads between this road and Notre Dame Road, St. Agatha became a centre of both religious worship and small-scale trade for settlers in surrounding areas. Settlers in St. Agatha were mainly farmers, tradesmen and shop keepers. No large scale industry was ever undertaken in the area. St. Agatha was settled by mainly three German groups: Amish Mennonites, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics. By far the majority of these settlers were Roman Catholic. This group gave St. Agatha a religious atmosphere unique not only within Wilmot Township but also within Waterloo County, as the centre of Catholicism in the County.  Originally named Wilmot, it was named St. Agatha in 1852.[1] The name St. Agatha reflected its association with the predominant Catholic parish and church of the community which was established there in the 1830s.[2] The parish and church were named St. Agatha after the Sicilian martyr of the third century.

The earliest settlers to arrive in the St. Agatha area were Amish Mennonites from both Pennsylvania and Alsace-Lorraine who first began arriving in 1824.  Other  Catholic and Lutheran settlers began to arrive in the early 1830s.[3] Wishing to continue a traditional way of life, the Amish Mennonite settlers cleared land for farming, selling off smaller parcels of land to the later arrivals. Moreover, as part of the German Block agreement which Christian Nafizger secured in 1822 (see history of Wilmot Township) they cleared land along the front of their properties for the development of the Upper Road. This road led to Erb's Mills in Waterloo Township and no doubt contributed to the growth and sustenance of St. Agatha, since supplies for settlement could be easily acquired in the village of Waterloo. Upper Road was cleared across the township by the early 1830s.[4]

When Roman Catholic and Lutheran settlers from Alsace-Lorraine arrived, St. Agatha began to take shape as a community. Catholic and Lutheran settlers bought land from either the existing Amish Mennonite population or from the Crown directly.[5] Many of these newcomers cleared land for the purpose of farming, but as some of the Amish Mennonite settlers migrated elsewhere within Waterloo County, Lutherans and especially Catholics came to dominate the identity of the community.   Some of the Catholic and Lutheran settlers were trades workers and artisans, including blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers, wagon makers, and innkeepers. Generally, the village of St. Agatha retained a relatively simple economic existence based on farming and small-scale trade. Because there were no significant creeks or rivers located in the area, for example, those settlers interested in developing milling enterprises requiring waterpower settled in other places where water supplies were abundant.  Moreover, St. Agatha was excluded from early railway connection, and subsequently did not reap the direct benefits associated with the railway boom that other communities like Baden had.

As a result, St. Agatha remained relatively small and consistent in regards to both population and enterprise. For example, by 1869, the population was 250, and similarly in 1890, 200. Although the population would decline somewhat in the early twentieth century, it rose slowly but steadily thereafter.[6] In 1869, the settler population included weavers, innkeepers, blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, saddlers, and general merchants.[7] By 1906, residents' occupations included hotel keepers, general merchants, a blacksmith, and a carriage maker.[8] The presence of these tradesmen and artisans helped establish St. Agatha as a centre for small-scale trade. Moreover, St. Agatha became a small population centre that attracted the establishment of church organizations.

From the outset of its settlement, church life was important to the community.  The Amish Mennonite community established an active congregation in St. Agatha before 1830,[9] and several ministers were ordained there during the early and mid-1830s. Although the Amish Mennonite community did not erect a meeting house until 1885, they held services in private dwellings. Lutheran settlers also established a congregation in St. Agatha. They held services as early as 1834. Because their congregation lacked a church of its own until 1863, however, services were held in school houses or in private dwellings.[10] Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, a small stone church, was dedicated in that year. The first Lutheran minister to hold services was F.W. Bindemann. However, like later ministers, he was not a resident preacher. Instead, he traveled among a circuit of Lutheran congregations throughout Waterloo County, as too did two later ministers of the 1840s.[11]

Catholics also organized a congregation in St. Agatha by 1834.[12] When Father Wiriath, the first Catholic priest of the area, arrived in St. Agatha that year, the presence of a strong Catholic population was already prevalent. By 1837 there were 112 Catholics in the community,[13] with a number of baptisms and marriages occurring in these first few years. The first Catholic services took place in private dwellings and then in a log school shared by both Protestants and Catholics.[14] In 1840, a large frame church was built. Although it was almost completely destroyed by a storm in the same year, it was rebuilt a short time later. When Jesuit missionaries resided in St. Agatha from 1847 to 1856, they enlarged the church and added a brick rectory.[15] Of all the religious denominations in St. Agatha, the Catholic population was by far the most prevalent.

