Through the kindness of Mr. Stephen Gibson, County Registrar for Lennox and Addington, we have seen a rare old document, in regard to the existence of Negro slavery in this county, among the first of the U. E. Loyalist pioneers. It is the will of Casper Bower, of the Township of Camden, and bearing date of June, 1804, and which was probated before Judge Alexander Fisher, at Adolphustown, October 28th, 1804. Mr. Fisher was the first Judge of the Surrogate court of the Midland District and a man of much prominence among the early U. E. Loyalists. He lived, and died in Adolphustown, and his remains lie buried in a field on the farm he owned in the third concession, on the south shores of Hay Bay, now well known as “the Platt farm.”: Among the provisions of the will are the following;
“I give to my dear wife, Miriam bower that part or parcel of land situate lying and being in the Township of Camden - lot 5 in the 1st concession, 200 acres, dwelling house, barn, outhouses, household stuff, kitchen furniture, 4 milch cows, yoke of oxen, one horse. I also give and bequeath to my wife, Miriam Bower, to hold during her natural life a Negro wench named Charlotte, and from and after the decease of my said wife, Miriam Bower, I give and bequeath the above named Negro wench, Charlotte, to my grand-daughter, Elizabeth Bower, daughter of Adam Bower.
Then the will goes on to provide for the disposal of other property - lands, cattle and chattels. Evidently that time a Negro wench, held as a slave, was as much a piece of deedable property as a farm, a cow, or a horse.
was of Dutch origin and one of the U.E. Loyalist pioneers of this county. According to the early Crown Lands record he was a Corporal of the Kings Royal Regiment of New York during the war of the American Revolution. His name appears with the other early Loyalist settlers on the Government provision list in 1786. He owned the farm on which the village of Strathcona now stands, and built the first grist mill there at a very early date. It was probably the first mill of that kind on the Napanee river farther up stream than where the first mills at “Appanee Falls” were first built by Robert Clark, for the Government in 1786. His name appears on Robert Clark’s old account book in connection with the building of the first mills at Napanee, as having furnished a team of horsed for work at that time. It is quite probable, therefore, that he was among the first owner of horses in this section of the country. He was a Presbyterian and on his farm was built a substantial stone Presbyterian church at a very early time in the last century. It was probably the first stone church of any kind built in this county Later on the early Lutherans also used the church as a place of worship, and so did the Methodists. It was torn away, years ago, to make room for the present substantial brick Methodist church at Strathcona. Mr. Bowers died and was buried about 1806, on his farm, at what was long known as “Bower’s Mills,” where his sons and other descendants lived for years. None of the name now reside in the county, we believe, but a number of the descendants are well known citizens elsewhere.
There was also a school there at an early time - one of the few early schools in the county. Our venerable citizen, John Gibbard, J. P., now nearly ninety years of age, well remembers, with his older brother William, going to that school in his early years. They then lived beyond where Newburgh now stands and had, therefore, some miles to trudge through the woods every night and morning to reach that school. The late William Gibbard once told the writer he well remembered, over eighty years ago, playing in an old frame building, then abandoned, which was the first Bower grist mill at that place.
MORE EARLY SLAVES
Gasper Bower was not alone among the early settlers as a slave holder, nor was much thought of it at that time. His neighbor, John Carscallen, living then east of Newburgh, was also a slave owner, and it is probable that several others of the pioneers of Camden, as well as of the other adjoining townships, were his associated in this respect. And there was nothing thought of it to be. Inconsistent with their positions as good church members. The executors of Mr. Bower’s will whose duty it was to see that the negro wench Charlotte, was duly handed over with the land, cows and horse, as provided for in the will were Rufus Shorey, Elisha Shorey and James McKim, all quite nearby neighbors and friends, and all quite prominent Methodists we believe.
What may have eventually become of Charlotte we have no record, or what may have become of the many other early slaves, and their descendants, of the Midland District, of a hundred years ago, seems now a real mystery. The writer has been trying for years just to obtain more information about these things, but it seems very difficult to obtain. One thing is now pretty evident, none of the descendants, so far as he can learn , are now living in these counties.
SLAVE CHILDREN BORN
There is considerable evidence that numbers of slave children were born in this district at one time. It is said that the large Negro family of the Minks, that at one time lived a couple of miles up the river from here, at what is yet well known as “Mink’s Bridge” were descendants of slaves, owned by Capt. Herkimer, one of the first settlers in “First town”, at what is yet well known as Herchimer’s Point, a few miles west of Kingston. Some of the Minks became well known and prominent me. George was for a time a prominent livery man in Toronto and then became the proprietor of the stage line and mail contractor between Toronto and Kingston, and was reputed then to be a man of considerable wealth. James had a livery and tavern at Kingston for years, where he was well known. Poor Tobias, who was drowned in the river here, while intoxicated was a well known character about Napanee for years. So far as we know, there is not one of the name now living.
