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Wednesday, February 19, 2020
 
 
Postcard of ‘Ferry Landing’ also includes street cars – Courtesy of Don Wilson
  Throughout history the development of major transportation systems have facilitated the development of city centres. Windsor is no exception. The steamboats on the Detroit River, the railroads and the development of the electric railway in Windsor all helped the town to flourish. African Canadians who worked in the field of transportation
Postcard of ‘Ferry Landing’ also includes street cars – Courtesy of Don Wilson
  have helped to keep the economy moving for generations.
 
Steamboats
 
P6730 - The Gem - Courtesy of Windsor's Community Museum
  The steamboats on the Detroit River a very important role in African Canadian history in the region. Many fugitive slaves made their way across the border from American to find safe haven in Canada aboard the steamers and ships that traversed the river and docked in Windsor. Steamboat Captains, like Captain Thomas Chilver of the ‘Gem’
P6730 - The Gem - Courtesy of Windsor's Community Museum
  helped many individuals and families escape during the period of 1856 to 1865.
 
Many African Canadians eventually secured employment on the steamers and other vessels. For example William Jones of 364 Goyeau Street was a sailor. James A. Smith, originally from Kentucky, became a Captain aboard ship. Many individuals who went on to prominence in other fields, like Reverend Harrison, got their start aboard the famous vessels listed below:
 
  Steamers
The Tashmoo
The City of Detroit,
The North Western
The India
The China
       
  Side Wheels
The Hope
The Gem
       
  Car Ferries
The Great Western
The Transfer
The Huron
 
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Railroads
 
Canadian Pacific Railway station – courtesy of K. Knight
  In April of 1854 the Great Western Railway placed an advertisement in the Provincial Freeman looking for 800 workers to guard the railway tracks. Many African Canadians successfully applied for these positions and many laid tracks for the transcontinental railroad. They also toiled to build bridges and canals.

Canadian Pacific Railway station
courtesy of K. Knight
 
Once the railcars were steaming through the town many African Canadians were
at work aboard the trains. Many of the cooks and dining room attendants were African Canadian. In 1870 the Pullman Palace Cars were introduced and the sleeping car porters were African American or African Canadian. (For more information on Sleeping Car Porters please visit the Organized Labour / Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters section of this website)

The following individuals from Windsor are just a few of those known to have been early employees of the rail companies in the area:

 
  Canadian Pacific Railway
    John Evans of 31 McDougall Street
Charles Evans of 210 Goyeau Street
 
       
  Grand Trunk Railway  
    John Wilson (Switchman)  
       
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The Windsor Electric Railway
 
Windsor Electric Railway Operator
              Lindon Clark Brooks – Photo Courtesy of the Long Road by Charlotte Perry
  The Windsor Electric Street Railway Company began operation on June 6, 1886. It was the first electric street railway system in North America. The line ran from Windsor to Walkerville. An African Canadian man, Lindon Clark Brooks of 656 Goyeau Street, was the first motorman on the Windsor Electric Railway line. Therefore, he was the first operator of an electric railway in North America.

Left picture: Windsor Electric Railway Operator Lindon Clark Brooks – Photo Courtesy of the Long Road by Charlotte Perry
 
Clipping from the Windsor Star courtesy of Windsor Public Library (wpl 1-84)
  Brooks operated the electric railway car from a position in the middle of the car where the motor was located. He transported passengers from the British American Hotel in Windsor to the Peabody bridge in Walkerville and

Clipping from the Windsor Star courtesy of Windsor Public Library (wpl 1-84)
  back.Mr. Brooks also served on the town advisory board. In April of 1888 the electric railway was discontinued and
a steam dummy railway system was substituted. Later in 1888 horse drawn cars took over the line.
 
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Teamsters
 
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters was established in 1903 to organized the workers which then consisted of drivers of horse teams and warehouse workers. Canadians began to join in 1906. As motorized vehicles revolutionized the transportation industry teamster membership expanded greatly to include truck transport and eventually an airline division.

The following are a few of the individuals who were early members of the teamsters union:
  Jasper Green
B Hulett of 86 Mercer Street
Gordon Nall Trucking & Storage Company at 84 McDougall Street
Benjamin White
Edward White
 
In recent times some of the individuals of African Canadian descent who have excelled in the field of transportation include:
  Mark Crosby
James Porter
Clarence Kersey
 
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The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

 

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