Hespeler Happenings – Spring 2020

by Jan 20, 2020Hespeler Happenings0 comments

Saying Goodbye

The month of December 2019 was a difficult time within our organization due to the loss of two of our key members.

On December 16th, Owen “Jack” Connell passed at age 89 following a long battle with cancer. Jack was a senior member of The Company of Neighbours Board of Directors. A native son, as a young man he was employed as a weaver at Dominion Woollens & Worsted Co. before taking a position with the Town of Hespeler Board of Works. In that role he gained a deep knowledge of the Hespeler community. He joined the Hespeler Volunteer Fire Department, raising to the level of Captain. With amalgamation, he became a member of the Cambridge Fire Service raising to Acting Platoon Chief. He was forced into retirement due to a major heart attack but continued his love for the Hespeler community through volunteering.

Howard Edgar Poechman passed on December 22nd at the age of 86 following a fall at his home. “Howie”, a longtime Hespeler resident was a native of Formosa, Ontario. He moved to Hespeler after obtaining employment as a welder at Stamped & Enameled Ware Co. (later American Standard Co.). Following an industrial accident that took his right hand, he continued his employment as a tow motor operator with the company until his retirement. He joined The Company of Neighbours, volunteering as our Tuesday & Thursday shopkeeper for the past twenty-five years. Howie always amazed us with his positive outlook and the ability to do more with his left hand than most could do with two! Howie was elected Vice-Chair of TCON in 2004, and served our organization faithfully and diligently over the last fifteen years.

Their passing has left a large void to be filled and we will miss our friends dearly.

The Day That Changed Hespeler Village

By Marty Lachance

On January 19th, 2020, we acknowledge the passing of 150 years since fire ripped through Jacob Hespeler’s Crown Jewel – his woollen mill on the Speed River. The original 3-floor structure was completed in 1862 and was in operation for only 8 years.

Hespeler Mill FireOn Wednesday January 19, 1870 at 8:20pm, the fire bell rang to notify the fire department that assistance was needed at the mill. The fire brigade had only a few hundred feet to travel to the blaze from their station. The equipment at the time was no match for a rapidly growing fire in a building with mostly wooden floors, beams and support pillars. Preston and Galt fire departments eventually arrived to help but the building would not be saved.

It was reported that the roof collapsed which is a testament to how devastating the fire was. Jacob Hespeler and sons were out of town on the night of the fire, only to arrive to a glow in the night sky from their precious mill on fire. While it was a complete loss of structure and machinery to Jacob, insurance paid him $70,000 for his losses. The old mill remained in a state of ruin for several years.

The building itself was touted as a marvel in fire resistance. It was said that in case of fire, the boiler system would be able to suppress the heat and flames by flooding the building with steam. It was certainly a bold claim for the 1860’s! I was skeptical and set out to conduct my own research. In 2018, I met with a senior engineer from Babcock & Wilcox to understand the science and practicality of using steam to extinguish an interior fire of this magnitude. Given the fuel sources and capabilities of the boiler of the time – Hespeler’s claim of fire suppression would not have been possible. The system would likely never have been tested in reality. As far as we know, the use of steam wasn’t attempted during this fire.

The village would suffer when the mill was put out of operation, but it opened the door for new businesses and entrepreneurs to gain a foothold. While we don’t know his motivation, Jacob Hespeler decided to leave the village that he helped build and manage. He travelled to California shortly after the fire, leaving his assets for his family to sell. He later returned and passed away in March 1881.

Limpert Avenue

Editor’s Note: This is another in a series on Hespeler street names.

Limpert Avenue was named for Valentine “Valtin” Limpert and his family. Born July 23, 1829 in Saxe, Weimar, Germany, “Valtin” Limpert immigrated to Ontario in 1853. He married Susannah Witmer (born November 28, 1839 in Waterloo Township) and together they raised a large family. A house painter by trade in his younger days, “Valtin” operated his business under the name V. Limpert & Sons. He later took up the butcher trade and was a dealer in all kinds of meat and sausage.

