William Samuel Wagner was born in Upper LaHave, Nova Scotia, on November 5, 1820. His great grandfather, Phillippus Wager (b. 1707), came over from Germany in 1751 with many other German immigrants to settle in what would be known as Lunenburg. They left Rotterdam on June 25 with 298 “souls aboard” and arrived in Halifax 82 days later with only 269. Phillippus brought two sons with him well as his wife, Anna, who died just a year after they arrived in Canada.
The Wagner family settled in the LaHave area, where generations of their descendants remained. William Wagner was born, raised, and worked with his father in Upper Lahave. In 1840, William married (Emilie) Amelia Rhodenizer (1820-1896), who was from the area. William and his brothers, Edward and Thomas, decided to move where land grants were available. They went up the LaHave River and continued west by foot to a small lake. There they staked off their land grants and cleared plots to build homes. William’s home was a wooden structure on a small hill that over looked the lake. According to the 1857 land grant, the community was called “Branch Settlement,” but by 1880, the settlers decided to change it to New Canada.
William and Amelia had 10 children over the next 20 years. Using oxen, they cleared land for farming, and they logged lumber for building and heating their small home. As the community grew, there was need for a school and church. William donated a portion of his land for a school and cemetery near the lake. A one-room schoolhouse was built in 1856, which doubled as a church on Sundays. The building had two outhouses in the back, one for boys and one for girls. Water for drinking was brought over each day from the farmhouse well next door.
The New Germany Baptist Church was the meeting place for Baptists in the area, but it was several miles away. In 1872, William donated land near the lake’s shore for a church. The New Canada Baptist Church was framed in April and was dedicated on June 30, 1873.
After Amelia died in 1896, William continued to live in the original homestead with his adopted daughter, Annie, and her husband, Samuel Cook. William died January 11, 1903. The house was known for many years as “the Cook’s place,” and still stands today. It is presumed that William and Amelia Wagner were buried in the New Canada cemetery although only their descendants’ stones remain.
The New Canada schoolhouse welcomed local children until 1963, when students began to be bussed to a larger consolidated school in Northfield. The schoolhouse then became a community hall, but as there was no running water and no indoor toilet, it was hard to manage groups without proper sanitation. In the 1980s, the building was closed and eventually was torn down in 2013. The New Canada Baptist church still stands today, and descendants of the original Wagners continue to worship there.