Trail Profile: Black History on the Municipality of Chatham-Kent Trail
A former stop on the Underground Railroad, the Municipality of Chatham-Kent is home to several sites that illustrate the important legacy of Black history and communities in the region – and across Canada. This month, we’re exploring the Municipality of Chatham-Kent Trail through the lens of black history.
Must-visit spots on the Trail
• Josiah Henson Museum of African Canadian History
• Buxton National Historic Site & Museum
• The Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum
Josiah Henson Museum of African Canadian History
It’s estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 Black refugees from slavery fled the United States to Canada along the Underground Railroad. Reverend Josiah Henson was one of these refugees and was also a conductor along the Underground Railroad.
This two-hectare complex celebrates Reverend Henson’s life and work, who, along with fellow abolitionists, established the Dawn Settlement in 1841: a community of free Black people near what is now Dresden, Ontario. The Dawn Settlement was a refuge for freedom seekers and a gathering place for many.
Watch Jackie Bernard’s video on Black history in Dresden, Ontario, here:
How to get here
Continue along the Municipality of Chatham-Kent Trail towards Dresden. The museum can be found directly on the Trail, just south of Glasgow Line on Freedom Road.
Buxton National Historic Site & Museum
This museum is situated at the Elgin Settlement, which was the last stop on the Underground Railroad for many Black refugees from the United States. Founded by Reverend William King, the settlement grew into a self-sufficient community of almost 2,000 people and included the Buxton Mission School – reputed for its academic achievements – and a saw and grist mill, a pot ash and pearl ash factory, a brick yard and much more.
What you’ll find at the museum
• The Buxton Museum
• S.S. #13 Raleigh Schoolhouse, built in 1861
• The Colbert/Henderson cabin, the last remaining settlement cabin, built in 1854
• The Shadd Barn
• Church cemeteries
• A research area, including ample information about local history and genealogy
The museum also offers virtual tours, for those who are not in the area or who want to revisit the sites in more detail.
How to get here
The Buxton National Historic Site & Museum is just south of the 401 below Chatham.
The Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum
Located in the heart of Chatham, this museum was founded in 1994 by the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society. Its displays, artifacts and archives tell stories of Chatham’s Black history from the 1780s to the present, including the region’s history on the Underground Railroad, Black communities in Chatham-Kent and more.
Throughout the month of February, museum staff organize several events, including weekly tours, presentations, readings and more. Virtual tours are also available, like this one from summer staff Eden Handsor and Mariah Travis, along with Samantha Meredith and Board of Directors President Dorothy Wallace.
How to get here
The museum is located on King Street, just off the Trail in the centre of Chatham.
Looking to learn more about Black history in the Chatham-Kent area? Delve deeper into Black history in the Chatham-Kent area with this video: