Early settlers. Brubacher family. Samuel, Lydia, Simeon and Edna.

This is how the streets in our neighbourhood were named. Samuel, Lydia, Simeon and Edna were all descendants from the Brubacher family.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many Pennsylvania Mennonites journeyed north to establish a new life with religious and cultural freedoms in Upper Canada.  Beginning in 1786, Mennonites began migrating from Pennsylvania to what is now Ontario.  Their route became known as the Trail of the Conestoga.  The youngest members of the Jacob and Susannah (Erb) Brubacher family, Mary and John, were amongst the Mennonite pioneers who migrated to Waterloo County to start new lives for themselves.
Mary Brubacher married Benjamin Eby in 1807 and shortly thereafter they began their trek to Upper Canada.  This couple was a part of the early Mennonite movement from Lancaster County to Waterloo County.  Benjamin played a significant role in establishing the first church for Mennonite immigrants in Waterloo County.  Benjamin was an ordained minister and bishop in the Mennonite Church.  Ebytown, which was later called Berlin and is currently Kitchener, was named after Benjamin Eby.

Brubacher House restoration

As a widow, Susannah Erb Brubacher journeyed from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to Waterloo County in Upper Canada to visit several relatives, including her parents (Christian and Maria (Sherk) Erb) and daughter Mary, all of whom had emigrated between 1804 and 1807.  Susannah’s family played a significant role in the Mennonite settlement of Waterloo County.  Susannah was a sister to Jacob Erb, John Erb who was the founder of Preston, and Abraham Erb who was the founder of Waterloo.  These siblings were four of twenty-five major shareholders in the German Land Company that was formed in 1805 to purchase 60,000 acres of land in Waterloo County for Mennonite settlers.  Susannah, the sole female shareholder, purchased ten lots, which she later sold to family members and other Mennonite settlers.

The youngest son of Jacob and Susannah Erb Brubacher, John Brubacher, traveled to Waterloo County in 1815 in search of land.  On his journey John was accompanied by five men, all of whom rode on horseback from Lancaster County to Ontario.  While the other men stopped in York County and Dundas, John was the only one who chose to journey as far as Waterloo County.  John selected Lot 57 (one of the lots owned by his mother Susannah), hired help to clear the land of its virgin forest, and returned to Pennsylvania to prepare for his move to Ontario.  In 1816, Susannah accompanied John in his return to Waterloo County.  John drove a Conestoga wagon with a four-team horse, while his mother is said to have ridden horseback for the duration of the trip.  They traveled with several other families and had twenty-eight horses pulling their Conestoga wagons.  Their journey to Waterloo County lasted four weeks.

When they arrived in Waterloo County, John and Susannah stayed with Benjamin and Mary Eby until they had built a log cabin on present-day Frederick Street in Kitchener.  John is said to have felled a tree and used the stump as a table.  He then built his house around this piece of furniture.  Susannah stayed with John for two years, until he married Catherine Sherk.  It is said that on her journey back to Pennsylvania, Susannah noticed a rattlesnake lying in the middle of the road, dismounted, and with a well-aimed blow killed the snake.

John and Catherine built several different homes in Ebytown.  The current addresses for where these homes were built are 520 Frederick St. and 65 and 67 Brubacher St., Kitchener.  John’s youngest son Samuel took over the family farm and the present-day Brubacher St. was the lane that led to the farm buildings.  In addition, several of the streets in Kitchener are named after members in the Samuel Brubacher family.  Samuel St. is named after Sam Jr., Lydia St. after his wife, Simeon was named after a son, and Edna was the name of Simeon’s daughter.

John Brubacher purchased Lot 25 of the German Company Tract in Waterloo County for his son John E. Brubacher.  The stone house built on this lot is known as the Brubacher House Museum and still stands today as a physical reminder of the Mennonite pioneers that once farmed the University of Waterloo campus.


*Sources: http://www.mennoniteheritageportrait.ca

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