In the Rev. John Langhorn’s early church baptism register, at Bath, there is the record of the baptism of a number of negro slave children, belonging to some of the well known and prominent of the early families. It is not probably, however, that one family in ten, even about that locality, took the pains to have the negro children born in their households given a Christian baptism. Here is a record of some that occur in Langhorn’s register of the first baptisms in this county. They are recorded among the other regular baptisms.
1. “November 13, 1791. Richard, son of Pomp and Nelly, a Negro living with Timothy Thompson.” Mr. Thompson, it may be remembered, was a retired U.E.L. officer, residing in Fredericksburgh, near where Sandhurst now is. He was for many years a member of the Upper Canada Legislature for Addington. He died at his farm and was buried in the Sandhurst churchyard. He left no children.
2. October 6, 1793. Richard, surnamed Pruyn, a negro living with Harmen Pruyn, Fredericksburgh.” It is said that the Pruyn family who resided on the bay shore, front, of Fredericksburgh, owned a larger number of slaves than almost any other family then resident in the county. There seems now, no record of any of their descendants, if they left any.
3. March 2, 1976. “Belly, surnamed Levi, a negro girl living with Johannes Walden Meyers, Thurlow.” Meyers were one of the old and wealthy families residing at what is now the city of Belleville. The place was first known as “Meyers’ Creek.” in honor of that family, who were among its principal founders.
4. March 3, 1796. “Ashur, surnamed Hampton, a negro boy living with Samuel Sherwood, Thurlow.” It is quite probable that Mr. Sherwood was a near neighbor of the Meyers, as the baptism is recorded the next day after the foregoing and its record occurs among quite a number of other baptisms just then in that locality.
5. April 22, 1805. “Francis, son of Violet, a negro woman living with Hazelton Spencer, Esq., by Francis Green.” Mr. Spencer was a resident of the front of Fredericksburgh, near Conway, where he died and was buried on his own farm. He was a member of the first Upper Canada Legislature, representing Addington and Hastings. He was also, for years, a church warden of St. Paul’s church, at Sandhurst, which according to Langhorn’s record, was first used for divine service on Christmas day, 1791, and was, he records, “the first church that ever was built, new from the ground, in the Province of Quebec (before Upper Canada was set apart) solely for a Church of England church; excepting one of the Mohawk churches on Grand River lays claim to a seniority.” There is a record in the same church register, of the burial of Francis on 17th January, 1806.
The anti-Slavery Act was passed by the Upper Canada Legislature previous to the time of the record of these baptisms, and , after that time the word “slave” seldom or never appears. That Act did not actually abolish slavery at that time, and free all the Negroes from bondage, as many now suppose. It merely prohibited the importation of any more, with certain other provisions as to the termination of the bondage of those born later on. Of this The Beaver will make further reference, probably next week.
SOME OTHER SLAVE OWNERS
Some facts about early slavery throughout Upper Canada, Lower Canada and Nova Scotia will be given later on, probably next week. In all, the early U.E. Loyalists appear to have brought in several hundreds, if not thousands, from the States, into what is now the Dominion of Canada. They, or their fathers, had been slave owners in New York, New Jersey, the New England states and elsewhere, and slaves were among the few articles of property they brought with them.
Rev. John Stuart, of Kingston, the first Church of England minister in Upper Canada, makes record in his written memoirs, that he brought his slaves with him from the Mohawk Valley, where he had resided previous to the revolution. He then wrote; “My negroes, being personal property, I take with me, one of which being a young man, and capable of bearing arms I have to give £100 security to send back a white prisoner in his stead.”
Robert Perry, the head of a yet large and well-known family in this county, had also one or more slaves who came and remained with him here. In these columns it has been mentioned before that among the well-known early slave owners in this county were Maj. VanAlstine, Capt. Joseph Allen, Capt. Thos. Dorland, Capt. J. Huyck, Capt. Trumpour, the Bogarts, Persons, Capt. Peter Ruttan, and others, all of Adolphustown; the Fairfields of Ernesttown; Col. Clark, of Fredericksburgh after which the once thriving village of Clarkville was named. Others residing elsewhere and other facts will be given in the near future.
