Wellington County Methodists 1825-1925
  Source...Guelph Museums: Black History Exhibit


Peel Tp. ChurchBlack Settlers - Who Were They? The lure of free land attracted Black settlers to the Queen's Bush Settlement. The community developed in the Clergy Reserve known as the Queen's Bush, which extended from Waterloo County to Lake Huron. The majority settled in the southern half of Peel Township in Wellington County but the Queen's Bush Settlement also included the northern half of Wellesley Township and the western portion of Woolwich Township in Waterloo County. This area, eight by twelve miles in size, had a population of approximately 2,500 by 1840. Of these about 1,500 were Black settlers. Black settlers arrived in the Queen's Bush for different reasons and by various routes. The following histories describe how some Blacks came to be residents there. These histories involve a fugitive slave, a freed slave, a man who purchased his freedom, and a man born free.

Joseph Armstrong, born in Maryland on June 28, 1819, was a fugitive slave. At age eighteen Armstrong ran away from his owner, Jacob Baer, and slave catchers tracked him as far as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Fearful of being captured and returned to slavery, he eventually moved to Upper Canada in 1837. He settled initially in Brantford, but later moved to Peel Township where he established a farm.

Sophia Burthen Pooley lived under British rule and gained freedom in 1834 when the British Parliament abolished slavery. She was a native of Fishkill, New York, and daughter of slaves Oliver and Dinah Burthen. While still a young child, her owner's sons-in-law, Daniel Outwaters and Simon Knox, kidnapped Sophia and her sister and took them to Upper Canada. Joseph Brant, chief of the Mohawks, bought Sophia and she subsequently worked for the Brant family, travelling with them as they divided their time between Mohawk, Ancaster and Preston. Sophia remained with Brant for twelve or thirteen years until he sold her to Samuel Hatt in Ancaster for one hundred dollars. After gaining her freedom in 1834, she married Robert Pooley and the couple resided in Waterloo. In her old age Sophia boarded with various families in the Queen's Bush Settlement.

Joseph Mallott, born a slave in Alabama around 1799, worked as a cook on a Mississippi river boat. By saving tips from passengers, he eventually was able to purchase his freedom and move to Upper Canada. Mallott initially settled in Bloomingdale in Woolwich Township with his family. After the birth of his son, Joseph Jr., in 1835, the family relocated to Peel Township. Joseph Jr. remained in the community during his entire life and worked as a farm laborer on neighbouring farms. Thomas Elwood Knox, a free-born African-American, had emigrated to Upper Canada in 1844 to escape the discrimination he had encountered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1847 he established a farm in the Queen's Bush Settlement. Knox acknowledged that there was less racism in Upper Canada, but he admitted that he "...would rather have remained in [his] native country."

Creating a new life on the Canadian frontier was not an easy undertaking. It involved the usual tasks of clearing land, planting and harvesting crops, building a cabin and facing the elements, especially the ferocious winters. Slowly, as the number of settlers increased, the settlement began to resemble a rural community, especially as churches, businesses, and schools were established. In 1841, the Black residents of Peel Township erected a church just south of the Conestogo River. The first known ordained Black minister in the community was Jacob Libertus. Several denominations, including the African Methodist Episcopal (AME), Wesleyan Methodist and Baptist Churches, established congregations in the Queen's Bush Settlement. Because of the early influence of several Wesleyan Methodist ministers, the Wesleyan Methodist church attracted the largest membership. By the mid-1840s, several businesses had been established, including a grist mill, sawmill, store, and hotel. As the villages, such as Hawksville, Glen Allan, and Yatton expanded, their names began to replace the older Queen's Bush title.

Hisson Family - Peel Tp.

The Hisson Family of Glen Allen outside their home, Peel Township
Left to Right: Annabelle born Jan.12, Edward John Hisson (1881 - 1949)
Elsie, Mabel M. (Lawson) Hisson (1890 - 1974),
Grandmother Lawson holding baby Ada, born 1918,
unknown girl beside a dog.
Source: Wellington County Museum and Archives ph 5786

It was also during the 1840's that the Queen's Bush area was officially surveyed. Many of the settlers, both Black and White, were indigent "squatters". After petitioning Parliament, arrangements were made that they could purchase their land on terms. This still proved difficult for many, however, and the black community of Queen's Bush disbanded. Blacks were encouraged to support Upper Canada when the British were at odds with the Americans, and many did. After the American Revolutionary War ended however, the majority, seeking a better life, returned to the United States.

