Ada Township, located in the center of Kent County, was founded in 1821. The first settler in this township was Rix Robinson. He engaged in the fur trade with the Native Americans on the Grand River, then founded Ada as others moved into the area. After Robinson had long passed, Edward Bradfield moved into Ada’s growing population and started a mill. The mill created jobs and revenue, which allowed the town to grow. Thanks to Bradfield’s efforts, Ada blossomed into a town with a current population of over 14,000 people. Interested in learning more? Take a short trip to the Ada History Center.
The Ada History Center encompasses both the Ada Historical Society and the Averill Historical Museum. The Ada History Center, formally called the Ada Historical Society, was formed by a group of local women in 1974. They were interested in the history of Ada and strived to preserve it through the collection of historical items and documents. Unfortunately, they disbanded after a few years of work. The organization was revived in the spring of 1989 and has continued growing since.
Flash forward to the present. The Ada History Center is now run and managed by Kristen Wildes. She spends countless hours seeking out pieces of Ada’s history, then creates interactive (not to mention informational) exhibits for the public. She, along with many volunteers, manages to keep the Ada History Center alive. She continues to teach the residents of Ada about the heritage of their town. When interviewed about her purpose in the community, she talked avidly about how she “loves to learn about and share history, particularly through artifacts.” She shared that she is “fascinated by looking back at past communities and individuals to discover how they lived, what they faced and accomplished, and what they valued and enjoyed.” This kind of passion for history is what keeps the community alive.
This Friday (1 pm-4 pm) and Saturday (10 am-4 pm), there will be a market hosted by the Ada History Center. Ms. Wildes was eager to talk about it, and gave it the name “Shop the Museum.” Five local artists have spent months preparing items to sell this weekend. Lisa Lopez has handcrafted items highlighting Ada’s covered bridge — perfect for the Christmas season. Digital Art by Patric turns images into pieces of art. They currently feature antique wooden lures, tractors, and more. Marilyn Thompson creates one-of-a-kind items, focusing on holiday cards. Karey Benedict, from KLB Designs, has a passion for repurposing used items. She used to work in the antique business, so she has added a mixture of modern framing to vintage items. She also sells handmade accent pillows, rings, and small keychains. The Crafty Archivist, Sarah, designs statement earrings and vintage jewelry in a variety of styles.
Together, they hope to raise money and awareness for the Ada History Center. In addition to the booths, there will be a winter wreath sale in the Historical Society’s barn. The event is called the Annual Holiday Wreath Sale fundraiser. It kicks off Friday (1 pm-5:30 pm) and runs until they sell out of fresh evergreen wreaths in a variety of sizes with a choice of ribbon.
Weather the cold this weekend and spend a little time learning about the history of Ada. Take some pride in Eastern’s hometown, and support the local vendors selling handcrafted items! Take some advice from Ms. Wildes: “come kick off the holiday season with us! Fill your Santa bags with one-of-a-kind gifts and support AHS efforts to preserve, share, & celebrate the unique history of the Ada community. In the spirit of the season, you can look good & do good at the same time.”