I'm on my way to Canada
That cold and distant land
The dire effects of slavery
I can no longer stand.
Farewell, old master,
Don't come after me.
I'm on my way to Canada
Where coloured men are free
"In Canada slaves generally worked as personal servants or on the wharves. A few settlers had many slaves, but more than 20 was considered unusual. This made the attack on slavery far simpler than it was in plantation economies, where their labour was more important. The most effective and sustained attack on slavery came in New Brunswick in 1800, when Ward Chipman prepared an especially thorough legal, historical and moral statement against slavery. Generally, slavery was physically benign, and especially in Prince Edward Island, though there were recorded instances of harsh punishment and many advertisements for the return of runaway slaves."
Once slavery was abolished in Upper Canada, and the USA passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 (this Act gave slave owners and agents the right to track and arrest fugitives anywhere in the USA), Canada became the land of dreams for those still enslaved in the United States. This brought about the creation of the Underground Railroad.
Using Railway terminology, the Underground Railroad was a network of former slaves and sympathizers helping fugitive American slaves to escape to freedom in Canada. "Although most fugitive slaves remained in the free states of the American North, perhaps 30,000 reached Canada. The 'railroad', in operation roughly 1840 to 1860, was most effective after the passage of the US Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which empowered slave hunters to pursue fugitives onto free soil. This Act resulted in several efforts to kidnap fugitives who were in Canada to return them to Southern owners"
The first major wave of fugitive slaves to Canada was 1817-1820 and the choice of refuge was Essex County as it was the easiest and fastest to reach from the USA. Underground Railroad terminals in Ontario included almost any ports on Lake Erie and the Niagara River, as well as Amhertsburg, Sandwich, Windsor, Owen Sound, Hamilton, St Catharines, Toronto, Kingston, Brantford, Collingwood and Prescott. Many Great Lakes ships would carry runaways without charge and drop them on Canadian soil. Ships such as 'Bay City', 'United States', 'Arrow', 'Mayflower', 'Forest Queen', 'May Queen', 'Morning Star', and 'Phoebus'.
Those who made it to Ontario tended to migrate towards settlements that had a high concentration of Black inhabitants. These settlements came about due to discrimation from White Canadians and as a way to protect each other from American bounty hunters. Most of these settlements were located near the cities of Chatham, Hamilton, Windsor, London, Toronto, and St. Catharine's. Smaller settlements were located near Barrie, Guelph and Owen Sound.
"Settlement by the 1830's was primarily along the Detroit River & Lake Erie shores. Hamilton & particularly Toronto drew settlers looking for employment. Those in Toronto tended to settle in Ward 4 (now west of the present University Ave)." Other popular areas of settlement included London, Dawn, Strathroy, Woodstock, St. Thomas, Brantford, Wilberforce & settlements on the Thames River. Niagara Falls, Drummondville & Niagara-on-the-Lake were other draws.
By the 1850's there were six 'firmly rooted' black communities in Ontario:
1. Central Ontario (London, Queen's Bush, Brantford, Wilberforce)
2. Chatham (Dawn, Elgin)
3. Detroit Frontier (Amherstburgh, Sandwich, Windsor)
4. Niagara Peninsula (St. Catharine's, Niagara Falls, Newark, Fort Erie)
5. Northern Simcoe & Grey Counties (Oro, Collingwood, Owen Sound)
6. Urban Centers on Lake Ontario (Hamilton, Toronto)
On Hamilton Mountain (part of the Niagara Escarpment) near Fort Erie, a small village called 'Little Africa' came into being and by 1840 it had a population of 80 blacks. Over the next forty years the population reached a height of 200 before inhabitants moved away and left the their village a 'ghost town' by 1880.
Established by Josiah Henson as a temporary settlement for black refugees
The Queen's Bush
The Queen's Bush was the chief area of settlement for those who ventured into 'the bush' starting in the 1840's
From Claude Smith: The term Queen's Bush was a general reference used by early settlers. Since it didn't exist, we cannot give it an official definition. Within Wellington County, "Queen's Bush" usually refers to Peel and Maryborough Township. You could probably also include Arthur Township and Minto Township, such is the arbitrary nature of this definition. I think the term "Queen's Bush" was used because Peel and Maryborough were clergy reserves and therefore not open to settlement (i.e., owned by the Queen).
On 26 Apr 1819 the settlement of Oro was authorized by Maitland. To promote settlement (Upper Canada officials wanted the Lake Huron/Georgian Bay areas protected in the event of a backdoor attack from the US), black 1812 veterans were offered land grants in Simcoe County. They were given 40 ha, while white settlers were given 80 ha. Blacks who took up this offer were among the first settlers in Simcoe County. By the late 1820's land tickets were no longer required. Instead land was sold for one shilling per acre (.4 ha), then by 1831 the price was raised to five shillings. The village of Edgar was the main center of Black life in Oro.
From Claude Smith: Sometimes called the "Pierpoint Settlement", was in Garafraxa Township just outside present-day Fergus. The first settlers in this area were black soldiers who fought in the Butler's Rangers regiment and in the War of 1812. Richard Pierpoint and approximately eight to ten other black veterans of War of 1812 were given land grants in Garafraxa. The settlement broke up about 1840 and the people left to other black settlements near Glen Allan, Priceville and Collingwood.
Established when Blacks in the Cincinnati area found that remaining in Ohio would be dangerous. They sent a committee to Canada to petition for help. They were given a welcome and decided to go ahead and purchase an area of land in Biddulph Twp. In Oct 1829 five to six families arrived in their new home. A few weeks later they were joined by 15 families from Boston. They became the first settlers of the township. Poor leadership & other factors caused this new settlement to fail and by 1835 the settlement only contained a few families.
All "quotations" above come from the 'Canadian Encyclopedia, 1988' or 'The Freedom~Seekers. Blacks in Early Canada by Daniel G. Hill, 1981'