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.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Back Cover text

There is a legend that the Underground Railroad was begun by natives, decades before Quakers and other abolitionists set up their system of stations, conductors and termini to funnel escapees out of the slave prison that America became in 1793.
  Laying the Bed examines a claim by the United Empire Loyalists of Brantford, that it was Tuscarora Baptists who guided fugitives up the Grand River and into their community.
  Those Tuscarora began as Presbyterians, Anglicans and Methodists and some were part of a large loyalist family of mixed-race blacks, whites, Tuscaroras and Mississaugas with links to the reserves of both the Six Nations and the New Credit, and with roots in North Carolina, Lewiston NY and Burlington, Ontario. 
   One of that family, William Groat, moved to Guelph in 1842, before dying in 1900 in the Wellington County House of Industry (the poor house) outside of Elora. The story of his family is the first volume in the tale of how African Americans came to live in Guelph and Wellington.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Southern Ontario and The Grand and Thames Watersheds

The Grand River, a water bed of the Underground Railroad

In the Beginning

This blog began on the 5th of February 2012, three months after the steering committee of the Guelph Black Heritage Society was formed to oversee the purchase of a stone church at 83 Essex, Guelph, which the Society has since bought from the British Methodist Episcopal Church of Canada.
The blog first served as a ways and means of gathering historical material for a book I was asked to write by Wayne Smythe, the man who first noticed the church was for sale and sought to save it. Wayne's interest was in the abolition-emancipation movement and how it came to Guelph. Neither he nor I speak for the Heritage Society. I include a link to their website below.

What began as a single book has become several. The first of them is called Laying the Bed, and is the result of the work I did in a field of researched Wayne directed me to delve into: the rumoured relationship between native Americans, and especially the Six Nations Reserve, and the earliest years of the Underground Railroad.

cover for Laying the Bed

cover for Laying the Bed
designed by Brenan Pangborn