A Short History of Eden Mills
Eden Mills is an Ontario village nestled in the Eramosa River valley housing around 350 people. It is very close to the university city of Guelph and only a little over an hour’s drive to downtown Toronto with the wind behind your back and the highway traffic calm.
PastIt’s interesting to note that this would-be carbon neutral village sits on the site of the original hunting and fishing grounds of the Neutral Indians.
The village was founded in 1842 with the construction of the first of three mills. They owed their existence to the water power provided by the Eramosa River, which splits into two branches at the village. It flows on to join the Speed River in Guelph and then the Grand River which has been designated as a Canadian Heritage River.
During the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century the village grew into an important centre of commerce. In addition to the three mills, it boasted an imposing three-storey general store, a hotel (both still standing), post office, smithy, electric railway station, gas station and coffee shop. The passing of the importance of rivers for power led in turn to a by-passing of the village, with the fortunate result that much of its historical character and natural setting remain intact.
PresentIn many ways the village is very ordinary. And in other ways it is very special.
It is ordinary because the villagers are a typical cross-section of the people you might find in any village or neighbourhood of its size. There is a mix of incomes, occupations, concerns and attitudes, including the full range of responses to environmental issues – from outright skepticism to nervous anxiety.
It is special not only in its attractive character but in its long tradition of volunteerism and community spirit. For example:
Community HallThe land was donated by a local resident around 1893. It burned to the ground and promptly was re-built by the Village Trustees in 1917. It is currently jointly owned by the Township and the Eden Mills and District Community Club. It is fully managed and run by the Club’s volunteers. In 2002 the Club and community fund-raised a remarkable $160,000 to make it wheelchair accessible. This project was greatly aided by a generous grant from the Trillium Foundation.
BallparkThe land was donated by a local resident in 1947 when the original Edgewood Park was closed. Residents created a new ballpark, later adding lights and other improvements, and building children’s playground.
Historic MillpondIt was restored by a volunteer group of villagers who set up the non-profit Association which is sponsoring this Carbon Neutral initiative. They raised funds and contributed hundreds of hours in heavy labour to rebuild the dam walls and other structures. It continues to be maintained by volunteers.
Eden Mills Writers’ FestivalIt is credited with being one of the largest volunteer events of its kind in Canada. This remarkable annual outdoor festival is in its nineteenth year. It has attracted all of the country’s leading writers as well as several from other countries. It includes one-day workshops in jazz and writing led by outstanding artists.
In addition to the outstanding work of the Millpond Conservation Association, the village is fortunate to include a number of people and groups active and skilled in environmental issues. Camp Edgewood not only provides generous access for residents to its beautiful grounds but also runs a grade 10 Community Environmental Leadership program as well as an Environmental Education program for grade 12 students. And the Community Club, at the initiative of Board member and former President Barbara Marshall, has initiated an ongoing series of excellent and well attended talks on ‘Eden Mills and Its Natural Environment’ in addition to its rich array of activities.
There is a community spirit that is vital and alive in Eden Mills. When the village encounters a problem or recognizes a need, this is a community which rolls up its sleeves and gets going. It does not wait for someone else to fix the problem.