Wellington’s Cheese Heritage Festival celebrates our village’s history as the “Cheese Capital of America” back in the mid to late 1800s, when northern Ohio was prime dairy farm country and the railroad provided access to the larger world. At its peak, the Wellington’s cheese factories shipped over 6 million pounds of cheese around the world. Most of Wellington’s picturesque downtown and the grand Victorian homes on Main Street were built during its prosperous heyday when cheese-making was the major industry of southern Lorain County.
The Cheese Heritage Festival kicks off every 3rd weekend in July in historic downtown Wellington. Activities, live entertainment including performances, food, and special events for families continue all day Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Rides, games, food booths, cheese for sale by the pound or deep-fried on a stick, live entertainment, and a 50/50 raffle will be on tap all weekend.
Wellington’s Cheese Heritage
The fabulous story of the Wellington “Cheese Empire” that catapulted this friendly small village nestled in southern Lorain County to world-wide renown 150 years ago now lives only in memory. At the golden apex of that era, about 1875, the town led the nation in cheese production.
It had more than 40 cheese factories and many large ice-refrigerated storage plants. The Wellington product, was shipped in boxes to all points of the compass and abroad until the town was called the “cheese capital of the world.”
The Horr-Warner Company, acknowledged leaders, at one time had 17 factories in Wellington and seven more in Elyria. Convinced of the superior quality of Wellington cheese and with an ever-increasing inexhaustible supply on hand, Horr & Warner Company searhed for a larger market.
Charles Horr went to London. Cheese brokers there confirmed his opinion about the excellence of Wellington cheese, but withheld orders until he could prove he was backed by an ample supply.
In a great demonstration of his faith, Horr & Warner piled cheese on the Liverpool wharves until the inventory there total 10,000 tubs! This broke the buying resistance. A flood of orders erased the inventory and brought a steady flow of new supplies from factories here.
Wellington became a main shipping point for both butter and cheese and the market widened to include points in other foreign lands, and all over the United States.
In what perhaps was the peak year, 1878, Wellington shipped 6,475,674 pounds of cheese and 1,100,661 pounds of butter, with a value in excess of $800,000.
The prosperous cheese business continued beyond the turn of the century, but as the demand for fluid milk increased in growing Cleveland, dairymen found it more profitable to sell milk to creameries than to turn it into cheese.
Cheese making ceased about 1912 with the closing of the B.B. Herrick factory.
Not a single cheese plant is operating now in the Wellington area. About the only visible evidence remaining of the giant cheese industry of another century here is a large painted sign, “Cheese,” above the second floor windows of the Flat Iron block.