LAKESHORE, ON, Aug. 18 /CNW/ - Today, the Ontario Heritage Trust, the
Lakeshore Black Heritage Committee and the Town of Lakeshore unveiled a
provincial plaque to commemorate the Puce River black community.
"As a result of the hope and determination of their ancestors,
descendants of this community have gone on to lead successful lives across
North America," said The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander, Chairman of the
Ontario Heritage Trust. "This provincial plaque will help to share this
inspiring story with future generations."
The Puce River black community is significant to Ontario's heritage for
its associations with early black settlement and the struggle for freedom. The
provincial plaque was developed with funding support from the Ministry of
Citizenship and Immigration, as part of initiatives commemorating the 200th
anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.
"This provincial plaque commemorates a community built by former slaves
whose quest for freedom led them to settle in Ontario," said Caroline Di
Cocco, Minister of Culture. "As we mark the bicentenary of the abolition of
the slave trade, this is a time to recognize and celebrate these significant
events in Ontario's history."
The black community in Puce River grew as a result of support from the
Refugee Home Society, an abolitionist organization founded in the early 1850s.
The society gave former slaves and their families the opportunity to purchase
25-acre farms in Sandwich and Maidstone townships, ultimately helping more
than 60 black families who had escaped slavery to settle in the Puce River
"Fugitive slaves travelling north on the Underground Railroad found a
home in the Puce River area," said Bruce Crozier, MPP for Essex. "Here, they
flourished in independence, contributing to the growth and development of this
The Refugee Home Society also set aside a portion of lands in the area
for the construction of schools and churches. A British Methodist
Episcopal(BME) Church and Cemetery were established in 1872. An African
Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and a Baptist Church also existed in the
"As a part of the Refugee Home Society settlement, this was once home to
two of the three earlier black churches in the Puce River area; the AME and
BME churches," said Glen Cook, Chairman of the Lakeshore Black Heritage
Committee. "Within the cemetery site rest many former slaves and their
families who came to the area as part of the Underground Railroad movement.
With their freedom realized, they created a pathway of freedom for future
generations, while contributing to their families, religion and development of
One tombstone in the BME cemetery is the only physical reminder of the
Puce River black community. As part of today's plaque unveiling visitors
toured the historic cemetery site, which is being preserved by the Lakeshore
Black Heritage Committee and the Town of Lakeshore, with the support of many
community partners and volunteers.
"The Town of Lakeshore is proud of its role in the preservation of local
history," said Tom Bain, Mayor of the Town of Lakeshore. "We have been working
with the Lakeshore Black Heritage Committee, volunteers throughout the
community and local citizens actively involved in historical preservation. The
Town has developed a strong bond with these groups and is proud to recognize
and celebrate the many volunteers involved in the preservation of this
historic cemetery site, which is of local and national significance."
This unveiling is part of the Trust's Provincial Plaque Program that
commemorates significant people, places and events in Ontario's history. Since
1953, over 1,200 provincial plaques have been unveiled.
The Ontario Heritage Trust is an agency of the Government of Ontario,
dedicated to identifying, preserving, protecting and promoting Ontario's
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For further information:
For further information: Catrina Colme, Marketing and Communications
Coordinator, Ontario Heritage Trust, Telephone: (416) 325-5074, E-mail: