How Cambridge Came to Be Called Cambridge

How Cambridge Came to Be Called Cambridge

A Journey into Cambridge

This is an area of much history.

Yet the name of the greater region is a relatively new fact.

The City of Cambridge was incorporated in 1973, when the three municipalities of Galt, Preston and Hespeler and the settlement of Blair were amalgamated into a single legal entity under a new name.

The new name was actually not new to the area as Preston was once known as Cambridge Mills.

At the time of the almalgamation, each of the communities possessed a long and proud history and there was considerable resistance among the local population to this "shotgun marriage" arranged by the Provincial government. A sense of rivalry had always governed relations among the three communities. Even today, while our residents will tell the outside world that they call Cambridge home, they will often identify themselves to each other as citizens of Galt or Preston or Hespeler.

Just as Cambridge has replaced the earlier local identification, the location inspiring Cambridge was originally known by a different name as well.

It started back in the early 1800s with the arrival of a group of German-speaking Mennonites from Pennsylvania. Among those first settlers was John Erb who acquired 7,500 acres (30 km2) including land at the confluence of the Grand and Speed Rivers. Mr. Erb and his wife settled on his Speed River lands in 1805 and built a sawmill on the banks of the river in 1806. A gristmill followed in 1807. The sawmill has long since disappeared but the gristmill was the beginning of a flour milling business that has operated continuously on that spot to the present day. The site,  recognized as the oldest continuously operating industrial site in the region, became known as Cambridge Mills.

Many drawn to the picturesque river and historic buildings along its banks are quick to compare the area to the Cambridge in England. But, though the name City of Cambridge is only some 40 decades old, its roots locally are nothing new.

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