trails and more trails
Mills - a virtual visit
to the past and present
What features of Cambridge Mills should have been treasured and
protected from contemporary industrialization and related transportation
pressures in Cambridge? From the residents' viewpoint, the answer is simply the
"It was around Mr. Erb's mills, known locally as Cambridge Mills, that the settlement that grew into Preston Ontario began. It was not Mr. Erb's intent, however, to create a town. His mills, rather than serving as the industrial foundation of a town he envisioned, were merely a concrete expression of his desire to serve the needs of his rural Mennonite brethren. Mr. Erb consistently refused to sell land for commercial development and it was not until after his death in 1832 that his lands to the south of the Speed River were surveyed and divided into lots." (1995, Quantrell, J.)
In 1988 Ellis Little
wrote a wonderful paper titled "Fording Places in Waterloo Township During The
1800s." In this research document, Little outlines how good fording places over
the local rivers "had a major impact on the alignment of the early roads in
Cambridge Mill around 1880 women sitting at mill race of Speed River dam that no longer exists
So remember, Erb's original reason for settlement was based on the potential for both a fording and a dam across the Speed River. Water power for his future the mills. The above right photo was taken at a second Cambridge Mills dam located about .8 km upstream from King Street.
The Pennsylvania migrants usually used the Conestoga Wagon. Follow this link for an interesting explanation of the Conestoga Wagon.
photo below, you can see the dam on right side. However, what you cannot see is
the mill race that channeled the water from the mill pond to power the
mill. The mill
buildings are visible on the top left side of the photo. Today in 2005, the dam,
railway track, King Street bridge and mill and mill race are in the same location.
Here is the situation so far:
In this early photo (left) near the river and mill, you can see that the hotels in the background were served by electric streetcars that also connected to other electric trains that provided service to adjoining towns to the north, south and east. Photo on right was taken from the mill's roof looking up the Speed River across the King Street to the mill pond. The yellow brick building was the site of Frederick Guggisberg's furniture factory - described as the father of the furniture industry in Waterloo County. Has the Guggisberg name been honoured?
From a historical point of view, numerous features of Cambridge Mills had
obvious significance. Most of this historical heritage has been ignored or
forgotten as Cambridge evolved. Other sections of the city have been viewed as
historical, but rarely Cambridge Mills. For example, in 1990 a heritage consultant hired by
Cambridge Council provide the following bleak analysis: "... while many
examples of significant structures remained from the 1850's, many more had been
lost through demolition. The removal of approximately 30 buildings had
significantly diminished the once cohesive heritage streetscape that was
observable until the 1960s." (P-81-06)
But enough, lets look at the degree to which our built environment has changed
to meet the ever increasing transportation pressures.
Most commercial stores were located on King Street. Photo on
left was taken before the electric railway line was constructed on King Street.
The HUB - located on King St. at Speed River Erb's mill pond with Guggisberg's furniture factory top right corner
So that is a brief outline of 'the way we were'.