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Heritage Tour

The echoes of history reverberate throughout the Town of Essex. As early as 1787, soldiers and loyalists were settling on farm lots running inland from Lake Erie. During the 1800s, fugitive slaves and European settlers carried on the pioneer spirit by building small communities throughout Colchester Township, as it was then known. Villages that endure today arose at Colchester, Harrow, McGregor and Essex Centre.

Although amalgamation in 1999 merged the former Towns of Essex and Harrow with the former Townships of Colchester North and Colchester South, the unique history and cultural identity of the original communities continues to be preserved by its residents with help from the Essex Municipal Heritage Committee, Town staff and local historical societies.

Engage with our past by learning more about some of the built and cultural heritage that dots our landscape.

Heritage Register

The Town's Planning Department is responsible for processing requests for heritage designation. The Town Planner works with the Heritage Committee to research properties of heritage importance and then to report to Council in this regard.

For information on Heritage Planning, or to find out if your property is eligible for designation under the Ontario Heritage Act or listing under our Municipal Heritage Registry, please contact our Planning Department.

Please note: Some of the following locations are privately owned
or may require an entry fee.

British Methodist Episcopal (BME) Cemetery

25 Walnut Street, Colchester

Some of the earliest settlers in Essex County were of African origin, having fought as United Empire Loyalists during America's War of Independence. Prominent Blacks rest in this cemetery, including Reverend Noah Canon, the founder of several BME churches across Ontario which served to safeguard African-Canadian religious freedoms.

 Gravestone for Reverend Noah C. Cannon

Carnegie Library

18 Gordon Avenue, Essex Centre

Opened in 1914, this building was one of 125 libraries built in Canada using grants provided by American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. It housed the public library for over 100 years and continues to serve the public as host to the Essex and Community Historical Research Society.

 Red brick building with wide staircase

Colchester Schoolhouse

195 Bagot Street, Colchester

Built in 1881, this was the first schoolhouse in the area built under the Public Schools Act. Its architectural style is reminiscent of schoolhouses across rural Canada during this time. The Colchester Schoolhouse is a listed site on the Municipal Heritage Registry.

Red brick school house 

Essex Railway Station

87 Station Street, Essex Centre

Built in 1887, the station and the railway tracks laid across the Talbot Trail established Essex Centre as the shipping hub of Essex County. Despite nearby explosions in 1907 and1980, the building has been preserved and restored for ongoing community use.

 Stone train station with grain silos behind

Hutchins Family Cemetery

Cornwall Beach Road

Established before 1854, the Hutchins Family Cemetery is an excellent example of a rural 19th century pioneer family cemetery. Most of the monuments are made of white marble slabs that reflect fine art and carving techniques typical of this time. The Hutchins family was one of the original pioneer families of the area and played a prominent role in local development.

 Three headstones

 Iler Settlement Cemetery

Twin Gables Road, south of County Road 50

The Ilers were among the earliest settlers in the Colchester South region. The Iler Settlement began in 1808 when Jacob Iler bought Lot 37 in Colchester's Front Concession. Throughout the years, churches, schools, farms and businesses have thrived there. The oldest headstone in this cemetery is dated 1832.

Iler Settlement headstone with history

 Iler Wirag Home

1215 Iler Road, Harrow

Built in 1880, the Iler home is the last standing remnant of the Iler Settlement. The Iler settlement of the 19th century contained a church, two cemeteries, and two schools and was established around the site of where the Iler home is located. The property is also associated with the Iler family, one of the earliest pioneer families who established themselves here in 1808, when Jacob Iler purchased farm lot 37.

 Two storey house with one storey addition

John R. Park Homestead

915 County Road 50 East

Journey back in time! Built in 1842 along the banks of Lake Erie, the home of John and Amelia Park is maintained by the Essex Region Conservation Authority and serves as a living farm museum that welcomes visitors all year round.

 White wooden home on lakeshore

Kowtiuk Home

78 Fox Street, Essex Centre

Built in 1870 in close proximity to the Railway Station, this private home was at one time used as an overnight stop and for railway employees and later as a hotel. As a private residence, it has been carefully restored and has received heritage designation.

 Wooden heritage home

McCormick Family Cemetery

Dunn Road between County Road 13 and Fox Sideroad

The McCormicks were among the earliest settlers along Lake Erie's north shore. Alexander McCormick, a fur trader and loyalist during the American Revolutionary War, moved to Upper Canada in 1794, settling near Colchester. The oldest headstone in Essex County, dated 1803, the year of McCormick's death, is found in this cemetery.

Heritage plaque in honour of Alexander McCormick

Quick Family Cemetery

Dunn Road

Among the earliest settlers in the area, the Quicks moved to Colchester in the late 1700s after the family had been abducted from their Kentucky home by Indians and reunited with help from frontiersman Simon Girty. The cemetery is located in the middle of a farm field. The oldest headstone is dated 1855.

Gravestones in snowy graveyard

Tofflemire Snider Cemetery

872 County Road 50

A collaborative effort between two of the area's earliest pioneer families, this cemetery is located on scenic County Road 50. John Snider, a Pennsylvania blacksmith, obtained a grant of land near Colchester Village in 1790 and built a house that still stands as the oldest house in Essex County.

Headstones beside a vineyard