Nearly 50 years before Hespeler was founded, the land it now sits on was part of a Six Nations Land Grant. It was given to first nations people in 1784 by the British Crown. Joseph Brant, their leader, had the land surveyed and decided to sell some of the land. In 1798, 90 000 acres was sold to Richard Beasley and his partners, who planned to sell it off once again but this time in smaller pieces.
Among those that settled the land were Pennsylvanian Mennonites, who came to the area in 1809. In 1830, a large piece of land was sold to Joseph Oberholtzer, who in turn, deeded a piece of the land to his sister, Susanna, who had just arrived with Michael Bergey, her husband. The Bergeys and their descendents are considered Hespeler’s first residents – their settlement was Bergeytown, commemorating their arrival. Catchy as Bergeytown is, the name didn’t last long and was replaced in the mid-thirties with New Hope.
It was New Hope that Jacob Hespeler came to after leaving Preston. Mr. Hespeler was born in Ehningen, Germany in 1810 to John George Hespeler and Anna Barbara Wick, daughter of Count Andrassy, a Hungarian nobleman. He moved to Preston, a German settlement, in 1835, after trying his hand at the fur trade for a few years. While in Preston he opened a store and began his search for a site to build a grist mill. Mr. Hespeler purchased a site along the Grand River but neglected to purchase water rights along with it. Because of this error, he could not draw the water needed to power the mill’s machinery. He left the site and focused on another part of Preston. In 1845, Jacob purchased 145 acres on the Speed River in New Hope. He replaced the existing dam with a much larger one, something a little more suited to his ambitions and built a grist mill (1847). A sawmill, cooperage, gas house, distillery and a stone woolen mill followed soon after. The businesses Mr. Hespeler started were a “major stimulus” to New Hope’s economic development and eventually lead to the incorporation of New Hope as the village of Hespeler in 1859. This was assisted by the Great Western Railway in New Hope. The railway’s presence meant construction crews and a general increase in traffic of goods and people in the village. With all these extra people, Jacob Hespeler thought to call a census, hoping to find enough “residents” to qualify New Hope for the incorporation. Because of the census, Queen Victoria decreed on July 31, 1859 that the settlement of New Hope would become the incorporated Village of Hespeler, effective January 1, 1859. Now citizens of Hespeler could elect its own Council and have authority over fire protection and health and could address many issues concerning the location of industries.