Learn About The History Of Cambridge ON

The City of Cambridge and the history of Galt, Preston and Hespeler.

The City of Cambridge was founded in 1973 by the amalgamation of the 3 cities Galt, Preston and Hespeler.
The first city which would eventually become part of Cambridge is Galt. It began forming along the Grand River in the early 1800's. Because the river provided a rich power supply it attracted industries such as grist mills, saw mills, foundries textile factories,distilleries and tanneries. The wealth of jobs and requirement for tradesman attracted many European immigrants.

The railway reached Galt in 1879. This attracted many more businesses. The Galt Grammar School opened in 1852. As a boys only boarding school it quickly gained notoriety as one of the top schools in Ontario. In 1884 it became a day school for both boys and girls. After World War 1 this iconic building was renamed Galt Collegiate institute. A large post office was erected in downtown Galt in 1886. This magnificent piece of architecture was designated a National historic site of Canada in 1993. It is currently being renovated and converted into a public library.

The City of Galt

In 1994 the City of Galt was hit by a massive flood which saw the Grand river swell beyond its banks. The downtown core was flooded with over 4 feet of water. Today a high water mark can be found at the break wall near the concession street bridge. Cambridge was actually the place of the first known Hybrid electric car. In 1914 the Galt Motor company used a kerosene powered engine to charge electric batteries which were used to power electric motors to run the car.

The City Of Preston

The second city which would eventually become part of Cambridge is Preston. It was founded by a group of Mennonites from Pennsylvania who purchased the land from the six nations Indians in the early 1800's. Long before the city amalgamated to become Cambridge it was home to many taverns and hotels. A sulphur spring attracted many visitors because it had healing abilities for arthritic conditions because of its high mineral content. In the early years Preston began to attract a few industries which included furniture manufacturing, carriage manufacturing, mills and a foundry.

As the population continued to grow other industries sprung along the speed river. This included shoe manufacturing, textiles and stove manufacturing.
Hespeler, the third city to become part of Cambridge, was founded in1798 when the land was purchased from the First Nations Indians by Mennonites from Pennsylvania. This city was also an industrial hub which attracted mills, tanneries, shoe manufacturing, blacksmiths and saw mills.

As early as 1894

The cities Galt, Preston and Hespeler were destined to be amalgamated. Even before it officially became Cambridge the three cities were linked in 1894 by the Todd electric rail system. It carried numerous passengers and goods between the cities. The electric rail system was shut down in 1955 as the motor car began to dominate public transportation. Parts of the Todd electric rail line have been re purposed as a bicycle trail.

Since its amalgamation

In 1973 the population of Cambridge has grown. The industries have changed with the changing demands of society. The Toyota assembly plant opened in 1988 is now the biggest employer in Cambridge. It produces several hundred thousand vehicles per year. It now produces the Toyota RAV4 and the Lexus RX350 and RX 450h. It is comprised of two plants that have earned Toyota's Platinum awards for manufacturing quality.

Other large employers include Canadian General Tower, Babcock and Wilcox, Honeywell, Gore Mutual Insurance and Loblaws distribution plant. Cambridge is rich with many other small and medium size businesses. Cambridge is home to manufacturers, technology companies, and service businesses of every kind. Because of its beautiful architecture it has been used as a backdrop for many Hollywood movie productions. The population has grown to just over 130,000 people.