Born in Switzerland in 1821, Frederick immigrated to Canada with his family some time before 1855. He was living in Preston, Ontario in 1871 with his father, Christian (1789-1872), and two brothers, John (1815-1891) and Christian Jr. (1835-1885). None of the brothers were working at the time, just the 82 year old father, Christian, was working as a labourer. He is listed as widowed as well. Christian Jr. is recorded as being of “unsound mind”. A few months after the census was taken, Christian, Frederick and Christian Jr. were committed to the Poorhouse due to destitution. Frederick and Christian were both recorded as “idiotic”. They had been living in Preston for 15 years.
William Jaffray met the Marti family when he went to visit the Poorhouse in May 1871.
Despite William Jaffray’s prejudice and discriminatory language, there are a few things that we can learn about the Marti family from this excerpt. The boys had other siblings but their whereabouts is unknown and their mother abandoned the family years before. We also learned how Frederick used to dress in a long-tailed plaid coat and a straw hat, which is how he has been described by locals who had seen him walk up and down the fenced area of the Poorhouse farms and speak with people passing by. Below is an illustration of what he is thought to have looked like.
Less than a year after they were committed to the House, Christian Sr. died from apoplexy, which usually results from a stroke.
Frederick and Christian Jr. remained in the Poorhouse together. They were both on the 1881 Census of Canada as living in the Poorhouse and both were recorded as “deaf”, “dumb” and with “unsound mind”.
Frederick appears in the logbook every year between 1871 and 1899, his nickname of “Bismark” often written beside his name. Frederick is written about as “Bismark” by Mabel Dunham, who states
“Of all the inmates of the Waterloo County House of Industry and Refuge throughout the years none was better known than Bismark, the deaf mute who spent his waking hours trudging up and down Frederick Street within the bounds of poor-house property dressed in the red coat of a British soldier. Poor old Bismark, with his wooden gun and his hat full of paper clippings! The Ontario Anatomy act had no terrors for him, but his lifeless body was the first sent from Berlin to Toronto, under its provisions to be a subject for scientific research. Contemporary with Bismark was the wide plank sidewalk–Lovers? Lane which came from town and terminated just beyond the Poor House gate. Near by stood a long, wooden bench of two steps with a hitching post at either end. That was in horse and buggy days. Now the glory has departed from the scene and the lovers roll by in expensive automobiles.”
Frederick died in 1904 from Bright’s disease. His body was sent to the Toronto School of Anatomy.