The Township of Wellesley is a rural escape located within a 20-minute drive of the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo. Made up of the communities of Bamberg, Crosshill, Hawkesville, Heidelberg, Kingwood, Linwood, St. Clements, Wallenstein and Wellesley, the township features many small businesses mixed together within a thriving farming community.
Settlement of Wellesley Township began in the early 1800’s, when the area was part of a large Clergy Reserve known as “The Queen’s Bush.” The first settlers to the area came from a variety of racial and religious backgrounds, including a significant number of freed or escaped black slaves from the United States. Black slaves were fleeing to Canada through the Underground Railway, and began appearing in Upper Canada, including the Queen’s Bush area of Wellesley. Settlement of the township was slow until 1843, when the township was officially surveyed and opened for settlement. In 1861, with the survey in place, the township’s population had grown to almost 6,000 people. The villages in the township began to prosper, and businesses such as a grist mill, sawmills, feed mills, a cheese factory, a brewery, and several general stores began to appear.In 1853, Hawkesville competed with Berlin (now Kitchener) and Galt (part of present-day Cambridge) to become the county seat. However, the seat was won by Berlin, along with the route for the new railway. With the railway line bypassing the township, the prosperity the villages saw at the beginning of the century began to decline. Vacated farms were bought by Mennonite descendants of families originally from Pennsylvania, who were being displaced by development within Kitchener, Waterloo, and the surrounding townships.
Today, the township remains predominately rural with close to half the farmland still owned by Mennonites. Visitors will enjoy the unique businesses that can be found while driving through the township, including roadside/honour produce and floral stands, homemade summer sausage, maple syrup, shoo-fly pies, quilts and handcrafted furniture.
3 Things to Experience while in Wellesley Township
The Heidelberg Restaurant Tavern & Motel
Built in the 1840’s, the hotel once served as a stagecoach stop between Berlin and Glen Allen. It is known for its Pennsylvania-Dutch and Canadian inspired menu, guests to the restaurant enjoy generous portions of favourites such as pork hocks, ribs, pig tails, schnitzel and sauerkraut. Stop in for a frosty mug of Bavarian-style lager in one of the first licensed brew pubs in Waterloo Region. Located on Lobsinger Line in Heidelberg.
Anna Mae’s Bakery & Restaurant
Family owned and operated, Anna Mae’s is a one-stop shop not to be missed, and is located just steps from the border of Wellesley Township. Specializing in homemade Mennonite cooking and baking, guests can dine in the restaurant, pick up some sweet treats in the bakery, and browse through the locally-made crafts in the gift shop.
Anna Mae Wagler, a local Mennonite lady, started baking pies in her home in 1978 and sold them at the end of her laneway. In November 1991, Anna Mae moved to a new home and opened her bakery at its current location. What began as a simple bakery and small café quickly grew to be a restaurant with seating for over 170, bakery and gift shop.
Whether dining on a broasted chicken dinner or enjoying one of the many fresh baked desserts, guests won’t leave hungry! Treats from the bakery such as Little Janes, apple fritters, and the more than 18 different kinds of pie baked daily can be purchased to take home.
Wellesley Apple Butter and Cheese Festival
Join the thousands of visitors who take part in this annual celebration on the last Saturday in September. Try your hand at horseshoe pitching, jump aboard a coach ride, tour local farms and bite into traditional German fare, including schnitzel on a bun and mouth-watering Mennonite apple fritters. Take home a jar of Wellesley’s famous apple butter and a jug of Wellesley brand apple cider!
Founded by the Wellesley Board of Trade in 1976, the Apple Butter and Cheese Festival was created to promote the town’s two major businesses: A.W. Jantzi & Sons Ltd. (Wellesley Brand Apple Products) and the J.M. Schneider Cheese Factory.