George Martin Jr. was born in Exeter, Devonshire, England in 1841. In 1855, he immigrated to Ontario, Canada with his parents George Sr. (1813-1890) and Grace Howard/Hayward (1810-1890) along with his three siblings: Mary Jane (1839-1924), William (1847-) and Thomas (date of birth unknown). The Martin family initially settled in Queen’s Bush (what is now Wellesley, Ontario) and then a few years later to Puslinch, Ontario where they lived on the farm of William (1821-1904) and Sarah Eagle (1830-1896) and their children. George Jr. and William were both working as labourers on the farm and George Sr. was working as a farmer. It was here where George Jr. met Matilda Eagle, the sister of William Eagle who owned the farm. George and Matilda married in Puslinch in 1862. The newly weds moved to Hespeler, Ontario and had five children together: Alfred H (1865-1866), Albert (1867-), Arthur James (1869-1923), Mary (1875-1887), and Herbert Washington (1880-1956). George began working as a saddler in Hespeler and was a Councillor for Hespeler in 1876.

Unfortunately, due to Matilda’s dwindling health, she died on March 31, 1884 of dropsy. Three years after her mother’s death, Mary died.  At the time, George is listed as being a harness marker.



Matilda’s Death Certificate, 1884; Source:


Shortly after Matilda’s death, George married Annie Elizabeth Seward (1861-1935) and they moved to Doon Village in Hespeler. George began working at a groceries and produce store with his son, Arthur, who was working as a clerk. Albert took on his father’s trade and began working as a harness maker.



1891 Canada Census; Source:


George and Annie have three children together: Theodore S. (1886-1906), Florence Estella (1889-1970), and Frederick Havelock (1894-1967). They continued to live in Hespeler with their children and George’s children from his previous marriage until 1898 when the call went out for a new Keeper and Matron at the House of Industry and Refuge following the death of Joseph Laird. George and Annie were chosen to be the next Keeper and Matron of the House and move in to the manager’s living quarters with their children. Herbert Bowman, the County Clerk and Treasurer in 1898, wrote a letter to the County Councillor of Hespeler expressing his delight in having George and Annie as the Keeper and Matron of the Poorhouse.


Decr. 12th 1898

Jas. P. Phin, Esq.,

        County Councillor,

                    HESPELER, Ont

                    Dear Mr. Phin,

        Enclosed you will please find cheque for $40.20 for attendance at County Council &c &c

        I am sorry to hear that it is not your intention to be a candidate at the coming election but hope that you may soon regain your health and at some future time be again with us in the County Council.

        Mr. Martin’s supporters made no mistake in appointing him and his wife to take charge of the House of Industry. In the past we have never had two individuals both so well adapted to their respective duties. The cost of maintenance this year is nearly $1,300 less than last year and the weekly cost per person, 80,  is the lowest in nearly twenty years.

Yours very truly,

                    Herbert J. Bowman

                    County Clerk & Treasurer


Below is the by-law that appointed George and Annie Eliza as the next managers of the House.


By-Law 471 Appointing George and Annie the next Keeper and Matron of the House; Source: Journal of Proceedings and By-Laws of the Municipal Council of the County of Waterloo 1898, Region of Waterloo Archives

By-Law 471 Appointing George and Annie the next Keeper and Matron of the House; Source: Journal of Proceedings and By-Laws of the Municipal Council of the County of Waterloo 1898, Region of Waterloo Archives


From the above photo, we can also see that George was paid $400/year as Keeper and Annie was paid $200/year as Matron.

In 1899, He was given a raise to $500/year, although Annie’s salary remained the same. They each received a $50.00 raise in 1905 and again of the same amount in 1906. In a letter written by Herbert J. Bowman to the Warden at the County of Huron House of Refuge in 1907, he stated that even though George didn’t work on the farm, George enjoyed raising fat hogs which greatly increased the income for the House over the time that George was the Keeper.

George and Annie were also able to do some needed improvements to the property, such as in 1900 when they had the men’s sleeping apartments refurbished and a new wing for the hospital built to reduce overcrowding and separate the sexes. In 1904, they attached an addition onto the barn.


County Minutes 1900; Source: Region of Waterloo Archives

County Minutes 1900; Source: Journal of Proceedings and By-Laws of the Municipal Council of the County of Waterloo 1900, Region of Waterloo Archives


On the Canada Census of 1911, the Keeper and Matron were listed with their family members just above the rest of the staff members and inmates. George was making $600/year and Annie was making $375/year. Herbert was working at the White Factory as a shipper and making $750/ year and Frederick is working at the Shirt Factory as a packer (no wage is listed). It’s also interesting to note that the first domestic listed on this census, Lucy Seibert, does eventually go on to marry Herbert Martin later that year.


1911 Canada Census; Source:

1911 Canada Census; Source:


George and Annie handed in their resignation on June 1, 1916. There is no record as to why they wanted to resign at that point, however, George had been taking frequent leaves of absence over the years leading up to his resignation.


House of Refuge

Berlin, June 1st 1916.

The Board of Management of the House of Refuge met to- day.

Present: B. W. Zeimann- Chairman

Warden Snider & Mayor Edwards.


That the resignation of Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Martin as manager and matron be accepted, with regret, to take effect September 1st next, and that Mr. and Mrs. H. N. Martin be duly appointed to the vacancies at a salary of $550 each.



They left the House on September 1, 1916 and allowed for their son, Herbert Washington, and his wife, Lucy, to take over from them.

Shortly after they moved out of the House, they moved to Brubacher Street in Kitchener, ON. They had a roomer named Steele Mackenzie living with them for a short period of time. George remained in his house until his death on March 3, 1930. He died at the age of 88 of “myocardial dysfunction” caused by old age. He was well celebrated throughout the community. Below is one of many obituaries written about him. This one specifically comes from the Hespeler Herald on Friday, March 6, 1930:


George Martin, one of the old-timers of Hespeler, passed away at his home in Kitchener on Monday evening at the advanced age of 89 years. Mr. Martin moved from Hespeler some 34 years ago to become manager of the house of refuge. He retired from that position about 14 years ago. He was born in England in 1841 and came to Canada on a sailing vessel in 1855, with his family who settled north of St. Jacobs. The deceased here learned the harness trade, and the family finally moved to Puslinch and later conducted a harness business in Hespeler for a number of years.

He took a great interest in church work, and was one of the founders of the Hespeler Methodist Church. On coming to Kitchener, he was a teacher in the bible school, later becoming trustee and member of the quarterly board of the Methodist Church. At the time of Church union, he was ordained as a senior leader of Trinity United Church.

Mr. Martin was married twice, his first wife being Matilda Eagle of Hespeler. To this union were born four sons and one daughter, Alfred and Mary of Hespeler and Arthur James of Kitchener, predeceased their father, Albert E. of Holyoke, Mass., and Herbert W. of Kitchener, surviving him.

In 1885 he married Annie K. Seward of Corunna, Ont. To this union were born two sons and one daughter Florence (Mrs V.L.Cober) and Frederick H. both of Kitchener. Theodore S, having died in 1906 at the age of 20 years. Seven grandchildren also survive. He had one sister, the late Mrs John Paddock of Puslinch, Ont., and two brothers the late Thomas Martin of Holyoke Mass., and the late William Martin of Dunkirk N.Y., who was American Consul for twelve years and American Governor general in China for four years, holding this position during the Boxer rebellion. – Source: Waterloo Region Generations


Annie died on November 26, 1935 of “apoplexy pneumonia”. They were buried together at Mount Hope Cemetery in Kitchener.