fbpx
3.1 C
Elmira
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Connecting Our Communities

Developing a view of Wellesley’s past

Turn-of-the-20th-century photographer Charles Ottman inducted into Waterloo Region Hall of Fame

TRENDING

Restored Victorian home in Elmira the subject of TV competition

Along with the influx of visitors that comes with the holiday season, Elmira will see one new...

New MP jumps to the next stage

Ever since he was elected as the new Liberal Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Conestoga during the October...

End of an era for MP

Two weeks having passed since the federal election, Harold Albrecht has had time to reflect on his...

Meet the candidates

By Veronica Reiner & Aneta Rebiszewski Five candidates are vying for your vote in...

THIS WEEK

Elmira
overcast clouds
3.1 ° C
6 °
0 °
70 %
2.6kmh
90 %
Thu
6 °
Fri
7 °
Sat
5 °
Sun
2 °
Mon
1 °

When the village of Wellesley met to discuss the fate of their beloved and historic pond, it was to Charles Ottman and his photographs that the community could turn to for perspective. There, captured in the grainy stills, was a vibrant portrait of the village at the turn of the 20th century, its people and culture and treasured landmarks, some of which have survived through today.

Perhaps the village’s only resident professional photographer of that era, Ottman’s photographs have come to offer a rare glimpse into life in the village 120 years prior.

It is for those valuable contributions to posterity that Ottman was inducted into the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame at a ceremony on Sunday at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum.

“His photos are very important to us for the views of Wellesley that they show,” said Nancy Maitland, curator of the Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society, who nominated Ottman for the Hall of Fame.

Attending the ceremony were some of Ottman’s relatives. Though born 140 years ago in 1879, Ottman is nonetheless survived by his nephew, David Briggs, who made the trip from his home in Ottawa to take part in the ceremony.

“It’s just extraordinary. Nobody else that I know of in my family [has been honoured] like that,” said Briggs, whose mother, Persida Briggs, was Ottman’s sister. “I was born long after he died, but my mother was 20 years younger than him.”

Not much was  known about Ottman, who died young at age at 27, and to learn more Maitland dug through the Wellesley Historical Society’s own archives. Through her detective work, Maitland was able to piece together the circumstances of his life.

Born in 1879 as the eldest of 12 siblings, Ottman was the son of a harness and saddle-maker in Wellesley village, Charles Ottman senior. The junior Ottman joined the family business in 1901 until the early onset of tuberculosis likely forced him to find a less strenuous occupation. So he became a photographer.

“He took photos in the village and then turned them into postcards, and would sign them. And he had a studio in the village, so he did commercial photography,” explained Maitland. “It was interesting what he felt was going to be a sale-able postcard.”

Much of what Maitland has been able to glean of his life has come from the pages of the newspaper of record at the time, the Wellesley Maple Leaf, where Ottman would advertise his work. Occasionally, events captured by Ottman’s lens would even be reported in the local newspaper.

One such occasion was when a pair of oxen came into town carrying bushels of wheat. A rare sight in those parts at the time, the oxen were taken to the local school afterwards for a visit. The event proved to be such a treat for the community that it was featured in the Wellesley Maple Leaf, says Maitland.

“Mr. David Roth, just west of St Agatha, had his fine yoke of Polled Angus oxen in Wellesley last Friday with a load of chop,” reads the May 17, 1906 article. “While in the village they were hitched to a wagon loaded with 140 bushels of wheat and drew it up the hill in front of the mill with very little apparent exertion.

“At noon they were taken to the school and shown to the scholars most of whom had never soon an ox team before, although there are several in the village to whom oxen to the early days were plentiful, and horses nearly as scarce as oxen are now.”

Ottman’s photograph captures the youth riding in the back of the cart, wearing broad smiles at the spectacle.

Other photos show variations of the Wellesley pond, including villagers skating and playing hockey over the frozen surface in the winter. But perhaps Maitland’s favourite photo is off the Ottman family itself, sitting outside the harness shop and their home next door, which lay along the present day Queen’s Bush Road near the corner Nafziger Road.

“I think it was an idyllic time, but I think it was an idyllic view of the village, certainly,” said Maitland.

Ottman was inducted alongside seven others to the 2019 Hall of Fame, including Martin Buhr, co-founder of The Food Bank of Waterloo and Mennohomes; Martha (Marty) Deacon, who was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 2018; and artist and sculptor Ruth Abernethy.

More photographs of Ottman’s, as well as newspaper clippings and other historical documents have been posted online. Those who would like to donate original photographs or lend electronic copies are also encouraged to contact the historical society, Maitland notes.

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to The Observer's online community. Pseudonyms are not permitted. By submitting a comment, you accept that The Observer has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner The Observer chooses. Please note that The Observer does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our submission guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

LIVING HERE

New watering system is powered by the sun

Many hands may make light work, but automating the process really lessens the load. That’s especially helpful when the work involves relying on volunteers to provide the manual labour.

In Print. Online. In Pictures. In Depth.

You obviously love community journalism. Thanks for visiting today. If you have a great local story, let us know.

Virgil Wins the Lottery … but, then again, maybe not

It’s easy to day dream about striking it rich quick by winning the lottery, and all the possibilities that come along with...

EDSS looks to make use of new push for skilled-trades training

With measures taken on the provincial level to encourage high school students to enter the skilled trades, EDSS is in the process...

Sugar Kings turn the screws on Brampton

Another home-and-home winning weekend helped the Elmira Sugar Kings solidify their hold on top spot in the GOJHL’s Midwestern Conference. A pair of...

Woolwich adopts new landscape guidelines for subdivisions as part of greening initiatives

Talk of trees right now typically involved the adjective Christmas, but Woolwich council is focusing just now on guidelines for planting in new...

Woolwich stays course with economic development

Woolwich’s vacant economic development and tourism officer (EDTO) position will be retained, councillors decided this week despite any numbers or measures to show...

Junior girls’ capture EDSS’ first WCSSAA basketball title

In a season that already saw the team rack up win after win, the EDSS junior girls’ basketball team reached new heights...
- Advertisement -