Frederick Salm was born in Germany in 1846 to parents, Frederick (1806-1871) and Christina (1806-). He had three siblings: Fredericka (1856-), Theophile (1843-), and Caspar (1850-). On the 1861 Canadian Census, he was living with his family in Wellesley in a log house. His father was a weaver and only Caspar was attending school. Frederick is listed as an idiot on the census. Frederick’s parents had another child a few years later, Katie/Catherine (1858-).

Frederick Salm was admitted to the Poorhouse on December 29 1869. He was also listed on the Register as Idiotic and that he had been living in Wellesley, Ontario for 12 years.

William Jaffray wrote about Frederick on his visit to the Poorhouse in 1870:


“The worst idiot in the place. Inclined to be very mischievous, his arms are confined in a straight jacket, but the motion thereby lost in one direction seems to have crept into his legs in search of liberty and company, and imparts to them a rapidly and snake like motion suggesting of the idea that he could if he liked, out walk his own clothes. As he paces backwards and forwards he rubs his shoulder against the side of the building, either for the pleasure of the counter-irritation, or for the same more profitable purpose that might easily compassed by calling into requisition a gatepost. Suddenly observing me he drops the earth with a single motion of the whole body which may be expressively styled “flopping”, and turns his face to the ground, peeping round every few seconds with an indescribably repulsive countenance to see if he still be watched.  I afterwards observed that he pursued the same course in the day room; and, later on, he could be seen wondering with the same cat like tread round the yard, uttering incoherent murmuring, and occasionally breaking into something which he intended for those valuable musical sounds which are called and appreciated as “prepared discords”.

(William Jaffray’s Day at the Waterloo County Poorhouse Lecture,Region of Waterloo, 1871 )


Frederick stayed in the Poorhouse for 10 years until he was sent to the Hamilton Asylum on October 10, 1879. 


Frederick Salm being sent to the Hamilton Asylum in the Keeper's Cash Accounts, October 10, 1879; Source: Region of Waterloo Archives

Frederick Salm being sent to the Hamilton Asylum in the Keeper’s Cash Accounts, October 10, 1879; Source: Region of Waterloo Archives


It is unclear as to when Frederick Salm died or how long he stayed at the Hamilton Asylum.

Catharine Salm, Frederick’s younger sister, seemed to have worked at the Poorhouse when she was just 12 or 13 years old. She is recorded in the Keeper’s Cashbook on February 23, 1871. It is unknown how long she was working at the Poorhouse or if it was just that once.


Keeper’s Cash Book 1871; Source: Region of Waterloo Archives


Several years after Frederick left the Poorhouse, his youngest sister, Katie Salm, entered the House on October 22, 1896 with her daughter Florence Salm (1896-) who was six months old at the time. Katie was committed to the House with “weak intellect” and it states on the Register that he had been living in Berlin, Ontario for five years. Florence only stayed at the House for about four months until she was bound out (adopted) by Mrs. Otto Sachan. She is seen again on the 1911 Census of Canada in Berlin living with Otto Sachan and Mrs. Ross Kaft and being the “adopted daughter” of Mrs. Ross Kaft. Florence was 15 years old at the time and working as a sewer at the “Wilkinson Factory”. She was working 54 hours/week, which was 11 hours/day and earned $182.00 for the 48 weeks she worked in 1911.


Florence Salm as Florence Sachan on the 1911 Census of Canada; Source:

Florence Salm as Florence Sachan on the 1911 Census of Canada; Source:


Katie, Florence’s mother, was discharged from the Poorhouse a few months after her daughter was adopted on May 19, 1897. She was sent to live with her brother, Caspar, who was working as a labourer in Wilmot. Katie had been living with Casper and his family in 1891 when she was working as a servant. It is also interesting to note that in 1893, while Katie was living with Caspar, they were listed in the Berlin Directory together just below Otto Sachan, the adoptive parent of Florence Salm. This could suggest that Otto and Katie had worked together at some point before Florence was born, perhaps suggesting that Otto was or was related to the father of Florence or at least felt sorry for her and adopted Florence. It is unclear where Katie went after 1911. Caspar immigrated to New York with his family in 1910.