The Krug impact on Chesley Ontario was immense not only in terms of the community's social fabric but with regards to community's economic growth.
In the 1880s, the dream of six young men to own their own business led to a dramatic economic expansion for a small Bruce County community.
The young men were five brothers, John, Conrad, Christian, William, and George Krug, and their brother-in-law Henry Ankenmann. They were employed by the Hess Furniture Company in Listowel, but they were frustrated by the frequent layoffs and the uncertain future of their careers.
In the winter of 1885-86 the opportunity to determine their own destinies appeared when their cousin made them an offer which would impact on all of their lives as well as the community of Chesley.
Their cousin, Kaspar Grosch, owned a felt manufacturing company called Grosch and Rolston.
Grosch offered the young men the opportunity to purchase one half the water power at their plant in the village of Chesley for $2,250.
In January 1886, two of the brothers, Christian and William, travelled to Chesley to explore the possibilities.
After agreeing to the deal, the four brothers and their brother-in-law returned to Chesley on May 18, 1886 to begin working on their new business. Shortly afterward, the eldest brother, John, arrived from Cleveland with their father who was a cabinet maker.
Soon the Krugs were building furniture and their small company boasted five employees. Their first sale went to Port Elgin. The young men decided to build only furniture that was essential for homes. Therefore, they focused their efforts on dining room and bedroom furnishings. The company delivered its products to area communities via horse-drawn wagons.
But it was not long before the company was shipping furniture by train to destinations in the Maritimes and Western Canada.
As the demand for Krug furniture grew, the workforce at the company also expanded. Many friends from the Listowel area, looking to shed the constraints of uncertain employment made their way to Chesley to work for the Krug's.
Prior to the Krug Furniture Company beginning operations in 1886, Chesley was a community of 900 residents. There were two grist mills, a felt factory, a foundry and two saw mills. The arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1881 and the availability of water power made Chesley an ideal location for an industrial complex such as the factory established by the Krug brothers and their brother-in-law.
The Krug company grew to become one of the most important furniture manufacturers and enjoyed many decades of success.
What makes their story even more intriguing is the fact that when they began their business venture only one of the young entrepreneurs had reached the ripe old age of 25!
The Krug company was more than a business venture it became an integral part of the life in Chesley. The impact went far beyond simple, business and employment benefits as the Krugs took an active part in virtually all aspects of the life of the community.
The information used in this article came from several sources, including, newspaper articles held in the Grey County Archives.
A version of this article originally appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on April 27, 2001.
Bruce County history is rich with stories about the development of communities along the Lake Huron shoreline and shaped by memorable events and the people.
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Chesley Ontario Welcomes the Krug Brothers who were looking for a place to make their future and their fortune. They were not only successful, but they made significant contributions to the social fabric of their adopted home town.
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