Provincial plaque commemorates Queen's Bush Settlement, 1820-1867



    GLEN ALLAN, ON, Aug. 2 /CNW/ - Today, the Ontario Heritage Trust, the
Wellington County Historical Society and the Township of Mapleton Historical
Society unveiled a provincial plaque commemorating the Queen's Bush
Settlement. The plaque was unveiled by The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander,
Chairman of the Ontario Heritage Trust.
    "This provincial plaque commemorates the achievements of this black
community in establishing a complex and supportive society, given only
liberty, some tools and a few acres of ground," said Mr. Alexander. "As we
celebrate Emancipation Day, it is a fitting time to recognize these
significant events in shaping Ontario's history."
    In the early 19th century, the Queen's Bush was a vast unsurveyed
territory north of Waterloo Township and south of Lake Huron. By 1840, it was
home to the largest and by far the most widely dispersed of all Upper Canada's
black settlements, containing at its peak between 1,500 and 2,000 people.
Important centres included Glen Allan, Hawkesville and Wallenstein. Although
the conditions were harsh, these free and formerly enslaved black pioneers
created farms throughout the land, establishing churches, schools and a
thriving community life.
    "The McGuinty government is pleased to support this provincial plaque to
help commemorate the vibrant community of black settlers of this area who
faced such great hardship," said Minister of Culture Aileen Carroll. "This
plaque will help to share their stories with future generations."
    Beginning around 1820, African-Canadians and African-American immigrants
began carving farms and constructing homes out of the wilderness of the
Queen's Bush. Although the majority of black settlers were illiterate, they
held a deep commitment to education. American missionaries travelled to the
Queen's Bush to teach the children, and established the Mount Pleasant and
Mount Hope schools. Churches were also constructed, serving not only as
religious institutions but also as places for public meetings and social
occasions. One of several denominations active in the Queen's Bush was the
African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), established in the area in 1840 and
later renamed the British Methodist Episcopal Church.
    Unfortunately, the Queen's Bush Settlement was destined to be
short-lived. In the 1840s, the government ordered the district surveyed and
few settlers were able to purchase the land they had laboured so hard to
clear. By the 1850s, migration out of the Queen's Bush had begun. Despite
these odds, some African-Canadian families continued to live there well into
the 20th century.
    "The effort by so many fugitive slaves and free blacks to homestead in
what was then the midst of a wilderness was a remarkable one," said local
historian Steven Thorning. "The settlement deserves to be better known and
officially recognized in order that we can gain a richer and more accurate
picture of the founding of old Ontario's social dynamic in the 19th century."
    This unveiling is part of the Trust's Provincial Plaque Program that
commemorates significant people, places and events in Ontario's history. In
recent years, the Trust has unveiled a number of provincial plaques to
commemorate Ontario's black history. Since 1953, over 1,200 provincial plaques
have been unveiled.

    The Trust is an agency of the Government of Ontario, dedicated to
identifying, preserving, protecting and promoting Ontario's heritage.

    
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For further information:

For further information: Liane Nowosielski, Assistant Marketing and
Communications Coordinator, Ontario Heritage Trust, Telephone: (416) 325-5032,
E-mail: liane.nowosielski@heritagetrust.on.ca


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