Without passion there might be no errors, but without passion there would certainly be no history.
C. V. Wedgwood

Friday, 25 May 2012

Levi Carroll and Family


A now iconic photo taken by an unknown photographer sometime after 1874 when Berlin High School was built (today it is known as KCI or Kitchener Collegiate Institute) and before 1893-4 when the log house was moved to Waterloo Park. We can see Berlin High School towering in the distance behind the former log schoolhouse. Levi Carroll and his family sit in front of the house.

More than likely, this photo was taken sometime in the 1880's as the 1881 Canadian Census lists Levi's family members and among them is a five year old boy, Bismark. A small boy is visible on the right hand side of the photo.



Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Underground Railroad Makes a Stop in Berlin, Ontario

A Contextual Detour.....



Slavery per se was officially outlawed in Canada in the 1830’s. I say “officially” since unofficially, there were ways around the legislation whereby slaves could still be hunted down and returned to their owners and often for a hefty reward e.g. Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. In the US, many states, especially those in the deep South, continued to practice slavery up until the end of the Civil War.

As the anti-slavery movement gained political support on both sides of the Canada-US border, some very brave individuals were taking action against slavery--risking everything to help those who searched for freedom. The impetus for the Underground Railroad had been firmly established and abolitionists (those who opposed slavery) were comprised of both black and white activists who helped fugitive slaves. Most were free but some were slaves, themselves.

The 19th century “Underground Railroad” was neither a railroad nor was it “underground.” Rather, it was a well-connected network of escape routes, many of which led to Canada. It has been estimated that as many as 100,000 slaves by 1850 may have found freedom because of the Underground Railroad’s brave “conductors”. Some researchers have suggested that the network was active as early as c. 1780, running until in and around the early part of the US Civil War (c. 1860-62).  Others suggest that it was Isaac Tatem Hopper who originated the Railroad in the 1790’s. Either way, it is generally accepted that it was at its height between the 1850’s to the 1860’s. Using his presidential power, Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 effectively freeing the slaves.

For more background information see:


For a Canadian perspective, a great site to check out:
It is clear that the topic of slavery in Canadian history is a broad one indeed and for the current purpose of this blog, I am going to limit my discussion regarding same only to those black slaves that were known to have made their way— or “escaped”—to Canada (particularly those who eventually took up residence in Waterloo and Wellington Counties). Further, it should be noted that not all blacks who settled here in the early days were slaves who came here via the Underground Railroad. Future posts will include stories and accounts of different black folks who settled or spent time here in (or near to) Waterloo County, as it was then known.

Soooooo, what does any of this have to do with the 1820 log schoolhouse?

Friday, 11 May 2012

So Where Was It And Where Did It Go...?



When it was first built, the house stood near where the present day corner of Central Street and King Street North is in Waterloo—adjacent to where MacGregor Senior Public School is located. Central Street was originally known as Church Street. There is some discrepancy as to the exact location but all agree it was in this general area. 
The schoolhouse, as was similar to other buildings of its time, was constructed of local logs and was 8 logs high. The school is approximately 16’ by 20’ and may have had a cast iron stove for heating (this was a characteristic often associated with the Pennsylvania Germans who had been heating their homes and cooking with stoves for several hundred years prior to settling here in the Waterloo Region). 


Stoves such as the ten plate stove above (originally pictured for sale at an online auction for Live Auctioneers in 2010) were introduced in the 1760's to replace the smaller six plate stoves and would have been able to accomodate enough heating capacity for the interior of a log house such as the schoolhouse. These plate stoves fit together something like Lego and could be disassembled and carried wherever needed and then reassembled. In this way they were both sturdy and portable.


These types of stoves were in use at least up until the 1840's. Photographs of the schoolhouse in later years do indicate a central chimney that would have complemented the use of a stove and pipe. (Another picture of a different but very similar ten plate stove. Take note of the front and side door accesses and the placement of the stove pipe hole fitting on top).

To date,  I have not yet discovered a source to state how the school was moved—quoting the Ellis Little Research Papers located in the Ellis Little Local History Room at the Waterloo Public Library, Little surmised that the school was probably dismantled log by log and then reassembled in its new location according to typical Pennsylvania German construction bees that probably constructed the schoolhouse in the first place--this to me is most plausible. It would also seem possible/probably, then, that if indeed a stove had been used for heating, this would have been a relatively simple thing to move along with the structure (as stated above) for if the early building had had an open hearth for heating, it is most likely that the massive stonework hearth would have been left behind (and would have shown up when the city was building other buildings over time which it never was further indicating that it was never there in the first place).

We do know that in 1842 the school was relocated to an area known then as "Greenbush" (in modern terms, the school went from Waterloo to Kitchener). Greenbush was a small settlement area located in and around the area surrounding the present day Grand River Hospital and the Kitchener Collegiate Institute (KCI).  (In the early days of settlement, it was common for smaller settlement areas to be named and later assimilated into the growing community as land ownership changed over time. More on the land ownership over time of "Greenbush", later--until then, think Abraham Weber, John Hoffman and Joseph Emm Seagram or, what does a Conestoga Wagon, a Mayor and a bottle of booze have in common) ?

In 1842,then, the actual site for the log house was near where the present day KCI is located in Kitchener (Berlin).  (I am working on a more definitive location for where it actually stood. I will update when I have more information). 

Here is where the schoolhouse story gets even more interesting and takes a bit of a twist.....

Friday, 4 May 2012

At Least The Teacher Had A Desk



An original (not sure if it is THE original—depending upon different sources) teacher’s desk. As you can see, the chinking is still visible in between the original logs although concrete formula has been applied as a preventative measure in many places.

Benjamin Burkholder,  who was a teacher here from 1831-1842, remembered at a class reunion in September 1895 that the students learned only the basics in the early days: “Reading, Writing and Sums”.  He  also recalled that the students’ language of instruction was German, not English. 

From 1820-1842 the school served the Pennsylvania German settlement of Waterloo. By 1842, the house was deemed too small to accommodate the growing number of children/students so it was sold and moved to another site in Berlin, ON (present day Kitchener).