Dr. W. Canniff, in his excellent history, gives many interesting facts on these matters. Rev. T. W. Smith, D.D., of Halifax, N.S., has prepared a very elaborate volume of about 160 pages, in which more information is given in regard to early Canadian slavery than we have met with anywhere else. We purpose to quote pretty freely from It in the next reference to this interesting subject.
The Beaver has already given some facts about the possession of negro slaves by a number of the first U. E. Loyalist pioneers of the Midland District. It was also intimated that the possession of slaves amongst the Loyalist pioneers was by no means peculiar to the residents of the Bay of Quinte district; they were held, so far as we can learn, all over this Province where settlements were made at that time. In the other provinces -- Lower Canada and Nova Scotia, -- they appear to have been quite as numerous as about here.
ABOLITION IN UPPER CANADA
It has been a frequent boast that in Upper Canada a slavery abolition law was enacted before any where else in the British Empire. Some facts in regard to the enacting of that law may be of information to many readers. At the second session of the First Upper Canada Legislature, held at Newark - now Niagara - in 1798. That act did not set free the slaves that were then in bondage here. It provided as follows:
“From and after the passing of this act, it shall not be lawful for the Governor to grant a license for the importation of any negro or other person to be subjected to the condition of a slave . . . nor shall any negro or other person who shall come or be brought into the Province after the passing of this Act be subject to the condition of a slave.” etc.
Thus, in the second clause of the Act it was provided that the owners of slaves at the time in the Province should be secured in their property and contracts already made should not be affected. It will thus be seen that while the slave traffic was abolished, slavery itself, as it then existed in the Province, continued until the death of those then in bondage here.
It was also provided that children of slave mothers were virtually the property of their masters until they reached the age of 25 years. The masters were held legally responsible for the proper care, nourishment and clothing of these children during their infancy, and were entitled to their service until the age of 25, when they were entitled to their liberty.
Credit for the passing of this Act was given to Lieut. Governor Simcoe, the first Governor of Upper Canada; to Judge Osgoode, the first Chief Justice - after whom Osgoode Hall, in Toronto, gets its name - and Robert Fray, the first Solicitor-General of the Province. They were all Englishmen by birth, and it is said, were all bitterly opposed in principle to slavery. It is said that the Act did not pass without considerable opposition,. That is not to be wondered at, for it is known that a number of members of that first Parliament were themselves owners of slaves. Among them may be named Hazelton Spencer, for Lennox and Hastings; Joshua Booth, for Addington and Ontario; Thomas Dorland, for Adolphustown and Prince Edward; and quite probably others. Hon. Richard Cartwright, of the Legislative Council was also a slave owner, and it is quite probable that other members of that body were also.
UPPER CANADA’S LEAD
Dr. William Canniff, in his admirable U.E.L. history, remarks: “When Upper Canada, in 1793, took the lead in the whole of Britain’s vast domain in legislating against slavery, Lower Canada continued to regard it without disfavor; and, even in Montreal, endeavoured to fix the chains of bondage more firmly upon the negro. But what the Provincial Legislature did not, although presented with the example set by Upper Canada, was done in a different way by Chief Justice Osgoode, who in 1803, at Montreal, declared slavery inconsistent with the laws of the country, and gave freedom to persons in that condition. And when the British Act of Emancipation was passed, in 1833, setting free the slaves in all parts of the empire, there were no slaves in Canada, Upper or Lower. Thirty years previous had the evil been crushed in Lower Canada, and forty years before Upper Canada had declared it was highly expedient to abolish slavery, and had enacted laws to secure its abolition.
It may be now, too, that Canada will lead the other parts of the British empire in the matter of the abolition of the drink traffic.
SLAVERY IN LOWER CANADA
We have before referred to the excellent little volume entitled, “The Slave in Canada,” by Rev. T. Watson Smith, D.D., of Halifax, N.S., a well known historian of that Province. For much of the facts that here follow the writer is indebted to that work. Writing of slavery, in the Province of Quebec, he gives numerous instances of its establishment and existence there before the arrival of the U. E. Loyalists at all He writes:
“Slavery in Canada, as that extensive province was formally defined, was of French Institution. The first slave sale recorded in the colony was that at Quebec of a negro boy from Madagascar, by David Kerik, in 1628, for fifty half crowns. Kerik, the son of a Scotch father and French mother was born at Dieppe, had gone to England; and with several ships fitted out with the assistance of two brothers and other relatives, under commission of the English king, had done serious damage to French interests at Port Royal, Quebec, and other points at the Atlantic seaboard. In the system of bandage instituted in Canada under French rule, no change took place through the transfer of the colony to the English crown. It had been provided by the 47th article of the capitulation of Canada in 1760 that all negroes and Parris (Indian slaves) should remain in their condition as slaves; and no hesitation on the part of the English authorities could have been feared, since, by an Act of the British Parliament in 1732, houses, lands, negroes and real estate had been made liable for sale as assets to satisfy the claims of their owner’ creditors.”
