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Local Origins – Baden

The beginnings of Baden are spelled out on a commemorative plaque located at the southeast corner of Snyder’s Road West and Nafziger Road. It reads:

“In 1822 Christian Nafziger, an Amish Mennonite from Munich, Germany, came to Upper Canada to find land on which to settle some 70 German families. With the assistance of a group of Mennonites headed by Jacob Erb, who had settled nearby, a petition was made to the government for land here in present-day Wilmot Township. Surveyed two years later by John Goessman, this “German Block” was peopled primarily by Amish from Europe.”

Blacksmith shop, Photo: wilmot.ca

The settlement was originally called Weissenburg after an old bachelor who lived in the area. The name was changed when the village was established in 1854.

Jacob Beck, born in the Grand Duchy of Baden-Baden, Germany, also settled in the village. He opened a large flour mill on the Spring Creek, and a second flour mill, two saw mills, a flax mill and an iron foundry were opened over the next 20 years and by 1864, there was a school and the population was 400.

Castle Kilbride, Photo: wilmot.ca

Baden is home to the historic Castle Kilbride, built in 1877 by James Livingston, co-founder of a successful linseed oil company who went on to represent the area in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the House of Commons of Canada. The home was designed by architect David W. Gingerich who also designed major projects such as the Mutual Life office block, the Waterloo Town Hall and the Governor’s (jailer’s) house at the Waterloo County Gaol. It is an Italianate villa that had beautiful art work.

In 1993, Castle Kilbride was purchased and restored by Wilmot Township which spent $6.2 million on the project. The castle was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1994 and Wilmot Township’s administrative offices and council chamber are housed in an addition to the original building.

Baden was also the home town of Sir Adam Beck who went on to pioneer hydro-electric power, the visible results being the hydro-electric generation plants located in Niagara Falls. Beck has a park named after him in his hometown, as well as an elementary school within the Waterloo Region District School Board.

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