Fonds SCA230-GA227 - George Pattinson Woollen Mill fonds.

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George Pattinson Woollen Mill fonds.

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  • Source of title proper: Title from contents of the fonds.

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Physical description

  • 1.37 m of textual records and other material.
  • 3 photographs : b&w ; 16 x 21

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Administrative history

George Pattinson was born July 17, 1854 to John Pattinson and Hannah Errington in Haltwhistle, Northumberland, England. Haltwhistle was well known for its wool manufacturing and mills were operating there as early as the 13th century. Both Pattinson’s father and grandfather were involved in the wool manufacturing business. Pattinson himself was educated in the city of Hexham and it was not until he immigrated to Canada in 1870 at the age of 16 that he began to become involved in the wool business. Pattinson first found work at a woollen mill in Plattsville, Ontario. The following year Pattinson moved to Cambridge and began to work for the woollen mill of James Crombie and Company, where he would stay for over 60 years.

The James Crombie and Company mill was originally built as a linen mill during the American Civil War by Elliott, Hunt, and Stephen at a cost of $120,000. John Elliott was associated with the Victoria Woollen Mills in Almonte and George Stephen was a Montreal dry-goods importer with an interest in textile manufacturing. The mill failed after the war years, and in 1870 Crombie converted it into a woollen mill. When Pattinson began in 1871 the mill employed 31 men, 25 women and 11 children and annually produced $120,000 worth of woollens. This output made it the sixth largest mill in Ontario.

Pattinson began to take on a larger role in the operation of the mill in 1876 when it was purchased by the Robinson and Howell Co. of Galt. It is believed that William Robinson took an interest in Pattinson and began to instruct him in the operation of various areas of the mill. It was also during this time, in 1878, that Pattinson met and married Mary Elizabeth Erb (1854-1898). Mary Elizabeth Erb was the daughter of Abraham Albert Erb, descendant of original settlers from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Margaret Wallace of Scotland.
In 1881 William Robinson died, and his share in the mill was passed down to his daughter, a Mrs. Ferguson of Toronto. In the period following Mr. Robinson’s death the mill was re-organized, and Pattinson and Robinson’s son-in-law the Hon. John Ferguson took over Robinson’s share in the company. Eight years later Howell died and the mill came fully into the possession of Pattinson and Ferguson. It was at this time that Pattinson took over direct management of the company. It was during this period that Pattinson began to become involved in local politics. He joined the Preston town council, and became reeve in 1889. He was also a member of the local school board.

By this time, Pattinson and his wife had had five children: Alice Margaret (July 13, 1879-April 29, 1888), Ellen Errington “Nell” (June 15, 1881-May 27, 1911), John Lynn (October 22, 1883-June 15, 1915), Frank Headly (October 19, 1885-?), and Ruth (August 18, 1887-?). In 1894 they would have their last child, Mabel (June 30, 1894-?). Mary Elizabeth died February 13, 1898 of sepsis at the age of 44. In the same year Pattinson became sole owner of the mill.

In the early 20th century Pattinson began becoming more interested in politics and it was in 1905 he began to serve as the representative for South Waterloo, a position he would carry until 1914. During his tenure as an MPP he was also member of numerous standing committees including Agriculture and Colonization, Municipal Law, Standing Orders, and Public Accounts. During this time he also worked with Sir Adam Beck and the Hydro Electric Commission in bringing hydroelectric power to Preston from the Niagara region. Some of his other interests included his part in the introduction of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, involvement in the Prison Reform Commission and as a director of the Lake Superior Corporation.

The First World War saw changes for Pattinson and for the mill. Records show that during the period 1916-1918 four new buildings were constructed at the mill: a warehouse, an office building, a carbonizer building (for carbonization of vegetable matter in wool), and an addition to the mill itself. A total cost for these four buildings was $58,185.92. Also during this time Pattinson himself became involved in the war effort, as the President of the Patriotic Association, member of the Soldier’s Insurance Commission of Waterloo County, and as the Chairman of the Canadian Wool Commission.

In 1920 the mill was granted incorporation under the title The George Pattinson Co. Ltd. The last few years of Pattinson’s life were marked by illness after a stroke in 1921 and his only surviving son, Frank Headley was taking care of much of the operation of the mill. Pattinson had survived his wife, his eldest daughter, who died as a child, and his eldest son who was killed in First World War. His death records show him as having been retired when he passed on May 10, 1931 due to complications from the earlier stroke.

Frank Pattinson officially took over the mill and by 1933 it was the ninth largest mill in Canada in terms of sales. The mill was producing tweeds, cheviots, overcoatings and mackinaws and sold directly to the public. The mill continued to operate in what is now Cambridge until 1958 when Frank moved the company to Jamaica. When the mill was left it was estimated to be 200,000 square feet in size.

In Cambridge where Hedly St. meets Eagle St., a portion of the mill can still be seen today. It has been repurposed as a commercial rental building.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists of materials created and accumulated by the George Pattinson Woollen mill and its predecessors. Includes primarily financial and account information for the mill, including journals, account books, and a ledger. Also includes photographs and ephemera.

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Physical condition

Extent is measured in linear metres of shelf space occupied by the fonds.

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated by Don Young in 2012.


Arranged in three series as follows:

1. Financial ;
2. Ephemera ;
3. Photographs.

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Described by Jessica Blackwell, Winter 2013.

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