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Saturday, May 18, 2024
Elise Harding Davis restores gravestones, photo courtesy of the Windsor Star 2/10/1988

Elise Harding Davis restores gravestones, photo courtesy of the Windsor Star 2/10/1988
  At its peak during the Underground Railroad black settlement flourished. Following the Emancipation Proclamation in America and the end of the Civil War many of these new settlers pulled up stakes and returned to the United States. As congregations shrunk and churches closed many of the cemeteries were abandoned. Often little evidence remains of their existence.

In recent years individuals such as Gerald Pouget, president of the Harrow Early Immigrant Research Society, Ken Turner, president of the Essex County Historical Cemeteries Preservation Society and Elise Harding-Davis, Curator of the North American Black Historical Museum along with many local church organizations have made extensive efforts to research

and preserve black cemeteries. Researchers continue to unearth information on African-Canadian cemeteries in the region. An incomplete list follows that may be updated as further information is available. For more information on African Canadian cemeteries in the region please visit the website (ken turner’s site) or the Archives of Ontario Ontario Genealogical Society Cemetery Transcriptions - Essex County on the web at http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/english/interloan/cem_essex.htm

Smith Black Cemetery - Banwell Rd
A small black cemetery can be found on Banwell Road in the area described as “Negro Lot 143”. It is on the west side of Banwell Rd about 0.25km from the Railroad tracks heading away from the E.C. Row Expressway. The oldest stone is that of James F Ross born 1866 died 1908. The most recent is that of Amanda J. Wray (smith) died 1952.

Colchester South Baptist
A small cemetery was maintained by the Baptist Church in Colchester South.

Elliot Estate
Matthew Elliot a former Indian Agent for the British Government brought a group of blacks to help clear Bob-Lo Island in the 1790’s. The cemetery is believed to be located near a mainland dock south of the town centre in Amherstburg.

A British Methodist Episcopal Church was established at the settlement of Gilgal in 1852. In 1871 the settlement consisted of 181 residents with a school and cemetery.

Harrow former British Methodist Episcopal Church
The former BME Church in Harrow is believed to have been destroyed by fire over fifty years ago. Tombstones remained but were in a state of great disrepair. Ken Turner repaired many of the tombstones. The Municipality of Essex now maintains the site.

Malden former Mount Pleasant Church
The Mount Pleasant Church operated from the 1840’s through the turn of the Century. It is estimated that perhaps 100 burials are on the site which is currently farmland.

New Canaan in Gesto
Fugitive slaves named their settlement New Canaan after the biblical promised land. “the happy land of Canaan” as they referred to the settlement was developed on land granted as part of the Clergy Reserves in the northern concession of what is now Gesto. The several hundred residents built a road and cleared the land but it was isolated and difficult to farm. Most settlers returned to the states leaving behind their farms and a cemetery. Burials at the site include the grave of Canada’s first black lawyer Delos Davis.

Walls Family Cemetery Puce
The Walls Family cemetery consists of approximately forty burials including non-family members. John Freeman Walls passed away at the age of 96 and was interned at this site in 1909. His wife passed away in 1910 at the age of 88 and is also buried in the family cemetery.


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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