Poor House book launches June 9 at Wellington County Museum and Archives

ABOYNE – Calling all book lovers and history enthusiasts. 

Join the Wellington County Museum and Archives (WCMA) on June 9 as it unveils the stories of the Poor House and its residents in a new book, If These Walls Could Speak: The Story of the Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge, with author Susan Dunlop, past curator of the WCMA.

“The story of rural Houses of Industry and Refuge, also known as the Poor House, has been a forgotten part of Ontario’s early history,” says Dunlop. “This book explores how the issues of poverty laid the foundations of our modern social welfare policies, told through the experiences of the women, men and children who passed through the doors of the Wellington County Poor House.”

This year marks the 145-year anniversary of the Poor House, and the book launch party is the kick-off celebration to several initiatives dedicated to acknowledging this history. 

A new addition to the award-winning exhibit, If These Walls Could Speak, will also be unveiled, with never before seen Poor House artifacts.

“Many residents regularly drive past this amazing property and admire the building on the hill,” said Mary Lloyd, county councillor and chair of the information, heritage and seniors committee.

“We really look forward to hosting the public this anniversary year, getting them to come in and experience the history.”

Doors open at 6pm on June 9 and a presentation by Dunlop (also available on Zoom) will follow at 6:30pm, with a Q&A, guided tours and a book signing at 7:30pm.

“It is important to capture the stories of the people and events that were part of this incredible National Historic Site that has been in the county’s care since 1877,” says Jana Burns, Wellington Place administrator. 

“Susan has done a brilliant job in conveying the truth, showing both the bad and the good. The book enables the reader to reflect on how we used to treat society’s most vulnerable, and whether, in many respects, we have come very far at all.”

The WCMA is located on Wellington Road 18 between Fergus and Elora and is open weekdays from 9:30am to 4:30pm and weekends from 1 to 5pm. Admission is by donation. Learn more at www.wellington.ca/145anniversary.