BETZNER, SAMUEL D., settler and district constable; b. 1 March 1771 in Lancaster County, Pa, a son of Samuel Betzner (Bezner) and Maria Detweiler; m. before 1798 Elizabeth Brech, and they had a son and a daughter; d. 10 Aug. 1856 near Flamborough (West Flamborough), Upper Canada.
A native of Württemberg (Federal Republic of Germany), Samuel D. Betzner’s father immigrated to North America in 1755 and settled in Franklin County, Pa. In the fall of 1799 Samuel D. and his brother-in-law Joseph Schörg left that county for the Jordan area of the Niagara district of Upper Canada, where a number of other Mennonites from Pennsylvania had already settled. Betzner spent the winter in Ancaster and that spring set out with Schörg to explore the valley of the Grand River, which had been recommended to them as being attractive for settlement by Jacob Bechtel, an earlier visitor. Proceeding by way of Brant’s Ford (Brantford) they came to block 2 (Waterloo Township), which had been purchased in 1796 from the Six Nations Indians by Richard Beasley*, James Wilson, and John Baptist Rousseaux* St John.
In August 1800 Betzner bought from them land adjacent to the site of the village of Blair. A disastrous fire at Ancaster had destroyed most of his possessions but despite this misfortune he took steps to establish a farm on his chosen lot by clearing land and erecting buildings. Joseph Schörg settled near by, on the east bank of the Grand, and these two men are credited with being the first to establish homes in the area which became Waterloo County in 1850. They were followed by other Pennsylvania Mennonites who sought not only reasonably priced land for farms for their sons but also the continuation of the exemption from military service they had received under British rule before the American Revolutionary War. Most purchased their land from Richard Beasley, who had bought out the interests of Wilson and Rousseaux.
Early in 1803 it was reported that the land these later settlers had bought had been mortgaged by Beasley, Wilson, and Rousseaux to trustees for the Six Nations in 1798 and therefore the settlers would not be able to secure clear title. Betzner and Jacob Bechtel were engaged to go to Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake) where they learned to their consternation that the report was true. The matter was resolved when Beasley agreed in 1803 to sell to the Mennonites a parcel of 60,000 acres of land in block 2 for the sum of £10,000 to pay off the mortgage. The settlers sent representatives back to Pennsylvania, where they eventually persuaded a group of affluent co-religionists and other investors to form a joint-stock company, the German Company, to raise the purchase money. A number of the early settlers, including Betzner, who did not have the mortgage problem remained on their original lots and had no financial interest in the German Company.
A leading member of the Mennonite community, he was made a constable for the Home District in 1800 and was a charter member of the church formed by Benjamin Eby in 1813. In 1817, however, Betzner sold his farm in Waterloo Township and settled on lot 3, concession 1, in West Flamborough Township, where he spent the rest of his life. In 1828–29 he transferred title on this farm to his son, David.
Perhaps Betzner’s only claim to recognition is as one of the earliest settlers in Waterloo County, where heavily forested lands were reached by trails that could scarcely be called roads. He is, nevertheless, representative of those pioneers who, through perseverance and industry, overcame disasters and hardships in order to establish productive farms for succeeding generations of their families.
PAC, RG 1, L3, 33: B6/45; RG 31, A1, 1851, Flamborough (West) Township: 45 (mfm. at AO). Waterloo North Land Registry Office (Kitchener, Ont.), Abstract index to deeds, Waterloo Township, Beasley’s old survey, concession 1, lot 5 (mfm. at AO, GS 3023); West Flamborough Township, concession 1, lot 3 (mfm. at AO, GS 1472). “Minutes of the Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the Home District, 13th March, 1800, to 28th December, 1811,” AO Report, 1932: 44. Berlin Chronicle and Provincial Reformers’ Gazette (Berlin [Kitchener]), 27 Aug. 1856. Laura Betzner Edworthy, The Betzner family in Canada: genealogical and historical records, 1799–1970 (n.p., n.d.; copies at AO and Kitchener Public Library). E. E. Eby, A biographical history of Waterloo Township . . . (2v., Berlin, 1895–96); repub. as E. E. Eby and J. B. Snyder, A biographical history of early settlers and their descendants in Waterloo Township, with Supplement, ed. E. D. Weber (Kitchener, 1971), 1. A. B. Sherk, “The Pennsylvania Germans of Waterloo County, Ontario,” OH, 7 (1906): 98–109.