It has stood at 83 Essex Street Guelph since its base stones were set in late June 1880. Its cornerstone was set on September 17 1880 as recorded in the Guelph Mercury and Advertiser. The contents of the cornerstone were described in that article, "Copy of the Holy Scriptures, Hymn Book of the BME Church, copy of the Missionary Messenger - the organ of the church; and copies of the Mercury and Herald." Presumably, the contents had already been placed inside a tin box, hermetically sealed and then painted over before being placed in a carved-out section of the cornerstone, then covered with sand and mortared under the stone above it. The Mercury report noted that the structure was already twelve feet high, with half the basement four feet in the ground and the other four feet above it. The base stones of the church could well be mortared directly onto the same ridge of limestone that extends across the road to where the ground drops behind the southside homes and into a remnant of the quarry from which many of the nearby stone houses had also come. The Guelph BME was, by the 1880's, one of the last stone structures erected in the neighbourhood. The quarry had been owned by the man who had been awarded the contract to raise the church, William Slater, listed in the 1881 city directory as a stone cutter.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Black History Month 2018 Reading/Talks

February 1   Elora Public Library
                    Geddes Street, Elora
                     6:30 start, followed by questions
                     Local Black Settlements
                     Colbornesburg, Pierpoint and the Queen's Bush
Colbornesburg was created near Winterbourne in the 1820's,
when over 200 free blacks and self-emancipated African Americans
took up land on either bank of the Grand River
between the mouth of the Cox Creek and Sawmill Road.

The Pierpoint settlement was unofficially named after Richard Pierpoint
one of two Niagara region/head of the lake Loyalist blacks who served
in the Coloured Corp and who were granted one hundred acres each
near a white loyalist family before the founding of Fergus.
The second man, John Vanpatten, had been at Colbornesburg,
and was the son of one of Joseph Brant's slaves, Prince Vanpatten,
and one of the leading figures in attempts to find lands for former slaves
being brought into Brantford by the Tuscarora of the Six Nations.

The Queen's Bush Settlement was more truly a squat, since the lands
the homesteaders cleared were owned by the Anglican-controlled
(Mapletown) as well as Wellesley township in Waterloo County.
The area began to  fill  in the early 1840's, until nearly 1500
free blacks and former African-American slaves were squatting
on recently surrendered Saugeen Ojibway territory.
Since most couldn't afford to buy the land once it went out for sale
in 1847, the diaspora that followed led to the growth of communities like
Owen Sound and Collingwood, as well as the black neighbourhoods of 
Guelph around what became the British Methodist Episcopal Church.
The existence of those three settlements and a fourth one
in Oro township created the interconnected network of families
that formed the core of south central Ontario's free black population
well into the twentieth century.
Laying the Bed: the Native origins of the Underground Railroad,
and Exodus and Arrival: Fugitive Roads to Guelph and Beyond
will be available for purchase.

February 3   Guelph Black Heritage Society Hall
                     (formerly the B.M.E. church)
                     83 Essex Street, Guelph
                       7 PM start for a musical evening event
                       Opening speaker:
A fifteen minute talk on Reverend Junius B Roberts
the Indiana born British Methodist Episcopal Church
who oversaw the building of the stone building in 1880
after having served with a medical corp during the Civil War.
In the 1930's his Oakville grandson Ira Johnson, denied having
having black blood because the Hamilton KKK burnt a cross
on his lawn because he wanted to marry a white woman.
The Klan was one based our of Indiana, not the American south

Books will be available for purchase.

February 7    Cornerstone Cafe,Wyndam and Carden Streets, Guelph.
                      8 pm, licensed room, food available
The cafe sits in a building first erected and owned by Thomas Sandilands,
a Scots immigrant who had come to Guelph in the early
1830s. He was a member of George Brown's Canadian
Anti-slavery Society, which had been formed following the passage
of the second American Fugitive Slave Act in 1850.
Sandilands was the listed on the 1851 convention document
 as the VP for Guelph.

 Books will be available for purchase.

February 8   Dundas Valley Historical Society
                     139 Park Street West, Dundas, Ont
                     7:30 PM
The Coloured Corp and the Dundas Road Patrol
During the War of 1812, the black community at the head of the Lake
(from what is now Burlington to the future village site of Dundas)
served in both the militia (patrolling the road) and the Colourerd Corp.
The blacks in Burlington especially had family connections
to the Tuscarora of the Six Nations who were camped on their land
during the Battle of Stoney Creek, and the Battle of Burlington Heights
in 1813/1814. The corps duties during that war were primarily
as artificers, builders of fortifications, trades that were handy
during the post-war period.
The founders of Dundas almost certainly made use of them.
Roswell Mathewsm the man who built Shades Mills before moving
to what became Elora and building the first mill there, was known
to the Coloured Corp, especially to men like Richard Pierpoint and
John Vanpatten who owned land outside of what became Fergus.
After Vanpatten sold his land outside what became Fergus
in the mid-1820's,  it was to one of the founders of Dundas,
Manuel Overfield, under what Fergus historians think of as a
suspicious price, which will be examined
Dundas also had several connections to the Canadian
Anti-Slavery Society founded in 1850, following the passage
of the 2nd American Fugitive Slave Act.

