Skip to main content Skip to footer

Culture & Heritage

This area was first home to the Indigenous people, the Huron-Wendat.  They left behind significant archaeological sites in the region and Indigenous people continue to have a living legacy in the wider region.  French explorers, missionaries and fur traders travelled the region beginning in the 1600s. White settlers began arriving in the 1820s. They came mainly from England, Ireland, and Scotland. As part of defense preparations during the War of 1812 Penetanguishene Rd, and Line 1, then called Wilberforce St, were surveyed and cleared, mainly to protect a corridor to Georgian Bay during the hostilities. In 1819 a Black Settlement was established by government decree along Line 1 of Oro-Medonte.

Numerous books exist describing pioneer family life. Publications written by the Oro-Medonte History Committee and available from the Township include: The Story of Oro, Kith 'N Kin, The Hills of Oro and Other. Landmarks, Knox Presbyterian Church, and The Oro African Church.  Other local authors who have described pioneer life include: Marion Keith, Samuel Jermey, Loreen (Rice) Lucas, Mary O'Brien, Eleanora Hallen, and Monty Leigh.

There are Oro-Medonte residents who have made major contributions in politics, farming, science, writing and music: Hon E. C. Drury, former premier of Ontario; writer Kenneth Wells; former speaker of the Ontario legislature, Hon. Allan McLean; Sir Sam Steele, pioneer of the RCMP; singer/composer Wishart Campbell; U. of T. philosopher Prof. Hume; former federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Rt. Hon. Ellen Fairclough, and; scientist, Dr. Murray Luck to name a few.

Points of Interest

You can explore sites of interest including historical markers, monuments, cemeteries, and places of historical interest in our Interactive Heritage Story Map.

You may find gems such as:

  •  The unique "African Church". 
  • Sir Samuel Steele monument.
  • Old Town Hall Cenotaph.

Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church

Visit the Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church webpage.

The Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church, built between 1846 and 1849, is a designated National Historic Site. It is one of the last extant buildings erected by a community of African Canadians whose roots were uniquely anchored in the history of United Empire Loyalists and represents the important role that Black militiamen played in the defense of Upper Canada during the War of 1812, and also represents early Upper Canada land policy.

The Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church is one of, if not, the oldest African log church still standing in North America. This Church stands as a testament to both the Black Settlers who carefully crafted and cared for it for nearly 75 years and passionate community volunteers who have worked diligently to preserve it since its abandonment in the 1920's.

In 2013, the Township acquired the services of Heritage Consultants to prepare a Cultural Heritage Assessment (CHA) to assess the building condition and develop a long term strategy for its preservation. The assessment concluded that the condition of the Church was far worse than expected, and as a result it was closed to the public until a comprehensive restoration effort could be undertaken.

Through a successful fundraising campaign and other funding, the Township was able to make the recommended restorations required, and on August 19, 2016 the Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church re-opened its doors to the public, thanks to the support of hundreds across Canada and th​e USA.

While the church is no longer an active church with a congregation, this modest place of worship is more than a National Historic Site. From the first day of worship until today, the African Church has engendered heartfelt emotions from many people regardless of race, gender, age, or religion. The Township remains a steward of the Church and the property. 

Please Note: The Church is currently closed for tours, however visitors are encouraged to still visit the grounds.

The Oro Fair

“It was as much a social as an agricultural event – the hall contained the products of the women’s deft fingers stood near the gate. At one side was a long shed, deveted to the display of farm produce – a grandstand, formed by nature from a grassy knoll covered with sweet smelling pines, rose at one side and made a convenient and delightful resting place. Now it was thronged with people and resounding with a joyous bedlam of all the noises that all the farms in Oro joined together could produce”; thus wrote the famous Oro-born Canadian author Marion Keith, as she described the Oro township fair, then in the second half of its first century.

But such was not always the setting for Oro fair...

When Richard Drury, as president, and Joseph thomas as secretary treasurer of the Oro Agricultural Society, led the first Oro fair in 1853, it was smaller and held at Rix’s tavern on the NW corner Lot 15, Conc. 1, Oro on the Penetanguishene Road. The first list of members includes the names of Drury, Thomas, partidge, Hickling, Raikes, Flaherty, Cliffard, Crawford and O’Brien; people who have played a prominent part in the development of Oro, many of whose descendents still live on the original homesteads.

For the first two or three years, they held a spring ploughing match and a regular fair in the fall, but the spring match was dropped and held either as a separate event or in conjunction with the county match in the fall. In 1855 the fair was held at White’s Tavern in Dalston and while we do not know how many judges’ refreshments netted Mr. White, 8 shillings, 9 pence and debited the society’s books a like amount. The taverns must have had an attraction for the people, directors and judges alike, for it was held at three different taverns before settling at the township hall (now Old Town Hall, Line 7 N & 15/16 Sideroad) in 1869.

The fair is still being held today. 

Oral History

This history is excerpted from Medonte, A Township Remembered, p81.  Consider purchasing a book for further stories.

The late Bessie Wilson was born in Eady in November 1910 and died in 2000. She told many interesting stories of this area. Some of these were told to her by her father, George Wilson. Her great-grandfather, the first farmer of Eady, was Lieutenant George Wilson.

One special story she told was of the brief courtship of her grandparents, William and Greta Moon. The Postmaster of Moonstone at the time was Thomas Moon who had three eligible daughters. Late one evening, William Wilson decided that he no longer wanted his aunt, Jane March, to continue as his housekeeper. He went to the post office to speak to Mr. Moon and to request a bride, but arrived after the young ladies had retired upstairs for the night. However, Mr. Moon called to the eldest daughter to say that Mr. Wilson was visiting and wanted a wife! She refused without coming downstairs. Then the next daughter was called. She accepted his proposal without coming downstairs. They were married shortly afterward.

Bessie also remembered the “track kids”, about 20 children, who each day walked from the station area down the railway track to the old Eady School. This was before 1925.

Fun times included horse-drawn sleigh ride parties up and down the concession roads, followed by games, and hot food such as a big pot of beans at a neighborhood home. There was also a snowshoe club composed of members who traveled from the 10th Line to Grenard, and usually warmed themselves at Art Moffit’s home.

Bessie remembered her father speaking of the wonderful patience Wilfred Walker had with one of his three sons. Although he could have directed the team of horses to back up a wagon load of animals onto the weigh scales in a matter of seconds, Mr. Walker let the young boy do it taking much longer, but providing invaluable experience.

Her school day memories at the “Old Eady School” (the second school) included the water pail and a big dipper in it for everyone to drink from, the wash basin which all the children shared, the two outside “air-conditioned” toilets, teachers boarding at nearby farms and several later marrying farm sons. Her first teacher was Edna Dudenhoffer from Orillia. Others were Mrs. Sibbald, Evenly Langman from Orillia, Nell Sprott from Collingwood (later Mrs. Grant Blaney), Miss Alma Walker from Coulson, and Miss Louise Turner from Elmvale.

Mrs. Isaac Day was the Public School Inspector, “a nice, white haired, friendly man who came around twice a year, driving his horse, and school got out early those days”. Several meetings, discussions, votes, arguments and hard feelings took place regarding the dividing of SS# 14, the building of a new school, and the location of it. Then Mr. Day condemned the old school house. In the midst of this disturbance, in March 1925, the school burned down without explanation.

Historical Books

If you wish to order any of the items listed here please complete the required Book Order Form.

Hills of Oro

The Hills of Oro was printed in order to preserve the “land markings” Of our pioneers, and to record the problems they faced while travelling the roads of Oro, as well as the clever solutions they developed to solve those problems.

Purchase price: $3.00

Kith n 'Kin

Kith n 'Kin is the story about most of the individual families who came to Oro between 1819 and 1880.  It contains reminiscences, photographs and biographies that the descendants gathered of these pioneer families.

Purchase price: $20.00

Knox Presbyterian Church

Provides information on Knox Church from its construction in 1844 to its restoration in 1912, to the 1986 publication of this brief commemorative history.

Purchase price: $3.15 (available by request)

Medonte - A Township Remembered

The History of Medonte captures the beginning with the First Nations people, the French missions and martyrs, the Europeans in the 19th Century and early lumbering, agriculture and transportation. This book is about the “people” of Oro-Medonte, their family histories and their stories.

Purchase price: $20.00

Oro African Church

This publication shows us the history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Edgar, Ontario and the community that it served.

Purchase price: $10.00

Story of Oro

This Second Edition was updated and revised in 1984 from the original print in 1972. It is dedicated to the first pioneer men and women who came to Oro. This volume reflects a social and informal approach to our past, reflected in the hand drawn maps and numerous photographs depicting life in the Township from the early 1800’s. It is also the story of Oro’s Communities.

Purchase price: $15.00

Sign up for our Council Highlights & Township Updates Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with Council meetings, important topics of discussion, and relevant information by subscribing to the Council Highlights & Township Updates eNewsletter!

This website uses cookies to enhance usability and provide you with a more personal experience. By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies as explained on our Privacy Webpage.