Who we are
The Norfolk Historical Society is a charity run entirely by volunteers who are passionate about preserving, protecting, and promoting the unique history and heritage of Norfolk County. Members of our society are young and old, local and distant, individuals and organizations, paid members and volunteers (and most often both!). Explore our website, but make sure you visit here to see what we do. And don’t forget to read up on the history of our prestigious society and the battles we’ve fought and won in the past in service of Norfolk history. Finally, meet some familiar faces from our volunteer Board of Directors. And if you’d like to be a member, we’ll love for you to join us or at the very least consider volunteering with us. Thanks you and let’s keep Norfolk history and heritage alive and foremost in the heart of our community.
Eva Brook Donly House
The Victorian-era Eva Brook Donly home was built about 1840 for Thomas J Mulkin. Donly lived there from 1924 until 1941. After Donly’s death, it was donated to Norfolk County on condition it be used for as a Museum. First opened in 1946 the Museum was operated by the NHS and housed extensive artifacts, archives, UEL and other genealogical documents, and collections including Eva Brook Donly and William Edgar Cantelon’s art. In 2018 Norfolk County agreed to take possession and operation of the Museum and Archives.
Volunteer & Help!
Student? Retired? Just Curious?
Did You Know?
Try to guess what these images have to do with NHS history? Then hover your mouse over the image to find out! Or cheat and hit the orange button below for a better lesson in NHS history.
The Heroine of Long Point saved many sailors trapped on ships despite being unable to swim! The NHS played a lead role in commemorating her achievement.
Lynn Valley Trail Boards
The NHS provided the railway and industrial history seen on the plaques along the trail.
The NHS had a rocky first year in 1900. They had to appeal to council for a $25 loan to keep afloat!
Save Our Courthouse!
In 1974, NHS successfully led the fight to save our 1872 historic courthouse from the wrecking ball.
The NHS led the effort to acquire, restore, and moor a surviving Simcoe-made amphibian “alligator tug” boat.
We Bought ‘Em Up
Years ago, the NHS purchased most W. Edgar Cantelon paintings to keep the collection in Norfolk. In 2018, the NHS donated the collection to Norfolk County.
Prominent NHS Historical Figures
Eva Brook Donly
Talented Artist, Home Owner & Donor
Eva Brook Donly (April 30, 1867 – 1941) was a Canadian artist who lived in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada. She was born in Simcoe in the year of Confederation receiving her fine arts diploma from Alma Ladies’ College in St. Thomas, Ontario. She also received her certification from the Ontario School of Art (now the College of Art and Design). Donly worked as head of the Art Department at Alma College from 1887-1890. Eva Brook Donly pursued her artistry in New York City and Mexico City. In Mexico, she ran a bookstore and met her soon-to-be husband Augustine Donly (who also was from Simcoe, Ontario!). They married in 1896 back in Canada. In 1905, the Donly’s returned to Mexico City after Augustine was appointed Trade Commissioner to Mexico. Eva Brook Donly began painting again after studying at the San Carlos Academy. Most of Donly’s art consists of portraits and landscapes of Mexico, Bermuda, and Canada (particularly the Laurentian Mountains and Simcoe area).
Eva Brook Donly died in Simcoe in 1941. In her will, she left her home to Norfolk County for use as a Museum where her extensive paintings are housed. Some of her paintings are also on display in the National Gallery of Canada and places abroad. Until 2018, the NHS operated the Eva Brook Donly Museum and Archives. The home and site of the Museum and Archives is currently under the ownership and management of Norfolk County Heritage and Culture.
William Edgar Cantelon
Talented Artist, Teacher, Historian
William Edgar Cantelon (March 28, 1866 – March 4, 1950) was born in Streetsville, Ontario, Canada. Cantelon was a well-known local artist who started painting at an early age. He studied art in Chicago for a time and then came to settle in Woodhouse Township. He opened a studio in downtown Simcoe at 40 Norfolk Street South, which he would use both for his art and for teaching young students. In his later life, Cantelon spent considerable time in Simcoe. He was widely known for his paintings and his annual exhibit was always a feature of the Norfolk County Fair. He also had painted baptistery scenes for numerous churches in this district and elsewhere. Intensely interested in local history, Cantelon was honoured as a life member of the Norfolk Historical Society, of which he was once a curator. His works of art included a collection of more than 300 paintings depicting scenes and portraits associated with Norfolk County’s early history and landmarks.
The Norfolk Historical Society purchased the William Edgar Cantelon collection just weeks before the artist’s death and housed and displayed them prominently at the Eva Brook Donly Museum and Archives. In 2018, the NHS negotiated a transfer of its holdings including the full collection of William Edgar Cantelon artwork to Norfolk County Heritage and Culture so that they may be preserved, protected, and accessible to the public in perpetuity. The NHS and other local organizations have held may events honouring and celebrating the life and work of William Edgar Cantelon. Some original Cantelon art pieces occasional appear at auction where they fetch $1200-$1500 per piece from buyers all over Canada and the US.
How You Can Help & Support The NHS
Board Of Directors
We are fortunate to have a group of talented, passionate, and committed history enthusiasts volunteering on the NHS Board of Directors. As a charity, we underscore everything we do – as volunteers – for the service of Norfolk history, heritage and community. Read the bios and learn about the NHS team! Maybe you’ll even want to fill in a vacancy and join us?
Getting involved doesn’t mean limiting yourself to just becoming an NHS member or at the same time going straight to the Board of Directors! There’s plenty to do in between. There are so many jobs to do around our events, planning, fundraising, set-up, research, data-entry, social media engagement, etc. If you have talents in these or other areas, we could use your help! Fill out our VOLUNTEER FORM today! We are currently in need of a Treasurer for our Board. If you think you would be a good fit or know of someone who is, contact us immediately!
What Does The NHS Do?
Our mission statement is “To Protect, Promote, and Preserve the History and Heritage of Norfolk County“. That’s the guiding spirit behind everything the NHS stands for. How we accomplish that mission is laid out in over a dozen goals that we’ve set up as a starting point after receiving survey, member, public, and Board feedback. Learn more here.
Become An NHS Member
We can’t stress just how important it is to our mission and mandate to have a strong, vibrant, and growing membership. For only $40 per year (or $60 for a Family membership), you are not only part of the mission of saving, preserving, and educating about Norfolk history and heritage, but your membership helps make us stronger and a more effective defender of local history. Whatever your connection to Norfolk, we need your support and your voice through your membership. If you haven’t already, please join us right now.