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Upper Grand students learn about the Black settlers of Wellington County

March 7, 2023

GUELPH, ON – During Black Heritage, Black Futures and Black Brilliance Month, students at the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) received a presentation about the history and influence of Black settlers in Wellington County during the 19th century. 

Students gathered virtually for the slideshow presentation, put together by the Wellington County Museum and Archives and the Guelph Black History Society. The presentation contains archival photographic evidence and passed down narratives about the Pierpoint settlement near Fergus, Ontario, and the Queens Bush near Glen Allen.

At its peak in the 1840s these settlements had a population of more than 1500 Black Canadians – many of whom were previously enslaved in the United States and escaped to Canada to live freely.

“These hardy survivors were amongst the very first non-native settlers to this area and their story of survival is the story of how our local area began,” said Kyle Smith, the Activity Programer at the Wellington County Museum and Archives.

“We look at some of the personalities who built these settlements and why they flourished here, but also why these settlements eventually disappeared, and why don’t more people know about them today.”

The sources used to create the presentation are direct descendants from prominent families of these settlements like the Hissen family, the Mallot family, and the Braithwaites. Primary sources were also the writings of Richard Pierpoint and John and Eliza Little – who lived in these settlements at the time. Those writings were found in the Petitions of Richard Pierpoint and the Interviews in The Refugee by Dr. Benjamin Drew.

From the presentation, Smith hopes that students understand that Black history in Wellington County – and Canada – have roots that go deep and are long. 

“Some parts of this area were primarily settled by Black Canadians in the 1840-50s and that is something that I find surprises a lot of people (adults and students alike) who come to local history with a lot of preconceived notions about who the early settlers to this area were.  I just hope I make them think that history is a lot more complicated, interesting, and surprising than they might think.”

This photo features the Hisson sitting outside their family home.

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