Books will be available for purchase.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

I've been listening to an old cassette of Tony Bird's

Tony Bird from Nyasaland, and Malawi-born, he had to leave his birthplace because he wouldn't serve in the army against blacks. He apologized for whites decades ago in a song called Sorry Africa: "I too am an African crying..."
"Drawing from the southern African mbaqanga and kwela rhythms, Afrikaans boeremusiek and even calypso, along with the folk, blues, country and rock of England and America, Tony's music is an original amalgamation of all these styles, which he loosely describes as 'African Folk-Rock.' "
I met him a few times, he stayed with us once and played at Hillside in Guelph, Ontario, he is a friend of my ex-wife. And I'm blessed to have met him. He is a gentle musical giant.
He toured with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the 1980s, who recorded his song "Go Willie Go" wikipedia 
Here is his beautiful paean to Zimbabwe after independence. Zambezi-Zimbabwe, and his joyful Mango Time.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Brock Monument, Queenston Heights nothing of black role

I was on the Queenston Heights yesterday, looking at the impressive monument built in the 1850s, replacing the original (destroyed in 1840)  built in 1824 to honour the War of 1812 death of General Isaac Brock. Fittingly, monuments have been added to acknowledge the role of First Nations in that fateful battle. What is decidedly lack is recognition of the Coloured Corps.

In 1824, when Brock's body was moved from the grave he was put in when he died, and taken up for burial in the crypt at that the base of the monument, 6 members of the Coloured Corp, walking behind the hearse carrying the body, and leading a white horse, were part of the honour guard. Their names seem impossible to find.

Richard Pierpoint, who settled brief in the Fergus area before the creation of the village, was almost certainly one of them, since he was the man who proposed the creation of the corp to Brock.

Who were the other five?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Research into the Great Dismal Swamp communities

The Great Dismal Swamp is the probable place that the Groat family of Burlington, The Six Nations, the Mississauga of the New Credit, Guelph, and the Queen's Bush settlement established their original connections to the Tuscarora, Great read.

Wherever Africans were enslaved in the world, there were runaways who escaped permanently and lived in free independent settlements. These people and their descendants are known as “maroons.” The term probably comes from the Spanish cimarrĂ³n, meaning feral livestock, fugitive slave or something wild and defiant.
Marronage, the process of extricating oneself from slavery, took place all over Latin America and the Caribbean, in the slave islands of the Indian Ocean, in Angola and other parts of Africa. But until recently, the idea that maroons also existed in North America has been rejected by most historians.
“In 2004, when I started talking about large, permanent maroon settlements in the Great Dismal Swamp, most scholars thought I was nuts,” says Sayers. “They thought in terms of runaways, who might hide in the woods or swamps for a while until they got caught, or who might make it to freedom on the Underground Railroad, with the help of Quakers and abolitionists.”
By downplaying American marronage, and valorizing white involvement in the Underground Railroad, historians have shown a racial bias, in Sayers’ opinion, a reluctance to acknowledge the strength of black resistance and initiative. They’ve also revealed the shortcomings of their methods: “Historians are limited to source documents. When it comes to maroons, there isn’t that much on paper. But that doesn’t mean their story should be ignored or overlooked. As archaeologists, we can read it in the ground.”
Not sure I'd call it racial bias to focus on people who escaped into Canada, but this is certainly a much needed area of research.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fundraising for Third Book

Hoping to be able to raise some funds to finish the Third book, Blood in the Mortar: Freedom in Stone.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Great read

There is a secret hidden in the heart of New Orleans, a secret hidden in plain sight but ignored by all but the secret citizens themselves. Before Bienville arrived in this area in 1718, Native American scouts informed the adventurous Frenchman that there were groups of Africans—they probably said “blacks”—living over there in their own communities and that these self-ruled women and men would not talk to whites.
Although how the Native Americans knew that the blacks would not talk to whites remains unexplained, the report seems accurate on the face of it. After all, close to three centuries later in post-Katrina New Orleans there remain a number of us who are reluctant to talk truthfully to outsiders—not out of fear of repercussions or because of an inability to speak English but rather we remain reticent on the general principle that there’s no future in such conversations.x

kalamu ya salaam

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Important material in this reviewed book.

"In his book,Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage – Revised, a 240-page highly readable and sad chronology, with new chapters, documents, prints and photographs, William Katz brings to light a part of America’s hidden past, the cultural and racial fusion of American Indians and Africans, and later African Americans, by attempting to reconstruct the parallel tracks of tragedy between two people who, for a while, provided mutual support and refuge from unrelenting atrocities inflicted upon them by early Europeans, and settler groups. Katz explains, “This history is vitally important because for four centuries Africans and Native Americans together fought Europe’s conquest and slavery; and they are still fighting for equal representation and presentation in American classrooms and in discourse today.”


cover for Laying the Bed

cover for Laying the Bed
designed by Brenan Pangborn