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Historical Information - Evolution of Galt

A View of Downtown Galt

History of the City of Galt:

In 1784 the British Crown granted to the Six Nations, in perpetuity, all the land along the Grand River six miles deep on each side of the river from its source to Lake Erie. The First Nations, led by Joseph Brant, had the land surveyed in 1791 and divided into Reserve lands as well as large tracts from which they intended to sell to land developers. One such developer was the Honourable William Dickson who, in 1816, came into sole possession of 90,000 acres of land along the Grand River that was later to make up North and South Dumfries Townships.

It was Mr. Dickson's intention to divide the land into smaller lots that would be sold primarily to the Scottish settlers whom he hoped to attract to Canada. In the company of Absalom Shade, Mr. Dickson immediately toured his new lands with the intention of developing a town site that would serve as the focal point for his attempts to populate the countryside. They chose the site where Mill Creek flows into the Grand River and in 1816 the settlement of Shade's Mills was born. The new settlement grew slowly and by 1825 though still very small, Shade's Mills was the largest settlement in the area and was large enough to build its own post office. Mr. Dickson decided that a new name was needed for the Post Office and subsequently the settlement and he chose Galt in honour of the Scottish novelist and Commissioner of the Canada Company, John Galt. The settlers resisted preferring the more familiar Shade's Mills. However, after Mr. Galt visited Mr. Dickson in the settlement in 1827 the name Galt received more wide spread acceptance.
In its early days Galt was an agricultural community serving the needs of the farmers in the surrounding countryside. By the late 1830's, however, the settlement began to develop an industrial capacity and reputation for quality products that in later years earned the town the nickname "The Manchester of Canada". Galt was the largest and most important town in the area until the beginning of the 20th century when it was finally overtaken by Berlin later known as Kitchener.
In the late 1960's the provincial government began looking at ways in which municipal governments could become more effective. It was proposed that the Regional Municipality of Waterloo would replace the County of Waterloo. As part of that process, the City of Galt would amalgamate with the towns of Preston and Hespeler as well as the settlement of Blair to form a single city. So it was that on January 1, 1973 the City of Galt ceased to exist as a separate political entity and became part of the new City of Cambridge.