A Storied Past
An application for rezoning has been filed by JENC Investments Ltd. with the City of Cambridge regarding the property at 408 Guelph Avenue. The large building on the property has an interesting story that requires telling. In its most recent past, the vacant and abandoned residence was an apartment building. Prior to that it saw life as Spruce Haven Lodge, a nursing and seniors home operated by Mrs. Joyce Laderoute. But that is just during our memory, before that its history is much more interesting!
In his memoirs “The Barefoot Farm Boy” published in 1955, author C. A. Panabaker relates another story regarding this property.
It was 1887, and a horse thief had been operating in the Hespeler area for a few years. A dozen of the best young horses had disappeared with no trace from farms in the district. Through the process of elimination, suspicion fell on an occasional stranger who would come to the area seeking work. Within a short period, the stranger and another fine horse would disappear. He made no attempt to hide, as many men of that time travelled around doing temporary farm work. The timing of his visits and the missing horses coincided so perfectly that there was little doubt of who the culprit was. However, none of the missing stock had turned up and there was no proof of guilt. Spotted by residents when in the area, word would quickly spread that the “horse thief” was here and “watch your stock”.
John Clemens, a son of Abram Clemens an original settler of the area, was a prosperous farmer on the “Great Guelph Road” and owner of many fine horses. When news that the horse thief was back reached him one Saturday evening, John and his sons, Abram, Isaiah and Aaron sat around the pasture all night. But with dawn on Sunday, daylight revealed his best horse missing. Quickly saddling another, John set out on the track. He was aided by the fact the horse wore a bar-shoe on one foot, it had rained slightly overnight and there was little other traffic leaving an easy trail to follow. Stopping to examine corners, he quickly determined which direction the bar-shoed horse had gone. He trailed through Aberfoyle, Morriston, Puslinch and Freelton inquiring at every wayside inn along the way.
At Carlisle, a man silently left the inn when he described his missing horse, which was found in the hotel stable. After resting the night, he returned with both horses and finally provided proof that the disappearances were linked to the stranger. Instead of giving up his criminal activity in the Hespeler area, the horse thief returned once again. A Puslinch farmer reported seeing him to the east of the village and Hespeler Constable Henry Winterhalt rushed out to the road in front of the lake where he encountered and placed the thief under arrest. Identified as a man named Kruger, he had been convicted and sent to jail for stealing sheep from Squire James Phin seven years earlier (408 Guelph Avenue was part of his estate at the time).
Upon his release, Squire Phin’s large barn, stored crops and large herd of purebred cattle was mysteriously burned in two separate fires. The horse thief was subsequently blamed for retaliation. Brought before the magistrate with the overwhelming evidence, Kruger was convicted and sentenced to 24 years in Kingston prison. Upon earning early release, he again returned to Hespeler and was discovered hanging around John Clemens farm. He was immediately recognized, arrested and tried on another horse stealing charge and sentenced to another term in prison. He died in custody several years later. Following his first arrest for horse stealing, the location of the disposal of the stolen horses was discovered and many were returned to their rightful owners.
Hespeler Constable Henry Winterhalt was offered a position with the Berlin (Kitchener) Police Force following his brave and heroic arrest of the horse thief Kruger. He accepted and went on the become the Chief of Police, serving for many years.
Recent Photos of 408 Guelph Avenue
2014 – May 2020