Monthly Archives: July 2015

Pioneer Tower – a place of

Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower 

300 Lookout Lane, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada

A place of remembrance, tribute, respect, accidental death and burial

 Kitchener-PioneerTowerPostcard-001In 1800 from Pennsylvania a group of Mennonite families to settled in Canada. They came to Block 2 which was former Six Nation land situated along the Grand River. There were issues concerning land ownership with these original settlers and others who came over the next three years. Several of them went back to Pennsylvania and raised the funds to purchase to Block 2. A joint stock company was created and the 60,000 acres were secured. Many other Mennonites from Pennsylvania following this, and created the large, vibrant settlement of what was later come incorporated into what is now Waterloo Region.

Over 100 years later in 1923 a number of members of the Waterloo Kitchener-PioneerTowerPostcard-002-constructionHistorical Society and a descendents created an association to erect a memorial to recognize the lives, struggles of those early settlers. . A memorial tower was constructed in 1826 near Doon on a acre of the lands purchased in 1800 by Joseph Schoerg and Samuel Betzner, two Mennonite pioneers from Pennsylvania.

Its random-coursed fieldstone, tapered “Swiss” copper roof, and the Conestoga wagon weathervane reflect the Swiss origin and farming lifestyle of the early Pennsylvania German settlers. The observation deck incorporates references to true north and to the Grand River Trail used by the first settlers.

A Place of Burial

D. N. Panabaker stated during the dedication of the tower in August 1926 said:

“I see no reason to doubt that in this graveyard the seven nameless graves all marked out by limestone slabs are — the graves of Indians who had become friendly to the early settlers”.  Also he said “note — the discoloured marble headstone, but particularly the beautiful engraving which was done by hand. It is the artistic work of Joseph Schoerg’s son, the late Rev. David Shirk who — was probably one of the first children born to the families which settled here”

Who would have known that D. N. Panabaker would fall from the very tower he dedicated dying later.

A Place of Accidental Death

Falls 40 Feet And Dies At Hospital – Former Hespeler Mayor, D.N. Panabaker, Prominent in Public Life

Hespeler – D.N. Panabaker, 70, died in hospital at Galt on Thursday of injuries received when he fell forty feet to the ground from a lookout platform of the Pioneers Memorial Tower near Doon.  Chief Coroner W.A. Woolner said there will be no inquest.  Panabaker, who served as Mayor of Hespeler for many years, was conscious when found but said later he could not explain how the accident occurred.  Panabaker was the president of the Waterloo Historical Society, responsible for erection of the Memorial Tower.

For many years identified with the Canadian woolen industry as manager of the Hespeler division, Dominion Woolens and Worsteds Ltd., he was known as an authority in Canadian Woolen circles. Born n Waterloo Township 70 years ago, serving on the town council Hespeler, of Pennsylvania Dutch stock, he became one of the most reliable authorities on the early history of the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers in this country.  It was through his efforts that the Memorial Tower from which he fell was erected to the memory of the county’s early pioneers.

He was prominent in civic affairs of Hespeler and the county for many years serving on the town council and later on the county council as reeve.  He was later elected warden of the county. He was an active member of the United Church.  He was a past president of the waterloo County Children’s aid Society and also of the Ontario Children’s Aid Society.  He was also a past president of the Waterloo County Canadian Club.

His entire life was spent in Hespeler where he entered the employ of the R. Forbes Woolen Company as a youth, rising to manager of the concern which later became a division of the Dominion Woolens and Worsteds Ltd.  He retired from active connection with the firm about ten years ago.  In later years he had been identified with the Hespeler Felt Company.

Besides his wife he is survived by three sons, Wilbur of Saskatchewan, Frank of Hamilton, distinguished Canadian landscape painter, and Reeve James Panabaker of Hespeler.  Four brothers, Levi and C.A. of Hespeler, Arnold of Blair and Ephraim in the West, with three sisters, the Misses Susan and Elizabeth of Hespeler and Mrs. Chambers of Atwood, also survive.

Waterloo Chronicle Aug 11 1939  pg 1


Kitchener-PioneerTowerPostcard-003-2015-GoogleNow nearly 90 years later it still stands proud, open on Canada Day and some other holidays. You can climb the many stairs, see the numerous names carved by visitors over the decades and know that its purpose has been fulfilled.