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Local Origins: Hawkesville

Though Wellesley Township itself was not surveyed until 1842 and was only incorporated in 1852, settlers were already long in this area. By 1805, many Mennonites from Pennsylvania had settled nearby in what became known as Berlin, and today as Kitchener.

In 1837, the same year that William Lyon Mackenzie’s rebellion was defeated at York (now Toronto), John Philip Schweitzer from Germany squatted at what is now Hawkesville, and had 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land cleared over the following nine years.

Then, John Hawke received government permission to buy the clearing for $700.00 on the condition that he build a grist mill (for flour) and a sawmill within two years. John Hawke, the second son of Benjamin Hawke and Mary (Lount), had arrived.


Benjamin Hawke was a United Empire Loyalist and a Quaker that fled military conflict in the United States to settle in Simcoe County.

Though his wife’s family, the Lounts, were also Quakers, his brother-in-law Samuel Lount was one of William Lyon Mackenzie’s lieutenants in the 1837 revolt. After Samuel Lount was hanged for treason, Benjamin Hawke decided to move out of Simcoe County.

When his son John received permission to purchase 40 acres (160,000 m2) in Waterloo County, Benjamin moved there with his wife, his four sons, and his seven daughters. The Hawkes arrived in 1846; John built the grist mill, his younger brother Piercifer built a sawmill, and “Hawke’s village” appeared on the Waterloo County map.

A post office was established in Hawkesville in 1852, operated by Gabriel Hawke. When the Waterloo County boundaries were established in 1852 to include the townships of Waterloo, Wellesley, Wilmot, Woolwich, and North Dumfries, John Hawke was named the first Reeve of Wellesley and the first township hall was built in Hawkesville.

When the decision was being made for the location of a county seat, Hawkesville originally anticipated being chosen over Berlin and Galt. However, John Hawke had the deciding vote, and he cast it in favour of Berlin. With the railroad and the county seat, Berlin began to grow rapidly and kept on growing; Hawkesville flourished only until the end of the century before diminishing.

Records from 1864 indicate that the community of about 400 people had three stores, two woolen factories, a tannery, two wagon makers and some tradesmen. The school in Hawkesville had 100 students by that time.

There were four churches, although two were still under construction in 1864. The 6th Division court held its hearings in this community.

Into the early 1900s, the village Carriage and wagon maker, George M. Diefenbacker (his preferred spelling) would entertain his grandson each summer, the late Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker.

Because Hawkesville is located on a hill near the Conestogo River, it was too difficult to construct a railway to Hawkesville.


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