Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society
The Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society serves the Township of Wellesley in several ways. As its name suggests, it is focused on the heritage and history of the overall Township and each of its constituent communities.
But it does more than that: the Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society (WTHHS) brings the past into the present, and preserves them both for the future. The WTHHS was formed in 2007, when Heritage Wellesley Township and the Wellesley Township Historical Society merged in order to better serve the community.
Their objectives are to collect, preserve and exhibit artifacts, photographs and documents pertaining to the history of Wellesley Township and to research significant events and people pertaining to the history of Wellesley Township. They maintain a historical room for the storage and exhibition of the objects in their collection and offer public meetings to engage and inform residents of the township about its history.
Indeed, WTHHS makes it so that past citizens of the Township of Wellesley, and the things that happened here, are remembered through collections and exhibits. Furthermore, it ensures that future generations will be able to discover the area’s unique history for themselves, through preservation and documentation.
Let’s take a look at some specifics.
Historical Room and Collection, and the WTHHS Photograph Collection
This is the heart of the WTHHS collection. Located in the old school at 1137 Henry Street in Wellesley (the village), the Historical Room has been one of the best places to get a look at Wellesley’s history since it opened in 1979.
Included here are around 1000 documents/artifacts, 700 photographs, and 500 books. On the last Saturday of every month except December, the Historical Room is open to visitors between 10 am and 3 pm; otherwise, visits are by appointment.
If you, or someone you know, have something that might belong here, take a look at their Collection Policy and consider donating it.
If you’re keen to take a look at Wellesley’s history through photographs from years past, you can also check out several major collections online. The Charles Ottmann, Jr. Collection consists of photos taken between 1902 and 1906 (view here).
The Deborah Glaister Hannay Collection includes numerous personal photographs that belonged to Deborah Glaister – a very interesting and accomplished woman, known to some as ‘Dr. Debbie,’ who was one of the few female doctors in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps during WWII – who lived from 1906 to 1986 (view here).
The Jessie Harkness Collection (another interesting and accomplished woman who was born in 1895 and worked as a teacher in Crosshill) contains many fascinating images, particularly of life in and around an early twentieth-century school (view here).
Finally, there’s the Views of Wellesley Village online collection, which presents images of various parts of Wellesley at various points in time (view here).
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Buildings are a piece of history that, in many cases, we still interact with on a sometimes daily basis. In 2009, WTHHS commissioned a study that focused on historical buildings in Wellesley, St. Clements, Hawkesville, and Linwood – the result was determining several sites that could earn historical designation, and recording details about each one.
As of summer 2018, there are nine Designated Properties in Wellesley Township (see and read about them here). Of course, pictures of the buildings are great – but walking by and seeing them for yourself is even better.
One of the best ways to experience a place is by walking through it and paying attention to all the sights and sounds. But as enjoyable as a casual stroll can be, it’s amazing just how much history lies just below the surface (or in this case, behind the houses’ façades).
And at present, there are two incredible Walking Tours in the Township of Wellesley: a tour of Wellesley (the village), and a tour of Hawkesville. You can find both tours here – simply print one (or both!) out, and enjoy at your own pace.
These walking tours are quite thorough, and by the end, even locals who’ve lived in Wellesley all their lives are sure to have discovered some fascinating new facts about the history of Wellesley and Hawkesville.
Learning about the past, and discovering the distinct heritage of a specific area, is a fun and rewarding experience in and of itself. But the Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society offers much more, too, with a unique assortment of events every year.
September is a particularly fun time in Wellesley, as it’s the time of year when the famous Wellesley Apple Butter (plus other apple-related products) and Cheese Festival dominates the headlines. There are two fabulous upcoming Wellesley events we’d like to highlight, both taking place in September 2018.
The Wellesley Township Fall Fair (September 11th – 12th, 2018)
The Fall Fair is a celebration of Wellesley, and of rural life in general – and it’s a lot of fun! There is everything from exhibits to games, and it’s a fine time for residents and visitors of all ages.
This year’s Fall Fair features an interesting contest: “165 Years – Our Community Has Deep Roots and New Roots.” The WTHHS is sponsoring prizes for two age groups (Junior, ages 10-14, and Senior, ages 15-18); participants will tell a story about their family, their family home, or their farm – this can be a specific time or event in their or their family’s history.
Prizes in both categories are $15 for 1st, $10 for 2nd, and $5 for 3rd.
Another exciting contest in the upcoming fair will be the ‘Pollinator Garden Contest:’ a Wellesley Township resident who’s created and maintained a garden that’s great for a variety of insects and birds has a chance to win one of three prizes: $30 for 1st Place, $15 for 2nd Place, $10 for 3rd, and $5 for 4th!
Gardens will be judged based on a variety of factors, but one of the most important is to ensure the garden is suitable for different types of pollinators by including numerous shapes, sizes, and varieties of flowers.
The winners will create a display with pictures showing how the garden was created, which is part of why this particular contest is so great: not only are local gardeners celebrated and rewarded for their skills, but it’s also helpful in ensuring Wellesley Township is a safe place for pollinators by highlighting effective gardens.
Check out the Wellesley Township Fall Fair website here.
Apple Butter and Cheese Festival (September 29th, 2018)
Apple Butter, as noted, is something for which Wellesley is particularly renowned, and what better way to get your fill of apple butter than at the Apple Butter and Cheese Festival? Of course, there’s much more than apple butter, here: food includes a pancake breakfast, entertainment includes several live musical acts, and sights include an Antique Cars Display and a tour of a cider mill.
Visit the WTHHS Historical Room to see their displays. It’s excellent! Find out more here.
The Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society is fantastic. It’s great to be able to discover the area’s history, and with the ability to trace family trees through marriage and obituary documents, long-time Wellesley residents can truly understand their connection to the past.
But WTHHS isn’t just for people who’ve lived here for a long time: they’re also invested in making connections with new members of the community, and local youths, to ensure that all the stories of Wellesley can be weaved together into one, unique tapestry.
For locals and visitors alike, WTHHS is one of the best parts of Wellesley. Check out their website here to find out more.
Written by Will Kummer