For the mid 1800's, the Black population of Upper Canada is estimated at 60,000. By 1901, however, the population had declined to 18,000. In spite of the enlightened work of the abolitionists of the 19th Century, Canada's immigration policy of the early 20th did not help this situation. Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, in 1911 stated his support for the Immigration Act which read ̉landing in Canada shall be... prohibited of any immigrants belonging to the Negro race, which race is deemed unsuitable to the climate and requirements of Canada.

Richard Pierpoint

Some of the first non-native settlers in Wellington county were Blacks. At least two important Black settlements existed, namely Pierpoint and Queen's Bush. In 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, some Blacks were offered freedom and land in Upper Canada if they fought on the side of the British. One individual who accepted the offer was Richard Pierpoint, originally from Bondou, Senegal, captured there, and then sold as a slave in America, to British Officer Pierpoint, from whom he was renamed.

Pierpoint and other Blacks fought with the Butler's Rangers. After the Revolution, Pierpoint, as a Loyalist, was granted land. We also have record of him signing The Petition of Free Negroes in 1794, which, sadly, was dismissed by the Executive Council of Upper Canada. Pierpoint, however, remained loyal to the Crown. In fact, upon the outbreak of the War of 1812 he, although some 60 years old, offered to create a "Coloured Corps" to help defend Upper Canada. Although this did not occur, a group of Blacks fought under the leadership of a White officer, and these men participated in the Battle of Queenston Heights as well as the siege of Fort George.

In 1821 Pierpoint again petitioned the government, this time, requesting passage back to his homeland. Although this was not granted, he, along with about a dozen other Black families, were given a land grant in Garafraxa, just outside of what is now Fergus. After his death in 1838 the settlement land was purchased by Scots and the Black community dissipated.

The Missionary Schools

Beginning in the 1830s, several American ministers and teachers arrived in the Queen's Bush Settlement and established schools for the residents. Education was given great emphasis as it would provide the skills for self improvement. Most fugitives had been kept illiterate by the Southern slave system which sought to restrict knowledge of anything beyond the plantation. In 1843, Peel Township residents erected an 18 foot by 14 foot log cabin which the new missionary teacher, Fidelia Coburn, called the Mount Pleasant Mission. Although the school had been established for the benefit of fugitive slaves, it attracted White students as well. It was not only a school, but Miss Coburn's home: a wood stove stood in the middle of the room and rough-hewn desks lined the walls. Moveable log benches filled the centre of the room around the stove, while Coburn's bed and personal items occupied one corner of the cabin. Despite the limited space, Coburn's students ranged in age from very young children to adults. In 1846, another school in Peel Township was opened, named the Mount Hope Mission. During the 1845-46 school year, the two schools had a combined attendance of 225 pupils. image: Church on the 4th Line of Peel Township used by neighbouring Black residents in Peel Township. The Church was known locally as the Coloured Church. Source: Wellington County Museum and Archives ph5965.

At times, the relationship between the missionaries and the Black residents was under considerable strain. Tensions existed over the control of funds and clothing sent from the United States. By 1853, both schools were closed due to the departure of Black settlers from the Queen's Bush.

In the early 1840s, land surveyors entered the Queen's Bush to prepare it for sale to the increasing number of immigrants. As squatters without any legal right to the land, Black and White settlers risked losing their homes. After uniting and sending a letter to Parliament, the squatters were permitted by the government to purchase lots of one hundred acres on an installment plan, with annual cash installments at ten percent interest and any remainder to be paid in full after ten years. This was still too expensive for most. Many squatters, both Black and White, abandoned their homes. The settlers who could purchase their farms were often forced to use their savings or to borrow money from more prosperous farmers. The land agents worked on commission and were eager to sell lots. They often unscrupulously harassed Black squatters, especially those who were illiterate and had little business experience.

A major relocation of Black settlers began taking place in the late 1840s, mostly to Owen Sound, but also to towns and cities surrounding the Queen's Bush Settlement and to other Black settlements. In spite of this depopulation of Queen's Bush, Blacks could still claim that, just like Whites, they were able to establish communities in the wilderness, communities that had the same kinds of social, religious and business institutions.

