Elizabeth Lake was born in Ontario around 1864 and her parents are unknown. She grew up in New Hamburg, Ontario, where she lived until she was sent to the Poorhouse on December 18, 1885, the reason being that she was “enceinte” (pregnant). She gave birth to Maggie Umbach Lake on March 1, 1886; no father was listed.  Below is a story about Elizabeth and Maggie Lake that was written by a contributor and descendant of the Umbach family, Lynn Carrier, who believes that Maggie Umbach Lake could have been her relative.


Maggie’s mother, Elizabeth Lake, had been taken [to the House of Industry and Refuge] on December 18,1885 (one week before Christmas) from the Village of New Hamburg by the reeve, Otto Pressprich, of said village – because she had been evicted.  Elizabeth was 20 years old and had lived in the county for two years.

Little Maggie was born on March 14, 1886 to Elizabeth Lake and she died there on May 27, 1886 of “infant debility”.   Elizabeth remained in the home for a total of 342 days so she would have been there until sometime in November 1886.  That still doesn’t tell us why Maggie was given the middle name of Umbach but it was common in those days for boys to take their mother’s maiden name – perhaps Maggie had been given her father’s surname as a middle name.

While waiting for the Archivist to pull some other records I wanted to look at, I was looking through a book titled Waterloo County: An Illustrated History by Godfrey Hayes.  There was an article about the Berlin House of Industry and Refuge, copy of the relevant pages are attached.  It was a pretty awful place and has haunted me ever since….I understand that that was the way things were back then but it still bothered me to think that this little baby was born and died in such dire circumstances, and there was nothing to commemorate her life.


I came across the marriage of an Elizabeth Ann Lake born in about 1865 (that was the correct year of birth for someone who was 20 years old in 1885) who married Menno Bright (or Beight) on December 31, 1889 in Waterloo.  It was noted on the marriage license that Elizabeth had been adopted by John  S….. (can’t read the name) at a young age and did not know her parents names.  The 1891 census shows Menno and Elizabeth with their daughter Elsie (born in about December 1890).  The next listing I could find was of Menno is in the Ohio census of 1900 where he was listed as widowed.

A month after my return home, Ms. [Sandy] Hoy sent me copies of some newspaper articles relating to the law suit against Mr & Mrs Peter Itter.  They showed that Mrs. [Elizabeth Ann] Beight had written a letter and been a witness against them in court.  I was SOOO proud of her!


Elizabeth did marry Menno Beight in 1889 and they had one daughter together, Elsie, in 1891. Menno was working as a labourer while Elizabeth took care of the baby.

During the 1893 Scandal at the Poorhouse, Elizabeth came forward and testified against the Itter’s. In her statement, she said she witnessed several accounts of physical abuse and ill treatment towards the inmates when she was at the Poorhouse in 1885. Her statement was recorded under her married name, Mrs. Beight.


Berlin Daily Record July 4, 1893 ;Source: Kitchener Public Library Archives

Berlin Daily Record July 4, 1893 ;Source: Kitchener Public Library Archives


Elizabeth died a few years later in 1895 of blood poisoning. It’s unclear what happened to her daughter, Elsie, after her death.


Elizabeth Lake's Death Certificate; Source: ancestry.ca

Elizabeth Lake’s Death Certificate; Source: ancestry.ca


As Lynn stated, Menno moved to the United States, where he was born, and lived out his life there. He didn’t take their daughter with him.