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Local Origins: Breslau

The first settlers to the area now called Breslau arrived in 1806, mostly German Mennonite families from Pennsylvania. Settlers included John Brech, Daniel Erb and John Cressman.

John Brech (1792-1842) came to Canada in 1806 and moved into the area shortly after his marriage to Catherine Betzner in 1815.

Daniel Erb sold his land in the area to John Cressman Sr. in 1816. John and Anna Cressman had come to the Breslau area in 1807, and John Sr. died in 1818.

His eldest son, John Jr ., purchased the 448 acre lot from his father’s estate in 1822.  In 1823, John sold 200 acres from the northern half of the lot to his 21 year old brother, Nicolaus, who presumably planned to farm that portion.

Photo: waterlooregionmuseum.ca

In August, 1828, Nicolaus traveled to Pennsylvania to “take himself a wife.” However he fell ill, and died in Pennsylvania in September of that year. It is likely after this that the youngest Cressman daughter, Anna, together with her husband, Christian Snyder, took over the Nicolaus Cressman property.

In the 1820s, members of the Cressman Mennonite Church began congregating in the homes of the early settlers.

In 1834 the Benjamin Eby congregation in Berlin (now First Mennonite Church in Kitchener) outgrew the log meetinghouse built in 1813. The building was disassembled, moved to the Christian Snyder farm, and reassembled on an acre of land that was deeded in 1837 by Snyder to the congregation’s first trustees, Abraham S. Clemens, Elias Bowman and John Brech. The selling price was one pound, and it was stipulated the property must be used solely for “a meeting house, school house and burying ground for the Menonist and Tunker congregations.”

Breslau Mennonite Church, Photo: gameo.org

The log building was taken down in 1856 and a larger meetinghouse was erected. The log building was again recycled, becoming a residence for the local brickmaker, Fred Schaefer. The new brick building had two entrances with a lobby for the women, a long bench behind the pulpit, hat racks on the men’s side, and raised seats towards the back. The description is not unlike Old Order Mennonite meetinghouses today. Outdoor sheds closed on three sides gave protection to the horses. This building served until 1908.

In 1850, Joseph Erb built a dam, a sawmill, and a grist mill. The village was named after Breslau, the capital of the state of Silesia in historic Prussia.

A post office was established in 1857 and began receiving mail on a daily basis. By 1864, the settlement had several tradesmen including two blacksmiths, a cooper, wagon maker, a cabinet maker and two mills.

 

Source – Wikipedia and MHSO.org

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