In 1850, the Common Schools Act of the colonial government provided for the creation of separate schools for Blacks. Black schools frequently suffered from a lack of financial support. Black students often found themselves barred from other schools.

The 1850s marked the height of Black settlement in Upper Canada. In the 35 years following the American Civil War, 60-75% of Blacks left Canada. Some left to fight on the Union side during the War. Others were attracted by the benefits of the Reconstruction that followed the War and seemed to promise greater equality. Others sought reunification with families. With the creation of the new Dominion of Canada in 1867, the policy of open immigration for Blacks ended. The new immigration policy promoted White European immigration. By 1901, there were about 18,000 Blacks left. Before the American Civil War, the Black population had stood at approximately 60,000.

"His excellency in Council, in virtue of the provisions of Sub-section (c) of Section 38 of the Immigration Act, is pleased to Order and it is hereby Ordered as follows: For a period of one year from and after the date hereof the landing in Canada shall be and the same is prohibited of any immigrants belonging to the Negro race, which race is deemed unsuitable to the climate and requirements of Canada."

- Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier, 1911

African Methodist Church

A Negro Church was located on E 1/2 Lot 16, Con 4, Peel TP., and was marked on 1906 Atlas Map, as an "African Methodist Church". It was surrounded by a small cemetery.

Rev. Samuel Brown, a black minister, owned the land on which the church was built, and was buried in the cemetery in 1853, at age of 67 years. Last church services were held here about 1918.


1838-1839 William Raymond
1843 Fidelia Coburn
1845 Elias E. Kirkland
1846 John S. Brooks
1847 Melville Denslow
1850 Thomas Vipond
1851 Matthew Swann
1851-1853 Samuel Brown

Early Black Methodists

Surname Given Name Father Mother Birthplace Birth Date Baptism Date Death Date Minister

ARMSTRONG Joseph b 1826 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

BROWN Rev. Samuel b 1786 Black d 1853 settled on Lot 16 Con 4 Peel Tp., Gave land for the African Methodist Church

BROWN Samuel b 1836 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

BROWN Samuel b 1802 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

CARTER John b 1806 Virgina Black 1871 Peel Tp.

DAVIS John b 1797 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

FRANCIS Henry b 1850 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

GAINES John b 1801 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

GREEN Jeremiah b 1811 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

HARRIS Agul b 1841 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

HARRIS John T b 1811 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

HARRIS Eliza b 1848 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

HILL Mary b 1794 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

HISSON Ada Edward Mabel b 1918 Black Glen Allan Peel Tp.

HISSON Annabelle Edward Mabel b 1912 Glen Allan Black Peel Tp.

HISSON Edward John A (Black) was b 1881 in East Gwillimbury, York County, d 1949 the son of Henry and Sarah Jane Hisson.

HISSON Elsie Edward Mabel b 1914 Black Glen Allan Peel Tp.

HISSON Mabel (Lawson) b 1890 William Mary d 1974 born on the 4th line of Peel Tp. m Edward 26 Apr 1911 Glen Allan Methodist Church

HISSON Norman Israel Edward Mabel b 1926 Black Glen Allan Peel Tp., worked in a foundry in Elmira. He was one of the last surviving descendents of the ex-slaves in the area.

JACKSON Dennis b 1796 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

JOHNSTON Thomas b 1821 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

LAWSON Henry b 1841 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

LAWSON William b 1844 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

LOSENT Henry b 1865 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

MILLER Mary b 1796 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

MILLER Frank b 1844 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

MILLER William b 1839 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

MILLER Thomas Henry b 1833 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

MOLLOTT James b 1846 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

MORRIS Robert b 1896 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

MOTIN James b 1806 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

MOTIN William b 1842 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

NESBITT John b 1838 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

OSBOURNE Georgina b 1861 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

PALMER William b 1843 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

PALMER William b 1819 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

PALMER James b 1848 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

POPE George b 1863 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

POPE Mary Ann b 1802 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

QUINN James b 1815 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

SMITH Arthur b 1844 Ontario Black 1871 Peel Tp.

STEWARD Jacob b 1828 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

THOMAS James b 1820 Black 1871 Peel Tp.

WILSON Peter b 1848 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

WHITE Henry b 1834 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

WINN Sarah b 1831 United States Black 1871 Peel Tp.

Visit the Guelph Museums for more Wellington County Black History here

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Last Updated: March 13, 2004