The Holm Mill

by Apr 18, 2022Turner Tales0 comments

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Editor’s note: 4860 Townline Road is located east of the Speed River, in proximity to the intersections of Blackbridge Road and Townline Road near the Black Bridge. The buildings on the property were originally constructed as mills and have been listed on the Cambridge Heritage Register.
Holm Mill

Speed River Mill, 1939

by Lary Turner

Peter Niles Holm, a Danish man, acquired land and water rights one mile north of New Hope (Hespeler) on the stream outlet flowing from Puslinch Lake into the Speed River.

Between 1829-1835, he built a pair of limestone saw mills and prior to 1850, a dam now identified as the “Little Dam”. Water was channeled by a canal to an overshot water wheel to operate the mill. In 1856, he constructed a 3-1/2 storey Georgian limestone mill north of the saw mill, and a dam on the Speed River; now known as the Blackbridge Road Dam.   This dam, located half a mile upriver brought water from the Speed River to a horizontal turbine located behind the mill by way of a canal. The saw mill was at some time converted into a flour mill.

David Holm acquired ownership of the property from his brother in 1864. The nine-acre lot, with its 28 hp waterwheel to produce flour and chop, was assessed to be worth $4000 in 1871. Canals ran from the Blackbridge Road Dam, and from the Little Dam supplied the water to power the mill. Being one of only six mills in Waterloo Township at the time, the mill was an important rural industry location.

In 1882, Lewis Kribs purchased the mill from David Holm, and the property was passed on to his son, William A. Kribs in 1889. F. Cole and Son owned the property in 1907 and William R Cole in 1918. A one-and-a half storey frame house was added for the mill operator around this time.

The property continued to produce into the 20th Century, but with reduced production capacity. In 1914, the Black Bridge Mill was producing at a rate of around 100 barrels of flour daily.

In 1928, ownership of the mill was acquired by Oscar Zyrd. In 1940, a gasoline engine was installed in addition to the existing turbine powers (which were sometimes unreliable due to fluctuating amounts of water). This increased the production capacity, for flour and feed, to meet the demands of wartime orders. The mill also carried orders for custom chopping and rolling, feed mixing for the local farm trade.

The mill came under the ownership of A. J. Shantz between 1942-1956. By 1956, the flour mill had turned into a grist mill. The feed mill function continued under the name of Knechtel Milling in 1968.

In 1978, the mill became the residence and studio of local papermaker and artist Andrew J. Smith.

The “Speedslee” name was associated with archeological excavations in that area, which possibly came into use when the Holms family owned the property.

Holm Mill, 2014

Holm Mill, 2014

In recent years, the property was owned by South River Developments and operated as a private country inn. Following some difficulties, the old mill was sold and is currently being converted into a private residence.

The water wheel and steam engine once used to power the mill, are no longer in existence. However, the mill buildings remain as the utmost significant building around the area as one of the first establishments in the Black Bridge area. The milling industry there resulted in families establishing their dwellings along Townline Road and in the near vicinity.

The flour mill building is constructed of fieldstone in Georgian Mill style with symmetrical flatheaded windows and doors. The roof was steel-cladded with two small dormers and its simple design revealed its function as a mill. Later, a gable end became an addition to the top storey. The grey-stone 1-storey, 4-bay outbuilding immediately south of the flour mill structure is the saw mill.

The property at one time included the flat open space west of the river known locally as “Stager Flats”, which was a very popular picnic site for the local community in the early and mid-1900s.

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