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Colchester North centennial history book reprinted



by Sylene Argent  

As a proud preserver of history, Lakeshore Councillor Kirk Walstedt could not pass up the opportunity to reprint the small booklet, “Colchester North Township: Centennial Reflections,” when he came across an original copy at the Essex & Community Historical Research Society (ECHRS) building in Essex Centre last spring.

  “It was a surprise to me, I didn’t know it existed,” Walstedt said holding a fresh copy of the reprinted book.

  The nearly 50-page book was published in 1980, 100-years after a Special Act of the Ontario Legislature divided the Township into two communities; Colchester North and Colchester South. Walstedt said he tried reaching out the original committee, which included Lois Vincent, who has since passed on.

  A few months after finding the original print of the booklet, Walstedt wrote a preface for the book to thank Vincent for her dedication to the original book’s creation, and also updated the area’s history to include the 1999 amalgamation that brought Colchester North, Colchester South, Harrow, McGregor, and Essex Centre together to form one municipality.

  He then had 100 copies made, wanting to ensure the book could be available to those interested in Colchester North’s history. They are available at the ECHRS facility on Gordon Avenue and at the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum. 

  “I’m so interested in history, I took it upon myself to do this,” Walstedt said about the reprint. When flipping through the book, Walstedt was pleased to discover a few relatives mentioned within its pages. His grandfather, Ernie McCallum, is noted as having owned the Gesto Store from 1923-25 as an earlier proprietor. There is also a picture of his aunt and uncle in the book.     

  “I read stuff in there about my grandfather I didn’t know about,” he said. “I found that most interesting.”

  The book also mentions the significance of early settler John Roadhouse, how Gesto was first named New Darlington after the place its first settlers came from, and the story of Mr. Hope, an escaped slave from the US who would walk to Amherstburg to sell his hand-made pottery.

  “Lois and her group did a nice job putting together pertinent history. They even list ministers at the Gesto Church,” Walstedt noted. Other pieces of information include the history of GessTwood Camp, when the 60-acre property was sold in 1960 to the United Church of Canada.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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