Who Were the Schneiders?

Joseph Schneider, his wife Barbara and their four children arrived in what is now Waterloo Region in June 1807. They were among a small group of rugged settlers who trekked to the new frontier from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in search of good farmland. What they found was an intimidating landscape of uncleared bush and swamp.

Bolstered by their Mennonite religion and helped by their closely knit society, they quickly adapted to their new life. By 1816, Joseph had built a sawmill and a substantial Georgian-style wood-frame home for his growing family. He had cleared a road - called Schneider Road - through the bush to link his farm with the Great Road from Dundas. It was at this intersection that a town gradually grew up, eventually becoming Kitchener.

By 1834, Joseph's youngest son and namesake, Joseph Eby Schneider, was married. His wife Sarah moved into the house and she and Joseph eventually took over the operation of the farm and mill. Old Joseph and his wife Barbara both died in 1843. By then, Joseph E.'s family was growing and his business was thriving. By 1856 there were eight children living in the house ranging in age from two to 18 years. It is the life of this second Schneider family, pictured right, that plays itself out in the restored historic house today.

The 1850s were a prosperous period for the Schneiders. With the arrival of the railroad, the town of Berlin (now the city of Kitchener) flourished and many more goods and services became available. The difficult first years of settlement soon faded into memories.

Much has changed since the 1850s. The Schneider's original 448 acre farm has shrunk to less than an acre. Victoria Park occupies the land where the saw mill once stood. And Schneider Road is now Queen Street.

But the house that Joseph built still stands beside the creek (now underground) and the farm kitchen still hums with activity throughout the changing seasons.