William Hespeler is shown in this photo with his wife Mary Hope (nee Keachie.) Hespeler played a role in bringing immigrants from Eastern Europe to Canada in the late 19th century. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)

Former Summerland landowner brought immigrants from eastern Europe

Hespeler Road is named after William Hespeler

A German-Canadian businessperson played an important role in bringing immigrants from eastern Europe to Canada in the late 19th century.

William Hespeler was born in 1830 the Grand Duchy of Baden, now a part of Germany. He emigrated to Canada with his mother in 1850.

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In 1871, he was appointed by the Government of Canada as an immigration agent.

At this time, he arranged for thousands of Mennonites in Russia to immigrate to Canada. Many settled around Winnipeg. He also played a role in bringing other immigrants from eastern Europe to Canada.

The peak of Canada’s first wave of immigrants was in 1882, with immigrants arriving from Russia, Poland and Ukraine, as well as from western Europe and Scandinavia.

Hespeler also served as the speaker of the Manitoba Legislature from 1900 to 1903.

He bought property in Summerland and built a home, named Eberstein, in 1907. His legacy is remembered in Summerland as Hespeler Road is named in his honour.

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