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Waterloo County Black African Settlers

Black Genealogy Research in Ontario

compiled by Lorine McGinnis Schulze of

1793 Act

In 1793, the parliament of the province of Upper Canada (now Ontario) passed An Act to prevent the further introduction of Slaves and to limit the term of contracts for Servitude within this Province.

This Act ensured that the children of slaves, at age 25, would automatically be set free. The Act remained in force until 1833 when the British Parliament's Emancipation Act abolished slavery in all parts of the Empire, including Ontario.

War of 1812

After the War of 1812, the black community in Ontario grew with the steady arrival of runaway slaves from the southern United States. Over the next few years many slaves found freedom by following the Underground Railroad to Ontario.

American Fugitive Slave Laaw 1850

The American Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 forced an influx of freedom seekers to many parts of Canada West via the Underground Railroad. This Act gave slave owners the right to apprehend fugitives anywhere in the Republic and return them to slavery. This caused both free Blacks and fugitive slaves to flee north.

Black Settlements in Ontario

By 1851 there were more than 35,000 people of African descent in Ontario.

Benjamin Drew wrote about the blacks in Canada 1856 in his 1856 book "A NorthSide View of Slavery. The Refugee: or the Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada. Related by themselves, with an account of the history and condition of the colored population of Upper Canada 1"

"The colored population of Upper Canada, was estimated in the First Report of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada, in 1852, at thirty thousand. Of this large number, nearly all the adults, and many of the children, have been fugitive slaves from the United States"

There were several black settlements in Ontario but the settlement in Waterloo was the Queen's Bush

Queen's Bush

The Clergy Reserve known as the Queen's Bush, extended from Waterloo County to Lake Huron. The majority of black settlers settled in the southern half of Peel Township in Wellington County but the Queen's Bush Settlement also included the northern half of Wellesley Township and the western portion of Woolwich Township in Waterloo County. This area, eight by twelve miles in size, had a population of approximately 1,500 Black settlers by 1840. A major relocation of Black settlers began taking place in the late 1840s, mostly to Owen Sound, but also to towns and cities surrounding the Queen's Bush Settlement and to other Black settlements.

Black Churches

An African Methodist Episcopal Church located in Peel served this black community in the 1840s

Black Schools

In 1850, the Common Schools Act of the colonial government provided for the creation of separate schools for Blacks. Black schools frequently suffered from a lack of financial support. Black students often found themselves barred from other schools.

Back to the USA

Those seeking their black ancestors may therefore need to turn to records in the U.S.A. once their search in Canada has been exhausted.
Black Settlers in Waterloo County

Jonathan Butler, a black man, & wife Elizabeth Jenkins in the Queen's Bush Settlement in Waterloo
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Online Book on Slaves

A North-side View of Slavery: The Refugee: Or, The Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada by Benjamin Drew (online book)

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