Where To StayYour Family History The Underground Railroad

& Black History in Chatham-Kent

Call 1-519-351-3126  For Accommodation     
The Bears' Trail. The Crossroads. The Flying Geese. The Drunkard's Path. To The North Star. Panels on the Quilt telling the story of the Underground Railroad, of the trek from Dixie to the safety of slave-free Canada, and of the black heritage of Upper Canada and Ontario.

Kent County was the terminal on that Railroad, the Last Stop, and there is a rich heritage in the form of museum displays, interpretive films, guided tours of historic sites and buildings-  sometimes by descendants of the original settlers, and celebrations like North Buxton's annual Labour Day Weekend Homecoming.

Underground Railroad Quilt
Mary Ann Shadd Carry came to Upper Canada in 1851 and devoted her life to the abolitionist movement and the then unpopular concept of integration.  First black woman attorney and newspaper owner/editor in North America, she put her principals into practice with her school for all races. Current and past residents of Chatham-Kent are proud to be among her descendants. Isaac Riley (L) ironically had the same name as the last, harsh owner of Josiah Henson, the inspiration for Uncle Tom's Cabin. Our Riley and his family had escaped slavery from Missouri earlier, and in 1849 went to the location of the future Elgin Settlement to greet William King (R). Reverend King arrived with 15 former slaves and established a thriving community south of Chatham. The settlements in Buxton grew by hundreds of families until the end of the American Civil War and emancipation. Local residents and families from throughout North America celebrate homecoming Labour Day weekend.  
Josiah Henson created the Dawn Settlement north of Chatham and established a vocational school for the children of newly free black families. Henson's hard experiences in slavery and fortitude inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe to model her fictional Uncle Tom after him. In Dresden, Rev. Henson's cabin and church are open to the public. Half a continent away in Maryland, the old Riley Plantation slave cabin from which he escaped is also on display. On  August 1, Emancipation Day celebrates safe haven with the 1833 end of slavery in Canada. In May 1858 John Brown attended a Convention at the First Baptist Church 145 King Street in Chatham. The purpose was to attract local blacks and abolitionist minded whites to join him in an armed war to eliminate slavery. There were 2000 fugitive slaves in Kent at that time. Less than two years later Brown, his sons and followers were defeated in an attempt to seize the weapons in the Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry Virginia, and Brown was executed soon after. Only one Chatham native joined in the raid. Chatham and Harper's Ferry are twinned cities, and each year Chatham hosts a John Brown Festival.

Resources available to visitors exploring Black Heritage in Chatham-Kent

Guests of  The Duchess of Wellington  are provided with a Black Heritage Tour Package including maps and guides.

The Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society 177 King Street East in Chatham boasts a range of primary and secondary resources including genealogical and census records, original photographs, military records, newspaper articles and land registries.

The Buxton National Historic Site and Museum in North Buxton contains displays of historic significance not only locally but continent-wide. Open 1:00PM-4:40PM, but days of week depend on season (always open Wednesday and Friday). The site is located 15 minutes west of The Duchess. Site includes original church, school and burying ground.

Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site is part of the Ontario Heritage Trust in Dresden, 20 minutes from The Duchess.

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