Then and now, Wellington and its people have continued to make fascinating history. Some of the village's most interesting stories, in no particular order, are as follows:
Bang Up Fouth of July
Just eight years after Wellington was founded its 36 families celebrated their first Fourth of July in 1826. To open the observance a salute was fired and the townspeople hastened with well-filled baskets to the meeting ground. The table, neatly spread, was under a bower and was heavy with the very best foods that the women of the day could provide. Calvin Wilcox read the Declaration of Independence. Afterwards, dinner was had, followed by toasts, songs, the roll of drums and the thunder of musketry. The gun, "Old Continental," too heavily charged, broke loose, shot up like a rocket and came crashing down upon the table. For the broken crockery there was much lamentation. Some of the dishes that came a long way by ox cart were quite dear to their respective owners.
State Route Sinks
State Route 18, two miles east of Wellington, crosses marshland and following torrential rains in early April, 1948, the highway started sinking - not just inches but many feet, leaving caverns large enough to drop a house in. A contract for $32,951 was given to fill and repave the highway with July 31 as the completion date. On June 1, workmen moved in paving equipment only to discover large caverns were forming in the new fill. By June 10, a large section of the roadway had simply vanished, leaving huge craters with layers of the old muck strata turned up on edge, showing the old logs put down through the swamp by the first settlers.
Although Wellington has been home to many industries that have manufactured a variety of goods from cigars to women s lingerie, the cheese industry is the one business that put the village on the map. A century ago, Wellington was known as the "Cheese Empire" of the nation. It all began when selected dairy herds began to produce a tremendous amount of milk. The top-producing herd came before the advent of modern refrigeration and it became imperative to build factories to turn the milk into cheese. Charles W. Horr built the first factory in 1866 in Huntington Township. The factory was a success and encouraged Horr to establish the firm Horr-Warner & Co. two years later. This was accomplished with the cooperation of Sydney S. Warner, E.F. Webster and O.P. Chapman.
Town Hall is Built
In 1829 Wellington's first town hall, then called the "Town House," was erected by popular subscription at a cost of $119.50. The first floor of this brick building was a schoolroom. This hall was dismantled in 1846 and a larger one, which stood for about 40 years, was constructed for $425. The first floor was used for school purposes and the second for transaction of public business. The present town hall was built in 1855 at a cost of $40,000 of which five-sixths was paid for by the township and the remainder by the village. The town hall features unusual architecture - Byzantine, Greek, Gothic and Spanish. This building included the largest opera house between Cleveland and Columbus and was the scene of many productions in the heyday of road shows. The opera house was later converted into a recreation center, and today village administrative offices occupy the largest portion of the town hall.
Fair Comes to Wellington
The Lorain County Fair, now held in Wellington, is the result of the 1941 merger of the Wellington Independent Fair with the Lorain County Fair. Wellington's first fair was held in 1855. It actually was held on the Turner West farm in Huntington, but in 1857 the exhibition was moved to the grounds now occupied by the McCormick Middle School. The fair was held at this site until 1869 when a long-term lease on the present fairgrounds was made with the township trustees. In 1909, a windstorm destroyed all the buildings except one barn and it was necessary to make replacements. Following the 1941 merger, fine support from county commissioners and the countywide farm organizations and business groups brought the fair to its present high standards. The fair, located off the State Route 18 West in Wellington, was lengthened to seven days and nights to accommodate the throngs of people.
September 13, 1858 was a red-letter day in the history of Wellington, the date of the famous Oberlin-Wellington slave rescue. The event created a profound sensation throughout both the North and South. It was the most important political event of the year and the greatest event of national importance that ever occurred in Wellington.
A very ordinary event was the beginning of the affair. John Price, a slave escaped from Kentucky, came to Oberlin where he lived several months without attracting attention. Late in August, 1858, Anderson Jennings, a neighbor of John's master, while pursuing runaway slaves belonging to his uncle's estate, stopped at Oberlin. Learning of John Price he immediately saw that here was a real opportunity to secure an able-bodied slave at practically no expense. Price was lured out of town with an offer to dig potatoes. Two miles northeast of Oberlin the marshal and his cohorts captured him. Skirting Oberlin they did not pause until safely in the American House hotel, now the site of Herrick Memorial Library in Wellington. A crowd of fearless and determined Oberlin and Wellington men followed the officers into the hotel, blocking every exit. Thoroughly frightened, the officers fled to the attic with Price and locked themselves in. The train for the south came in and puffed away while Price and the officers remained lodged in the garret. As the crowd parlayed, word came that militias from Cleveland were being brought to Wellington and this produced immediate action. A group of men broke into the attic and Price was brought down the stairway and passed onto the street where Simeon Bushnell was waiting with a buggy that moved off rapidly to Oberlin. For three days and nights Price was hidden in a back room of the home of Professor Fairchild of Oberlin College. Price was then sent to Canada where his freedom was assured.