A Village History

     Long before settlers arrived in Wellington, two main tribes were using the area south of Lake Erie.  They were the Algonquians and the Eries. The Eries were a part of the HuronIroquois family and were the only redmen to have a complete tribe inhabiting Lorain County.  The Eries were fierce warriors, but they were eventually vanquished by a confederation formed between several Iroquois tribes.  As a result, few natives remained in the Western Reserve.  Early settlers experienced no problems with them.  The remaining natives were not only friendly, but also helpful to the settlers with land clearing, teaching pioneers to hunt and to make maple syrup in exchange for corn and baked goods.
     It is not surprising that the origins of Wellington includes a past filled with rich Americana.  Century old homes and historic buildings dot the village landscape.  So interesting is Wellington's history that former owner and editor of the Wellington Enterprise, the late Ernest L. Henes, was prompted to publish a book entitled "Historic Wellington Then and Now". 
     According to Henes' writings, Wellington history began in 1807 when the Connecticut Land Company sold 4,000 acres of land that would become Wellington Township to Ephraim Root and James Ross, with Root later taking over Ross' share of the property.
Root then sold the landed rights to Frederick Hamlin, James Adams, Francis Herrick and Herman Kingsbury of Berkshire County, Mass.
     In the heart of the winter of 1818, four men from Berkshire County, John Clifford, Charles Sweet, Ephraim A. Wilcox and Joseph Wilson, started a 600-mile trek to Wellington.  En route the men were joined by William T. Welling from Montgomery County, N.Y., and reached Grafton, Ohio in February.  A month later, by following the Indian trail, the sturdy quintet cut their way through to what became Wellington.  A small area was cleared in the forest and a cabin and crude beds were built.
     Clifford, an employee of Hamlin, returned to Massachusetts in May.   July 4, Frederick Hamlin, Mrs. Ephraim Wilcox and son Theodore, Ephraim's sister Caroline and Dr. D.J. Johns arrived in Wellington.
Others arriving a few weeks later were John and Allison Howk, Whitman DeWolf, Benjamin Wadsworth, Judson Wadsworth, Silas Bailey, Amos Adams James Wilson and Josiah Bradley.
It is appropriate to record that Mrs. Ephraim Wilcox was the pioneer mother of Wellington.  In the fall of 1818 she became the mother of another son, Dennis, the first child born in the new Wellington settlement.
     The honor of naming the town was offered to the citizen who would cut the longest stretch of road through the dense wilderness.  Charles Sweet topped the bidders with an offer to clear 80 rods.  He chose the name of Charlesmont, but his name was not satisfactory to the rest of the settlers.  William Welling then cut his length of road according to the agreement and named the town Wellington.  It is still an unsettled question whether the name was chosen as a compliment to Welling or in honor of the Duke of Wellington.  The Battle of Waterloo fought only six years before Wellington was formed.
     The village of Wellington was incorporated on Aug. 6, 1855 and comprised about 12,000 acres of the center portion of the township.  Under the charter election held Dec. 3, John M. Swift was chosen mayor.  The village's first regular election was held the following April with Edward S. Tripp being elected mayor.

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.

Cheese Industry
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.

Slave Rescue
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.