If you blink, you might miss Wellman’s Corners. It’s a hamlet about ten kilometres north of Stirling, Ontario. For many years, it had a school, church, general store, blacksmith, cheese factory, and Orange Hall. Its cheese factory had been the first to produce cheese in Hastings County, beginning production in 1865. The factory is gone, closed in the 1970s. The general store, blacksmith, and Orange Hall are gone too. The church has become the Women’s Institute Hall. Wellman’s School (in photo above) is a private home.
I have warm memories of growing up in the Wellman’s community. All the children went to the same school and the same church. We never locked our doors. There was nothing to fear. We were free to roam – to walk from the school to the general store at lunchtime for a piece of candy, to visit the cheese factory for a bag of whey, to wander through fields on the farm, and to play in the creek or skate on a flooded field. I knew everyone and they knew me. It was a friendly place.
Wellman’s had a school for 130 years. My dad went to school there and so did I. In 1968, it closed. Children in the area ride buses now – to Stirling for elementary school and Belleville for high school. Some descendants of pioneer families still farm. Newcomers often commute to jobs.
There are thousands of places like this in southern Ontario where community life has dispersed. Unless we follow the country roads, we may rarely see them, but they’re there – and they are part of our history.