Heritage Colchester

A Nonprofit Organization

Our Mission

  • 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.

Join us this Holiday Season!

Lease with The Town of Essex Inked

Doug Sweet of The Town of Essex, Carol Quick and Perry Basden of Heritage Colchester make the lease official

On December 8, 2021, the signing officers of Heritage Colchester signed a ten year lease for the old S.S.#2 Schoolhouse.  This is the result of a lot of determination and hard work on the part of the community.  The lease is an important step in the preservation of the schoolhouse – both of the building and the historical connections centered there.

Big Events Hosted by Heritage Colchester This Summer!

Tickets/questions regarding event details can be sent to:  events.heritagecolchester@gmail.com

The Colchester Village Country Market has become a very popular event


OCTOBER 21, 2023   10am-3pm


Join us at 12:15-1:15 for a

Historical Walking Tour

Meet at the School House doors

See you there!





Building on the success of last summer’s production of Falling: A Wake Heritage Colchester will once again partner with The Inspired Acting Lab at the University of Windsor to present Almost, Maine by John Cariani.  This magical comedy takes place in Almost, Maine (which almost exists) and is a series of scenes about love, each of which contains a little magic.  Proceeds that Heritage Colechester receives from this event will be used to support future restoration projects in the Old Schoolhouse.

Plan a dinner at one of the local wineries and make it a wonderful time

Restoring the chimney & Chimney Swifts

In December 2022, Cesar Construction did work to repair the large chimney that a Chimney Swift Colony has nested in for decades.  The work was done when the Swifts had completed their migration south so they would not be disturbed.  The work was funded through a grant with “The Chimney Swift Fund”, a joint effort of Birds Canada and the Federal Government, and the Town of Essex.

We look forward to welcoming Chimney Swifts for decades to come.

Chimney Swifts have been calling the S.S. #2 Colchester Schoolhouse home each summer for many years.  Last year, Heritage Colchester members participated in a nation wide count of Chimney Swifts.  Perry and Gloria Basden, and Monica Carruthers observed the skies above the schoolhouse on five specified Spring evenings, counting up to 77 acive Chimney Swifts as they dropped into the chimney to roost.  We continue to participate this year!  To ensure that the nesting site will be maintained, this Spring, Perry initiated the application of a grant with Swift Watch, Ontario, in cooperation with The Town of Essex to clean and refurbish the chimney cap, mortar and bricks needed to ensure many more years of Chimney Swifts in Colchester.

Heritage Colchester makes a difference!


This year’s Easter Egg Hunt took place on Saturday, April 8th.  It was a great success, thanks to member, Laura Zakoor for all of her hard work in planning and organizing this wonderful community event.  And a special thank you to this year’s sponsors, volunteers and participants.  It was a beautiful afternoon!


Heritage Colchester hosted its first walking tour to share the history and culture of the district in a county wide event, “Jane’s Walk” on Sunday, April 30th.  Jane’s Walk Festival offers the perfect opportunity to discover the unique character of different neighbourhoods and connect with your community.  The tour consisted of story telling and a group walk in the area of the schoolhouse, church and cemetary.  Descendents of local families and cottagers were the tour guides and shared their knowledge and personal stories.  Rain did not keep us away!

S.S.#2 Schoolhouse Building Update

  • Association with Ontario Historical Society has been attained
  • “Heritage Designation” of the Old Schoolhouse has been achieved
  • Non Profit Status of Heritage Colchester happened
  • Insurance has been acquired
  • The Rutledge Report has provided credibility to restoration efforts
  • Utilities are being studied and plans made for upgrades and implementation
  • Contractors are in the process of providing expert advice
  • General cleanup of the school office and adapting it for Heritage Colchester is ongoing
  • Awaiting approval to begin process for charitable donation status
  • Fundraising is progressing

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 and 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 1960’s, along with other township schools, when elementary education was centralized in Harrow.

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.

Colchester Village

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.

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 a small Anglican congregation in Colchester.  As the congragation grew, so too did the need for a church.  Built by William McCormick (Colchester’s first postmaster, a mgistrate and the elected Member of Parliament for Upper Canca from 1812 to 1824), thee 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 isknow 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.

Above content taken from Colchester 225: 150 Historical Facts, Town of Essex 2018

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