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