William King was a born leader. As founder of a Black farming settlement at Buxton, he never hesitated to throw off his coat to work alongside former slaves. “When we grew tired of the cold and hard work,” a settler remembered, “Mr. King would jump upon a stump and swing his axe around, calling out, ‘Hurrah boys’ and set us laughing over some nonsense.”

Born in Ireland, King went as young man to teach school in Louisiana and there married the daughter of a slave-owning family. His wife died young, leaving King the embarrassed owner of 14 slaves. As he departed to study for the ministry in Scotland, he settled the slaves on a farm of their own in the hope they could be self-sufficient. It was a temporary solution. As soon as he graduated, he brought the slaves to Canada and formally freed them.

King was a good manager. He raised funds to buy land in Chatham, north of Lake Erie, and there he shared out lots to refugees. He encouraged them to work together to clear land and build their houses and barns. When white neighbours refused to welcome Black children to the local school, King founded a school of his own. And it was such a good school that before long the white community was begging to send their children there as well. Buxton, almost accidentally, was a pioneer of integration.


THE REVEREND WILLIAM KING. NATIONAL HISTORIC PERSON OF CANADA. DESIGNATED 2005. PLAQUE RECOMMENDED: CHATHAM, ONTARIO

BUXTON SETTLEMENT. NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE OF CANADA. DESIGNATED 1999. PLAQUE: BUXTON, ONTARIO

Janet Uren (WordImage Inc.)
Maggie Fawcett, Claire Brodie, Parks Canada Agency, Multiculturalism Branch / Department of Canadian Heritage

Chatham, Ontario, CANADA
© 2008, Virtual Museum of Canada. All Rights Reserved.

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