Entrepreneur

Alexander Horn was far from being a sheepish entrepreneur

Although the Horn Bros. Woolen Mills would close the doors to its Lindsay factory in 1955, the Alexander Horn-founded company was, for the majority of it’s seven decades in operation, one of the largest employers in Lindsay.

  • Although the Horn Bros. Woolen Mills would close the doors to its Lindsay factory in 1955, the  Alexander Horn-founded company was, for the majority of it's seven decades in operation, one of the largest employers in Lindsay.

For many years, Alexander Horn had Victoria County residents “covered,” quite literally, as a notable entrepreneur who helped found Horn Bros. Woollen Mills.

Before the Industrial Revolution, a lot of women spent much of their lives clothing their families. Taking dirty, knotted wool and trying to turn it into respectable garments was a tedious and painstaking process. It was a testament to the love, devotion and industry of many women, that they went to the trouble of making something beautiful.

Large-scale European immigration to central Ontario in the mid-19th century soon heralded developments designed to boost prosperity. Saw and grist mills were typically the first improvements in a new settlement and woollen mills were not far behind. These early industrial ventures helped alleviate the endless, tedious manual labour that for most farm families was an everyday reality.

Born in Scotland in 1820, Horn had worked in the woollen trade as a young man. When he came to Canada with his wife and son, he continued in this line of work in the settlements on the north shore of Lake Ontario, before setting out for Mariposa in 1871. There were already a few active carding mills in Victoria County when he arrived, and the Horn family set up the Eden Steam Woollen Mill near the hamlet of Linden Valley, between Oakwood and Cambray. In an era when many small local textile mills focused on carding, Horn and his son Andrew also did spinning, producing yarn, cloth and blankets.

In 1892, the business moved to Lindsay as Horn Bros., named for James and Alexander (Alex) Jr. — Andrew had sadly died in childhood — at the corner of Bond and William streets. By 1904, the company was incorporated with a vastly expanded plant. They were supplying material far beyond their home community, including fabrics for clothing sold through Eaton’s and blankets supplied to the Crown’s Indian Agencies.

In 1914, they transitioned to supply Canada’s war needs. The factory had grown to employ roughly 100 people when fire decimated the building. Partially rebuilt by 1917, a memorable water tower became a feature two years later when the mill was extended.

Woollen blankets comprised much of the company’s 20th century production. The manufacture of woollen underwear and bathing suits declined significantly with the advent of garments made from more “effective” material. Many Victoria County families grew up sleeping under Horn Bros. blankets without thinking twice about it, as their products gained an international reach.

After Alex Jr.’s death in 1942, the company descended into bankruptcy in 1955 and was sold. Today, the old factory has been repurposed as AON’s Wedgewood Park Apartments.

For more information on the Horn family, check out Barbara Tangney’s Wool Saga at https://maryboro.ca/publications/the-horns-of-victoria-county-a-wool-saga/ featuring many illustrations of the Horns through the years.

Glenn Walker is a local historian and member of the Maryboro Lodge Museum, a community cultural centre located on Cameron Lake in Fenelon Falls. Check out www.maryboro.ca for more unique, entertaining — and often unknown — historical facets of the Kawarthas.




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