Five Gehr children were admitted to the Poorhouse on August 4th 1873, listed as committed because of “Mother Intemperance”. Margaret Gehr (1861-), Catharine Gehr (1863-), Louisa Gehr (1867-), George Gehr (1869-) and John Gehr (1871-). Their parents were Peter Gehr and Sarah Coulter, as shown on Margaret’s Marriage certificate from 1906.


Margaret Gehr was 12 years old when admitted to the House and was sent “On trial” less than two weeks after arriving on August 16th to Ephraim Bricker, presumably  to work as a domestic or a servant. Ephraim Bricker was a blacksmith in the region and was married to Ellen Rosalia Cook.

Margaret appears in the 1881 census of Canada, listed as “Maggie Carr”, 18 years old and a servant with the Bricker Family: Eprhaim, his wife, Ellen, and their three children, Laura, Genva, and Lorn. Aaron Bricker, 24 years old, was also living with the family at the time and appears to be Eprhaim’s brother.

Margaret was returned to the House on July 14th 1881, with a son who was 6 weeks old, Aaron B. Gehr. His birth certificate shows that he was born Aaron Bricker Gehr on June 1st 1881.


Aaron Bricker Gehr's Birth Certificate; Source:

Aaron Bricker Gehr’s Birth Certificate; Source:


On July 22 1881 in the House of Industry and Refuge Letter Books, Inspector Israel Bowman wrote to the Keeper of the Poorhouse, Peter Itter, that:


“  Mr. Ephraim [Bricker] has secured a house for the girl [Margaret Ann Gehr] and her child. Be so good as to let Mr. [Bricker] see the girl and if she consents to go with him – be kind enough to let her go – however not without taking the child with her”


From the letter book, Margaret claims that she became pregnant with her child while working with the Brickers by Aaron Bricker, whom she named the child after. In a letter addressed to Aaron Bricker from Israel Bowman , he wrote:


Dear Sir,

“The girl [Zehr] an Inmate of the House of Industry & Refuge here is the mother of an illegitimate male child and she says you are the father of it. Sometime ago she voluntarily made what is called an affidavit of affiliation to that effect, which was filed within the time required by law in the Office of the Clerk of the Peace – she now threatens legal proceedings against you to compel you to support the child – The matter was brought under the notice of the Standing Committee by Mr. Itter, the Keeper, at their meeting at the House on the 3rd inst. and they thought proper to instruct me to write you acquainting you with the Statements made by the girl as aforesaid – so that you could govern yourself accordingly – If what the girl says – are matters of fact – it might be worth your while to try and make some kind of arrangement or settlement with her”


There was no follow up letter nor any records that show Margaret ever going through with the legal proceedings. Margaret remained in the House until April 14th 1882 when she was discharged and sent to Galt. Her two-year old son, Aaron, was sent to New Hamburg to the Jutze Family, “On Trial” on the same date. A few decades later, Margaret married Robert Holmwood on April 12th 1906, and they are listed as living in Winterbourne, Ontario with Margaret’s sister, Louisa Gehr.


Catharine Gehr was 10 years old when she entered the Poorhouse with her siblings. She stayed at the House for five years and was then taken on trial by Jacob S. Bowman and his wife on March 29, 1878. she appeared on the 1881 Canadian Census as “ Catherine Geiger” and living in Wilmot Township with Jacob Bowman (56 y/o) his wife, Mary Bowman (50 y/o), and a farmhand named Christian Magdelinske.

Catherine appears again as living with Jacob and Mary Bowman in the 1891 census, listed as “Catherine Gihr” and working as a domestic. Mary Bowman died a few years later in 1897 and Jacob died in 1905. Catherine eventually moved to Toronto to live with her father, Peter Gehr. Her father was working as a railroad carpenter while Catherine was not working. They had a lodger living with them, William F. Smith, who worked as a caretaker.



Louisa Gehr was six years old when she arrived to the Poorhouse with her siblings in 1873. She spent three years in the Poorhouse, then in May of 1876 she was sent “On Trial” to work as a servant or a domestic for Christian Roth in St. Agatha. She appeared in the 1881 Census as living with Christian Roth, age 50, Magdalena Roth, aged 47, and their sons, John (21 y/o), Christian (18 y/o), David (16 y/o), and Randolph (12 y/o)  working as a servant at 12 years old.

Louisa is sent back to the Poorhouse on October 28, 1885 at 18 years old. She is listed as Enciente, (Illegitimately pregnant). As stated in the Minutes for the Standing Committee:


That the girl Louisa Gehr, Enceinte, be received into the House to be cared for as an Inmate, on the payment of $45.00 for the uses of the House, by her former guardian Mr Christian L. Roth and furnishing the said girl with two suits of good clothing


Louisa gave birth to a stillborn son on December 16th 1885, the child was marked as “illegitimate” on its death certificate.

Louisa lived in the Poorhouse for seven years after this. It is stated in the meeting minutes in June 1890 that:


“Mrs Jacob S. Bowman of Wilmot made application for the discharge of Louisa Gehr, an inmate of the House – Mrs B. having raised and adopted the sister of said Louisa Gehr some 12 years ago”.  it was moved “ That the application for the discharge of Louisa Gehr be not granted at present – but that the matter be again considered at the next regular quarterly meeting of the Committee”


There is no further discussion about this application in the minutes, however Louisa was discharged August 20th 1892. It appears that Louisa remained working at the Poorhouse after she was discharged, as the Keeper`s Cash Book listed that she was paid out for 11 weeks of work, at 1.25 a week in 1893.


Keeper`s Cash Accounts; Source: Region of Waterloo Archives

Keeper`s Cash Accounts; Source: Region of Waterloo Archives


Louisa returned to the House on March 18th 1900, this time she was listed as having “ Weak Intellect” as the reason for pauperism. She remained there until 1908, where she was sent to “Her sister in Winterbourne”. As stated in the meeting minutes in 1909:


“That Robt. P. Holmwood be allowed to take his sister- in – law, Louisa Gehr, to live with him & his wife at Winterbourne provided he gives a bond for $200.”


Louisa returned to the Poorhouse again on July 22 1912, and remained there for four years until she was discharged on September 13th 1916. She is listed as living with her sister, Margaret Holmwood, and Margaret’s husband, Robert Holmwood, in 1921.


George Gehr arrived at the Poorhouse with his siblings when he was four years old. He stayed at the House for a year until he was sent “On-Trial” in 1874. He returned shortly after this and then was sent “On trial” again in May 1875 to George Burton in Elora. He returned in 1876, and  sent “On Trial” for a third time in 1877 to  Jacob Meyer in  St. Agatha. He returned to the Poorhouse in January 1880, and was sent  “On trial” on February 5th, to Dan Wegner In Breslau. George appears in the 1881 census, his name written as “George Keare”, Living with Dan Wenger (20 y/o) and his Wife Angeline Wenger (20 y/o), both Mennonite farmers. He does not appear with the family in the 1891 census, suggesting that he had been sent somewhere else after this.


John Gehr arrived at the House with his siblings at 2 years old. He stayed in the House for one year, and does not appear in the logbook again after this. It is not listed where he was sent to.