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Local Origins – Wellesley

Photo: Wikipedia

By 1805, many Mennonites from Pennsylvania had settled nearby in Berlin but Wellesley Township itself was not surveyed until 1842-43, by which time squatters had occupied certain areas.

Records from 1846 about the entire Township indicate that much of the land had been “Queen’s Bush, crown land, where fifty acre lots were given away to actual settlers”. The Population of the entire township in 1841, was only 254.

The area now the village of Wellesley on the Nith River was first settled in 1847 by squatters, Schmidt and Burgher, who cleared land and settled in the area. Schmidt developed the dam site and various enterprises followed. The Doering brothers laid out the village they called Schmidtsville.

Photo: Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society

After 1866, John George Reiner became known as “the Builder of Wellesley,” (because he built 32 new buildings to add to the eight already there) by John Smith and was originally called Schmidtsville. The post office opened in 1851 and the village was renamed Wellesley after Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, the eldest brother of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

The community quickly grew to be the largest economic centre in rural Waterloo County, with a wood mill, feed mill, a grain mill (which still stands after being constructed in 1856), leather tanner, cheese factory, restaurants and housing, and many other businesses that also brought much trade to the town from the nearby farms and farming villages.

Photo: Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society

By 1864, the village also had two stores, a flour mill, three wagon makers, boot and shoe shops, a hotel two churches and a school with 78 students. By 1869, the population of the village of Wellesley was 400; the nearest rail station was 14 km away in Baden.

The first library in Wellesley Village was incorporated in 1900, and except for the period between 1916 and 1921, there has been continuous public library service ever since. The current branch, now part of the Region of Waterloo Library system, is located in the former S.S. No. 16 Wellesley Township public school building. The school closed its doors in 1967. The building gradually came back to life as the library was placed in the left classroom on the main floor in July 1970.

Wellesley is noted to have had Waterloo Region’s earliest roundabout in the main intersection of the village.

Source: Wikipedia and Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society

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