Hunter's Travel travel blog


Church that helped Black Slaves

Various symbols used on quilts

We had a nice relaxing morning we went to our favourite little café in downtown, Amherstburg to start our morning off. We met a couple of young guys there this morning and Brian enjoyed talking hockey with them. From there we went to the North American Black Historical Museum.

The Museum has been established to preserve Black Heritage from African origins. The museums main focus is on the Underground Railroad, Canadian black settlement and the accomplishments of the people of African origin who helped shape this great nation.

The main exhibit begins with African culture before the slave trade and then continues through the rigors of the ocean passage and the horrors of slavery, the escapes via the Underground Railroad to the British haven of Canada West. Most of the artifacts in the museum have been donated by descendants of refugee slaves.

They have onsite the Taylor Log Cabin. This building represents an example of the early log construction prior to 1865. The fact that early Black families inhabited the building makes it a unique representation of the conditions, which affected the lives of the people at that time. Mr. George Taylor Jr. and his wife were the first known Black people to inhabit the house. Mr Taylor was an escaped slave from Kentucky who in 1863 enlisted in the Civil War.

The Nazrey A.M.E. church is architecturally distinctive, a remarkable fieldstone chapel and an example of the many small Underground Railroad refugee churches found throughout Ontario. Built in 1848, Nazrey was a terminus on the famous Underground Railroad. Many refugee slaves and oppressed free Blacks first felt true freedom within the walls of this church. After crossing the Detroit River to Amherstburg one of the narrowest points of entry, these individuals became people in a nation, where they were recognized and respected, some perhaps for the first time, as fellow human beings.

Upon arrival in Amherstburg they found that Nazrrey played a significant role in their new found life, initially by offering itself as an interim-resting place until permanent housing could be found. Later it served as both a school, to educate those who had been denied that privilege, and as a centre of socialization.

They had in the church several quilts that had been made by women in the 1800’s to help direct the slaves escape plans. Each quilt had directions of where to go, how to find food, water it was very interesting. Each patch on the quilt had significance. We were told that during the day these quilts would be hung outside to air them out but in actual fact it was so they could be seen. Some indicated that where the quilts hung were safe houses, others had warnings on them, others had directions. The whole story behind the quilts was fascinating.

The curator of the museum could trace his family heritage back to the Underground Railroad, he was very interesting, we spent quite a bit of time with him just talking about his ancestors. He is at this time doing a full heritage tracing of his families history. While we were there we were struck again how much of Canadian history we forget once we leave school and of the significance it really meant to us as a nation. The fact that there was even an underground railroad, and that Canada at one time did have Black slaves surprised us. We are now searching for a book about the Underground Railroad, we looked today but couldn’t find one yet. Both Brian and I would like to find a book on the history of this.

After we left the museum we drove into Windsor, Ontario we needed to find a Costco so I could replace my clip-on sunglasses which I lost somewhere (this will be my third clip-ons since we left home I sometimes think maybe I should use something else) and Brian needed to replace his clip-on because he sat on his. We didn’t go too far into Windsor because the city workers are on strike and we were told the city isn’t too pretty right now a lot of garbage all over the place.

It was getting later in the day anyway so we took a really nice scenic drive back to Amherstburg. The area around Amherstburg is very pretty you can follow the Detroit River for quite a while and the small neighbourhoods are so well manicured. We have enjoyed Amherstburg very much but we do leave tomorrow for Niagara Falls. We are really sorry that are friends, Wade & Wendy are unable to join us as planned in Niagara Falls but we know they will get down to Florida to visit us there. We have a fairly long drive tomorrow 5 ½ hrs but we then stay at the Falls for 4 days.

Just a note I don’t have a lot of pictures of the museum because they don’t want people taking pictures inside or have pictures taken of the quilts because the flash might do damage. We’ll look forward to hearing from all of you, stay in touch.

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