Three of the greatest milestones of the Catholic Church in St. Agatha were undertaken by Father Eugene Funcken who arrived in 1857. He restored and remodelled the existing Catholic cemetery and built a cemetery chapel at its end, known as the Shrine of the Sorrowful Mother.[16] This shrine housed many authentic relics of past saints and became the focus of many Catholic pilgrimages.[17] In 1858, Funcken also established a children's orphanage. It was operated out of an old log building until 1868 when a new building was erected on nine acres of donated land.[18] Lastly, Funcken established St. Jerome's College.  Located in a small log cabin near the Catholic Church, Funcken opened the college in 1865.[19] One year later, the college was relocated to Berlin (Kitchener). It is presently known as St. Jerome's University and is part of the University of Waterloo. A cairn presently marks its historic location in St. Agatha.

The early influence of church organizations in St. Agatha also contributed to the establishment of a number of early schools. For example, in 1834, two public log schools and a Catholic log school existed. By 1846, a stone building replaced the two public schools and in 1854, the Jesuits erected a new stone Catholic school as well. In general, the early development of these schools in St. Agatha was well ahead of other communities not only within Wilmot Township, but also Waterloo County. Today, St. Agatha retains its small size as a business community and an active religious centre to surrounding areas of Wilmot Township.


[1] W.J. Wintemberg, "Origin of the Place and Stream Names of Waterloo County, Ontario," Waterloo Historical Society, (1927), 368.

[2] Alan Rayburn, Place Names of Ontario, (University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1997), 299. See also: W.J. Wintemberg, "Origin of the Place and Stream Names of Waterloo County, Ontario," Waterloo Historical Society, (1927), 368-69.

[3] Lorraine Roth, The Amish and Their Neighbours: The German Block, Wilmot Township, 1822-1860, Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario, (1998).

[4] Roth, 69.

[5] Catherine Schumilas and Joan Williams, St. Agatha, 1867-1967: Commemorating Canada's Centennial, ed. Don Collins, (1967), 3.

[6] Bradstreet's book of Commercial Ratings, (The Bradstreet Company: New York, 1906), 337. Also: Doon Heritage Crossroads research files.

[7] Province of Ontario Gazetteer and Directory, C.E. Anderson &Co. (1969), 419.

[8] Bradstreet's book of Commercial Ratings, (The Bradstreet Company: New York, 1906), 337.

[9] Schumilas and Williams, 4.

[10] Schumilas and Williams, 9-10.

[11] Schumilas and Williams, 9-10.

[12] Theobald Spetz, The Catholic Church in Waterloo County: Book 1, The Catholic Register and Extension, (1916), 4.

[13] Spetz, 4.

[14] Spetz, 14.

[15] Spetz, 21. See also: Schumilas and Williams,12.

[16] Spetz, 26-7 & Schumilas and Williams, 17.

[17] Schumilas and Williams, 17.

[18] Spetz, 31-3. See also: Schumilas and Williams, 15.

[19] Spetz, 28-30.

