Donald Wilby - Hometown Hero


Onoway and District Historical Guild recognized Donald’s accomplishments through a “Hometown Hero” exhibit at the Onoway Museum.

Donald Wilby was one of those unique individuals whose special talents often go unnoticed by the people around him. Onoway Museum is honouring this early settler in the district who worked hard for his community but was held in high esteem nationally and internationally because of his hobbies.

Wilby came to the Heatherdown area in 1904, a 27-year-old bachelor. Within a decade he had married a local widow, built a house, set up a farm and become very actively involved in local organizations such as being the first secretary-treasurer for Pine Ridge School.

But his passion was collecting birds’ eggs and butterflies. Wilby collected almost 30,000 eggs, many of them purchased from collectors around the world. His collection was believed to be the largest in Canada. His grandson remembers bringing wooden boxes containing these precious eggs home from the Heatherdown Post Office. He kept detailed records of the eggs, the nesting sites, etc.

Wilby was also an amateur photographer. These were the early days of photography – before film. Glass plates were coated with a special gelatin that allowed an image to form on the negative. Many of Wilby’s glass plate negatives have survived and some are on display as part of the exhibit. The photos provide rare glimpses of life in Heatherdown in the early 1900s. One photo on display shows Wilby’s first home in Heatherdown in 1904 – a tent.

The exhibit was featured at Onoway Museum from May to October in 2012.

Return to top of page

Last Updated: October 23, 2013