It’s an incredible experience to submerge yourself completely in history even if it can only be for an afternoon. Today, I had the distinct pleasure of taking a step back in time by visiting the Essex and Community Historical Resource Society (“ECHRS”). It is a local treasure located in what was formerly The Carnegie Library, 18 Gordon Avenue, Essex, Ontario. See ECHRS’ website @: http://echrs.org/.
ECHRS holds many wonderful treasures. Though small scale it is filled with a wealth of historical resource records and books about Essex County to wit: many historical Land Deeds predating 1954 including those for the old town of Essex. It has historical Biographies of local families including unpublished family tree collections, local and county genealogical files and prior school year books dating back to 1954. ECHRS also has a well stocked library of materials regarding local historical associations and organizations including those affiliated with women. In fact, there is a series of books on prior women’s institutes. ECHRS maintains a diverse set of historical records ranging from historical maps of Essex to Cottam to binders on Essex, Tecumseh, Sandwich South, St. Clair Beach, Maidstone and Colchester North and South. ECHRS proudly displays a special collection donated by the United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada (“UELAC”). The UELAC is an organization dedicated to enriching the lives of Canadians through historical knowledge: particularly the history of the United Empire Loyalists and its contribution to Canada’s development. A UELAC member is a descendant of ancestors who remained loyal to the British Crown during the 1775-1783 American Revolutionary War. The majority of members of the local Bicentennial Branch are descendants of refugees. These refugees arrived in the Detroit and Amherstburg areas from the states Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and New York between 1783 and 1790.
I was extremely impressed with the military collection. There were original Navy, Cadet and Officer Uniforms in mint condition and small scale weaponry including a hand gun, battalion and gas mask. ECHRS has a large collection of military photographs. Many are pictures of local Brigades whom fought in World War I and II. There is also a Local Militia Registry containing records of soldiers initially thought to be MIA but whose bodies were ultimately accounted for. The book also contains discharge papers, enlistment papers, donated by local soldiers and information regarding local casualties. The War book collection encompasses the Time Life Series on WWI, personal war diaries and a 24 set of WWII Illustrated Encyclopaedias. There is also an 18 book collection regarding the history of WWII. The library has a beautiful tapestry hanging in its office depicting the different divisions of the Royal Services.
Just when I thought I had seen the best of ECHRS we headed to the basement which held greater literary treasures: the works and collection of famous author Robert Louis Stevenson. The books were discovered under the stairs of the Carnegie Library years after the building was dedicated to ECHRS.
What made the tour exceptional was the notion the tour was conducted by its original Founder, Linda Iler. Familiar with many of the artifacts Linda was capable of sharing special information about each and every article. As the original Founder I asked Linda what her hope for ECHRS is. She stated improved membership and that more local people take advantage of what ECHRS has to offer. She also hopes the community continues to help her preserve Essex County beyond its’ history. To that end, the ECHRS has a wealth of genealogical information and, in fact, holds workshops for both beginner and advanced geological pursuers seeking to investigate and build their family tree. The workshops are only $5.00 an evening. In fact, you may find your writer attending an evening or two herself this Fall. If you are an advanced Genealogist you can always bring your documents and have the ECHRS look at what you have so far collected. You may also turn to them when you hit a trouble spot in your own searches. They have the experts on hand.
My afternoon at ECHRS was magical. I knew it would be from the moment I entered the building. At the top of the stairs of the entry into the upper foyer is a painting of Simon Girty. Simon Girty, much like the American Daniel Boone, was a rebel. Actually Simon started out in the USA but eventually came to Canada as he preferred it. The painting is there because Simon Girty personifies strength. His portrait thus acts as “protector” of the building. This made the visit seem that much more charming. The gigantic spinning wheel that stood in front of a small window in the building made me think of the children’s book Rumpelstilskin. I wondered from the time I entered into this beautifully sunlit library where it had come from. After just having seen Simon Girty’s portrait it seemed fairy tale like thus the spinning wheel made the trip enchanting. While the wheel did not come from Rumpelstilskin it did however come from a Woodslee resident. Nonetheless, it made for an incredible visual and a walkway for an imaginative experience. That is the uniqueness of the Essex and Community Historical Research Society. A lot of love and effort has gone into this building and this historical collection and its’ Founder and Essex is very proud of that. Whether a resident of Maidstone, Essex, Colchester, Tecumseh or Woodslee, come visit the ECHRS you are surely to find something to pique your historical interest. Speaking of, if enjoying the afternoon in this beautiful building wasn’t enough; I was delighted Linda was able to find the name and location of the cemetery of my paternal grandparents. I have been struggling for that knowledge since returning home to Canada in 2010.
Thank you for a wonderful afternoon, a trip back in time and an historical insight of the beauty of the history of Essex County.
For genealogical classes check ECHRS’ website for updated information @ http://www.echrs.org. Guided tours are also available. If you know of any organizations interested have them contact the ECHRS @ (519) 962-9597.
“Memory is the treasure house of the mind wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved.” Thomas Fuller
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