In 1784, about the time of the arrival of the U. E. Loyalists, there were known to be 304 slaves in the hands of various owners in Quebec.
General Haldimand was the Governor of the Colony of Quebec, which then included Upper Canada also, before and at the time of the arrival of the U. E. Loyalists. In his early diary of these times are several references to slaves which indicates of their official recognition then. In 1778, a business man at Montreal asked permission from the Governor to sell a negro for a debt due him by the slave’s master. At Quebec, in the same year, a Negro petitioned for his liberty in view of patriotic services rendered to the government.
Among the early Canadian archives there is a “Return of Negroes brought in by Scouts and sold at Montreal. It signed by Sir John Johnson, whose name is so prominent among the early Loyalists and of many of the pioneers along the Bay of Quinte, and who also brought in himself a number of slaves in his flight from Albany to Montreal.” Of the fifty or more slaves named in this list, nearly half were sold in Montreal, a few being carried by Indians and whites to Niagara; the others were handed over to their former owners One, named Charles, was sold to Rev. David C. DeLisle, the Episcopal rector at Montreal, for twenty pounds. Tom, another negro, was sold by Captain Thompson, of Butler’s Rangers (no doubt he who afterwards settled in Fredericksburgh) to Sir John Johnson, who gave him to Mr. Langan, and so there is a list of many others. Sir John Johnson is said to have had fourteen slaves at the time of his flight to Canada.
In the Montreal Gazette in March 1784, Madame Perrault offered a negress for sale; and the early papers of Montreal, of Quebec, and of Niagara contained a number of advertisements of slaves for sale or of runaway slaves for whose return rewards were offered.
SLAVES IN NOVA SCOTIA
Mr. Smith writes: “Slaves were brought into Nova Scotia at an early period. The prevalent impression that they were first introduced into the province by the Loyalists has no foundation in fact. As to the prevalence of slaves at Halifax a year or two after its settlement there can be no question. A letter written at Halifax in September, 1759, written at Halifax in September, 1759, contains an interesting reference to their employment.”
One instance, is given where a piously inclined slave holder at Halifax willed a slave, at his death, “for the use and benefit of the Wardens and Vestry of St. Paul’s”, one of the oldest churches in the city. A very large number of the first U.E. Loyalists, especially from the new England States, first found refuge in Nova Scotia, about Shelbourne and that portion of the province, and they are said to have taken with them a large number of slaves. We believe that more of the descendants of these Negroes are to be found in that vicinity now than in almost any other one part of the Dominion.
MORE OF UPPER CANADA
Mr. Smith writes; “At the close of the Revolutionary war the western part of Canada - now the Province of Ontario - then almost a wilderness, became the home of some thousands of Loyalists, not a few of whom were descendants of the old Dutch and Walloon settlers of the province of New York. They entered Canada at different points, some by crossing the St. Lawrence in the vicinity of Cornwall, and at Montreal; while others landed at Cataraqui - Kingston of to-day, and perhaps the largest number at points along the Niagara frontier. Many of them settled along the Upper St. Lawrence, around the beautiful Bay of Quinte, and on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. During the depressing journey from the old home to the new, in some cases occupying weeks spent in open boat or wagon, some of the Loyalists and their families were accompanied by slaves, not a few of whom had come of their own accord. Slave property had in many cases been confiscated with the owner’s estates; in some instances a part of it remained, in others, slaves had been purchased. On the faithfulness of these attendant negroes, the voyagers were in a great measure dependent for their progress and their comfort. The oar, plied by their strong arm, sometimes aided the sail of their rude bateaux at other times replaced it; the camp, where nightly rested the women and children too weary to think of it as on the site of some former deadly conflict, or in the neighborhood of the lynx, or bear, or wolf, often owed both safety and comfort to the skill and deftness of their not unwilling hands.”
The writer also gives some interesting facts of the slaves held by a number of the prominent Upper Canadian Loyalist families, which we have not now the space to make mention of. The records in regard to early slavery in this and the other provinces form a very interesting part of our Canadian history.