William Smith was a well-known pauper in Waterloo County. He was born in Upper Canada around 1810 and seems to have lived most of his life in Waterloo County. His family was from Connecticut and were one of the first settlers in the County. William was one of the recipients of poor relief from the County. Elizabeth Bloomfield references William Smith in her book, “Waterloo Township through Two Centuries” (p.169):
In 1855, town warden Jesse Clemens was authorized to give $40 to John Pannebecker “for assistance in keeping and maintaining William Smith [Pannebecker’s brother-in-law], he having both feet taken off [and] unable to support himself, an infirm person.”
This brief excerpt tells us that William had a sister in the area. Mary Smith, John Pannebecker’s wife, was born in Upper Canada in 1805 and her parents are also unknown, like William’s. Mary and John were married and had six children together. They lived in Hespeler together with their children and that is where William Smith stayed when he needed support and care. William’s two lower legs were amputated sometime before 1855, the cause unknown. After that point, it was hard for him to continue to work as a labourer and he sought out support where he could find it, often turning to his sister’s family or neighbours. Mary died in 1872 from liver and heart failure.
Aside from his sister’s family, William was often cared for by various neighbours and community members. His name is mentioned a number of times in the Minutes of the Township of Waterloo Municipal Council who provided funds to different individuals and families that cared for local paupers. Below are a few examples of this.
William was the seventh person to be admitted into the Poorhouse on June 21, 1869. He entered the House due to “frozen feet” which were most likely frostbitten after having “slept in a barn one very cold night”. Due to his frozen feet, he had to have both of his legs amputated to his knees many years prior. Mr. Jaffray took an interest in William Smith and wrote about him a few times in his 1870 article. He was one of the few inmates at the time to make a profit for the House. He took the wood that a blind boy by the name of Hannon collected for him and make clothing pegs out of it.
He stayed at the Poorhouse until his death on March 4, 1879 of apoplexy.