Waldau
Its name suggesting the virgin forests of the pioneer era, Waldau was a crossroads settlement near the Wilmot and Waterloo Township Line, close to the present-day intersection of Highland Road and Trussler Road. Like much of that part of Wilmot Township, Waldau was settled in the nineteenth century by Germans. David B. Schneider recalled that in his youth, timber and stones from the area around Waldau were hauled to Berlin to build the 1852 Waterloo County Gaol. The forests of these early settlement years disappeared as farm lands were cleared and timber was harvested for buildings and for fuelling steam engines and locomotives. Traces of the former community of Waldau remain today in the same area. Waldau Crescent, off Trussler Road in Wilmot Township, was established in the late 1940s, and many Schwaben German trades people lived along the street. Across Trussler Road from Waldau Crescent is Waldau Woods, a City of Kitchener wetlands park bounded by Cora Drive, Penelope Drive, the Conestoga Expressway and Trussler Road.
New Hamburg

Previous Names: Cassel, Hamburgh

The earliest community in the locale of New Hamburg was called Cassel; this was almost completely destroyed by an epidemic of cholera in the 1830s. The re-built community was called Hamburgh, reflecting Wilmot Township settlement by German immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century. A post office was established in 1851. When the Grand Trunk Railway was built through New Hamburg in 1856, the village experienced substantial growth. By 1858, New Hamburg had reached a population of 1,000 and had become an incorporated village. Industry there had grown significantly and it housed two German newspapers, a substantial number of mills and factories, several general stores, and eight taverns.

New Hamburg Junior Hockey Club in 1913

New Hamburg Junior Hockey Club, 1913,
New Hamburg, Ontario. DHC 986.047.001

Holland Mills
This was a locale in Wilmot Township between New Hamburg and Haysville where a woolen mill and a grist mill were located on a small stream or raceway joining two points on the Nith River. These are indicated on the 1861 Tremaine's Map of Waterloo County; the present-day location is along Holland Mills Road.
Wilmot Center

A small hamlet formerly located at the intersection of Bleams Road and Wilmot Centre Road, Wilmot Centre was once the seat of township government in Wilmot Township. The Town Hall is shown on the south side of Bleams Road on Tremaine's 1861 map of Waterloo County; a blacksmithshop and inn are also indicated, along with two saw mills. The Wilmot Center school (Wilmot Township S.S. No. 10) to the east of Wilmot Centre Road dates back to 1847. An Evangelical Association church was erected in 1850. The Wilmot Mennonite Church (formerly called Geiger Mennonite Church), further west toward New Hamburg, was built in 1844. Both are still active.

Wilmot Center School Fair, ca. 1910

Wilmot Center School Fair, ca. 1910.
DHC 977.046.001.2

Shingletown

Previous Name: Shindlesteddle

A small crossroads settlement along Bleams Road between New Hamburg and Mannheim Wilmot Township, it was also known as Schindelsteddle and Victoriasburg (probably after Queen Victoria). A small industry manufacturing shingles was located there. From 1852 to 1882, the Wilmot German Baptist Church was situated just west of Shingletown.

Casper Schenk Home at Singletown-Victoriasburg, ca. 1905

Casper Schenk Home at Shingletown-Victoriasburg,
Wilmot Township, ca. 1905. DHC Research Files.

Mannheim
The village of Mannheim on Bleams Road in Wilmot Township was named for the German city on the Rhine River, an area from which many German immigrants to Waterloo County had originated. Its earliest sawmill was established in 1845 on Alder Creek. Lutheran, Mennonite and United Brethren churches reflected the cultural origins of settlers. The first school in Mannheim was built in 1846. Trades and small businesses provided amenities for farmers in the surrounding district.
Punkeydoodles Corners

Known more for its quaint name than for any significant settlement, Punkeydoodles Corners in Wilmot Township was a tiny hamlet situated where Oxford and Perth Counties intersect with Waterloo County. The Huron Road passed through this locale which, in the late nineteenth century, had a blacksmith shop and a tavern where it was said that the German tavern keeper sang his version of "Yankee Doodle" which came out sounding like "Punkey Doodle"; hence the fanciful name.

Punkeydoodles's Corner, ca. 1960

Punkeydoodles's Corner, ca. 1960.
The Record Photo Collection, University of Waterloo.