Noah Shantz was born in 1854 in Bloomingdale, Ontario to a young farming family. His father, Daniel (1827-1906), and mother, Esther Wismer (1826-1881) raised their family on a small farm outside of Waterloo. According to the 1861 census, Noah and his two older brothers, Jacob (1850-1931) and Henry (1851-1928) attended school until they reached their early pre-teen years when they were old enough to start working on the farm. Noah’s younger sister, Mary (1859-1923), may have gone to school as a young girl but by the age of 12, she was out of school and working on the farm helping with household chores. He had another younger brother, Daniel (1861-) who was still attending school at the age of 9. Noah had three more sibling born in the 1860s: Esther (1863-), Barbara (1865-1935), and Menno W. (1869-1927).
Noah married Rachel Shantz (1856-1890) on February 27, 1876, and they found a house in Bloomingdale to live close to his family. In 1881, the Canadian Census listed Noah’s occupation as “factory hand”, suggesting that he stopped working on the farm and found a more consistent and less laborious job. The couple had six children together: Edmund (1877-1943), Elah (1879-1971), Daniel (1880-1955), Myrtie (1882-1883), Susannah (1885-1886), Maurice (1887-1961), and Orvie (1889-1907). On both Daniel and Orvie’s birth certificates, Noah is listed as being a carpenter.
Unfortunately, Rachel began to suffer from pulmonary tuberculosis in 1889 and died in August 1890. After her death, Noah wasn’t able to care for his children and the Shantz children were split up and taken in by other family members around Waterloo County or were hired on by another farm to work there, for example Daniel was taken in by the Martin Family in Woolwich and started working on the farm at the age of 10. It is unclear as to where Noah was living or working at the beginning of the 1890s. Noah entered the Poorhouse on May 11, 1895, alone, with the case of pauperism listed as a “lunatic”. Noah’s father, Daniel, who was living with his daughter, Barbara, and her family from sometime before 1891 until his death in 1906, was asked by the Standing Committee for the House of Industry to pay for Noah’s “maintenance”:
House of Industry & Refuge
Berlin April 30th 1896
The Standing Committee met this day on the Call of the Chairman –
Present Messrs Cranston, Erb, McAuslan, Moore, Shantz & Walter and the Warden –
Mr Erb in the Chair –
Lists of the Inmates now in the House were Carefully examined with the view of discharging any now in the House that cannot claim at least 2 years residence.
1460 – Noah Shantz – Write his father Saml. Shantz D.y. will discharge his son unless something paid towards his maintenance –
He stayed at the Poorhouse for 15 years until it was recorded that he was leaving in the summer months for work during the summer harvest. He would leave the Poorhouse (sometimes he “absconded” and other times he was discharged) around May and return in early fall. It was recorded that he would be “out herding” most likely on a farm close by or perhaps his son, Daniel’s, farm, which was located in Waterloo South. This type of seasonal work was also referred to as winter or seasonal poverty as the farm labourer could only find work in the summer months and was left destitute because of the cold winters and most likely had to enter a Poorhouse to find shelter and food. In the Registry, it was recorded that Noah did this for several years throughout the 1910s.
Sometimes, the records would just show that Noah “absconded” for the summer months. He was at the House for 158 days, which meant he was out of the House for about 7 months some years.
Noah died on December 27, 1920 after returning to the Poorhouse for the winter months after suffering from dropsy which was brought on by epileptic convulsions he had been having for 10 years (which could have been the reason he was listed as a lunatic in the House Registry). He was buried by his brother in the Waterloo Region.