A Nonprofit Organization
- To promote the greater public awareness of the historical past of the Colchester Centre
area and its importance to the early development of Ontario.
- To preserve the past through identification and research of historically significant structures being restored by Heritage Colchester.
- To compile authentic records of such structures with available documents and photographs for the public benefit.
- To carry out activities ancillary and incidental to the attainment of the above charitable purposes.
UPDATE – it has been a very busy time for our group, Heritage Colchester. We are currently in negotiations with the Town of Essex to lease the beautiful Schoolhouse building so we can begin the process of restoring the Schoolhouse for the Community to enjoy!
The Colchester Village Country Market has become a very popular event! This will be an annual event. Check out our Facebook page for future dates.
For Parents and Teachers
Add some colour to our history with your child or class by downloading a free copy of our Local History Colouring Book.
For Residents of all Ages
Learn more about our local history and the organizations that support it.
Learn more about the merits of heritage designation.
Discover our full inventory of listed and designated properties.
Read interesting facts about the hamlet of Colchester by downloading a free copy of Colchester 225: 150 Interesting Facts.
For Owners of Listed or Heritage Designated Properties
Explore how the Town of Essex can assist you financially with essential repairs and renovations by reviewing our Heritage Grant Program or Community Improvement Plan Program.
Discover how the Town can assist in getting the unique history of your property in print by reviewing our Heritage Plaque Program.
Friends of the Old Schoolhouse
The red brick schoolhouse found at the corner of Bagot and Sullivan streets in Colchester Centre is considered to be a property of cultural and historical significance in our community. When the log schoolhouse originally constructed south of Christ Church was lost to erosion, a school was built in 1856 on the northeast corner of Bagot Street at County Road 50. In 1881, the year that free compulsory education became mandated by law, the schoolhouse building was moved off site and a new red brick schoolhouse was built further south on the same lot. Known as S.S. #2, the school had one room and one teacher for all grades. The school was closed in the early 1960s, along with other township schools, when elementary education was centralized in Harrow.
Built in 1876, the white frame church on Bagot Street has significant historical value, not only for its own vintage but also for the Christ Church congregation that has worshipped here since the early 19th century. In 1807, Rev. Richard Pollard, chaplain of the garrison at Amherstburg, started walking on occasion from Amherstburg to minister to a small Anglican congregation in Colchester. As the congregation grew, so too did the need for a church. Built by William McCormick (Colchester’s first postmaster, a magistrate and the elected Member of Parliament for Upper Canada from 1812 to 1824), the original church was situated in the middle of a graveyard dating back to at least 1808 or earlier. The oldest dated tombstone in the graveyard is known to belong to Stephen Brush who died in that year. The “Old Church” was built of limestone McCormick transported from Pelee Island. Dedicated in 1821, Christ Church was officially Anglican (as Church of England was the only sanctioned religion at the time), but locally, it was considered to be a place of worship for all denominations.
Quick Family: Captured by Indians
The 18th century frontier was a dangerous place. Although many early settlers in Colchester had been taken by Indians, often as children, John Alexander Quick was one of the few who could say his entire family – he, his wife, and eight children – had been taken by the Indians. This family of Dutch origin was living in the Virginia Panhandle in 1781 when the Shawnee captured their oldest son, 7-year-old Cornelius, and kept him for 10 years. In 1789, Quick moved his family to Kentucky. The next spring, Indians raided his home and took his entire family as captives. Quick managed to secure his own release and spent the next five years collecting ransom funds and searching for the rest of his family. With help from Simon Girty, known to the Americans as a renegade traitor but to the British as an indispensable guide and interpreter, Quick managed to recover everyone except one young child. The family reunited at Detroit and immediately left for Colchester, settling on Lot 8 at the rear of the First Concession, behind the land reserved for a village. Many years later, Cornelius Quick told the story of his captivity to his nephew, Joseph Munger Jr., who relayed it and other local histories to Lyman Copeland Draper, the American historian who famously compiled an enormous collection of personal accounts and historical documents related to the northwest expansion of America in the late 18th century. Their correspondence can be found in the Draper Manuscripts.
“The Real McCoy”
Elijah McCoy, inventor and engineer, was born in Colchester Township on May 2, 1843 (some records say 1844). His parents, George McCoy and Emillian Goins, had arrived in Canada via the Underground Railroad. Elijah attended school in Colchester Township during his formative years and then went to Edinburgh, Scotland to earn an Engineering degree. His parents moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1861. When Elijah returned from Scotland, he sought employment with the Michigan Central Railroad and acquired menial work as a locomotive fireman, stoking the boilers and lubricating the steam cylinders and sliding parts of the trains. Using his mechanical abilities, he designed a revolutionary lubricating cup system that used steam pressure to pump oil when it was needed. He patented his “Self Regulating Lubricator” in July 1872 and buyers were soon asking for “The Real McCoy” when purchasing engines. Elijah McCoy filed 57 other patents in Canada and the United States over the next 50 years, many of them related to lubricating steam engines. Other inventions of note are the folding ironing board and the lawn sprinkler.
Today we use the phrase “the real McCoy” when referring to the best, highest quality item.
On early maps of “The New Settlement,” lots 68, 69 and 70 were identified as “Land Reserved for a Village.” Colchester Village was the first village laid out in Upper Canada west of Niagara. But the village did not materialize until a new survey conducted in 1841 laid out one-acre village lots in the front and 25-acre park lots in the rear. The graveyard and old stone church were included in the layout.