Black History Month

There is a rich vein of Black history running through the history of Ontario, including the Grand River Watershed. The earliest Black people documented in Canada were slaves, trafficked from Africa and brought to New France in the 18th century. After slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834, many American slaves came north along the underground railroad along with free American Black people and settled in Ontario.

One such settlement was Queen’s Bush, a large tract of land between Wellesley Township (in the Grand River Watershed) and Lake Huron. In the early 1800s, as many as 1500 Black settlers cleared the land and established villages with schools and churches. Unfortunately, when the land was surveyed in the 1840s, they could not afford to buy the land and were expelled, despite petitioning the government. There is a historical plaque to the Queens Bush Settlers in Glen Allen Park, on side road 6, beside the Conestogo River.

If you are interested in combining a cycling trip with lessons in Black history, explore the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route. It starts in Alabama and ends at the northerly terminus of the Underground Railroad in Owen Sound, where a thriving Black community settled, descendants of whom remain today. The route crosses into Ontario at Fort Erie and travels up the Niagara River, crossing the Grand River in Dundalk. The Black History Cairn in Harrison Park, in Owen Sound, memorializes these early settlers.

Conestogo River

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