A fine musician, he taught music and was the leader of the Hespeler Concert Band. “Valtin” Limpert passed away August 27, 1914 in his 87th year. Cause of death was attributed to gangrene of the foot. He is buried in New Hope Cemetery. John “Jack” Limpert was born December 17, 1857. He was active in business with his father “Valtin”. He married Anna Martha Zyrd (born July 27, 1870 in Hespeler) and they had two children.

Following Anna’s death, “Jack” married Magdalena Bolduc on January 29, 1883. In 1884, he purchased a lot on Queen St. East. After erecting a building, he operated a barber shop for a number of years and later switched to the sale of shoes, in which he was very successful. Active in public life, he was elected to the Hespeler Town Council in 1905 and served many years. “Jack” Limpert passed away on March 25, 1928 and is buried in New Hope Cemetery.

Being Positive About the Negatives

By Lary Turner

Among the treasures squirrelled away in The Company of Neighbours archives are a couple of shoe boxes of photograph negatives, all neatly separated into envelopes. These negatives, dating from 1940s – 1950s were brought into the Hespeler Heritage Centre from Dominion Woollens & Worsted Co. Ltd. following the clearing of their records room. They sat on an archives shelf, nearly forgotten for a number of years, until a local historical buff learned they existed.

Marty Lachance, of Chatworthy Digital Marketing, asked to see them. As an amateur photographer himself, he was fascinated by this forgotten collection of amazing pictures captured by Hespeler amateur photographer Frank Johnston. Marty asked permission to scan and digitalize them for posterity.

He began his work this past summer and has invested many, many hours into this project during which he has uncovered many previously unknown pictures of Hespeler. To date Marty has scanned nearly 1500, and has hundreds more to go, rediscovering our history from that period along the way!

One of the more than 2,000 images recovered.

Hespeler Legion Br.#272

Your Legion is abuzz this time of year with all winter sports leagues running full tilt! Many Branch renovation projects have been completed with others on hold until the spring season. All washrooms have been upgraded, the kitchen, clubrooms, and small hall have also been completely renovated and the parking lot repaved. The Jacob Hespeler Hall façade has been removed; the building repainted and brickwork added. Plans for 2020 will see the Jacob Hespeler Hall undergo a complete renewal. These upgrades will continue to make the Hespeler Legion one of the best Branches in Canada. Drop in and check out all the improvements! …. The popular Friday Nite Dinners are up and running again after the ladies enjoyed a well-earned rest over the holiday season. Upcoming dinners are: Feb. 7 – Ham & Scalloped Potatoes, Feb. 21 – Chicken Dinner, Feb. 28 – Sausage & Sauerkraut, Mar. 6 – Liver & Onions, Mar. 20 – Fish & Chips, Mar. 27 – Shepherd’s Pie.

All dinners are $15, including dessert and coffee or tea. The Hespeler Legion Ladies Auxiliary will be hosting a special Valentine’s Dinner on Sunday Feb. 16 th. at 5:00. On the menu will be their signature “Rolled Ribs” at a cost of $20. Bring your favorite “Queen of Hearts” and enjoy a great meal! Doors open at 4:30pm.

Hespeler Happenings is published four times a year by The Company of Neighbours. It is available at Zehrs, Food Basics, Hespeler Library, W. G. Johnson Centre, Hespeler Heritage Centre and many local businesses. Deadline for the next issue is Friday April 24, 2020. Submissions are welcome, but articles should not exceed 500 words. Ad rates are available upon request. Please contact editor Lary Turner at 519-658-9290 or email lary_turner@msn.com. Hespeler Happenings is a newsletter devoted to the promotion of information and activities, in and around the former Town of Hespeler, for the greater good of the people of our community.

Hespeler Village Neighbourhood Assoc.

HVNA March Break Day Camp runs Monday March 16th- Friday March 120th from 9:00am-4:00pm at Saint Luke’s Church – Gymnasium. Cost is $125 per child and includes daily activities, 2 special guests and 1 off-site trip! March Break Day Camp registration also gives early registration for Summer Fun Camp. To register, please email info@hvna.ca or for more details, please contact HVNA at (519) 240- 3567.

Visit our website –> www.hvna.ca

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