April 15, 2021
Black History of New Brunswick

Black History of New Brunswick

February is Black History Month. The members of the Black Community of New Brunswick belong to a race which has a long and varied history. The ancestors of the majority of the Blacks living in New Brunswick came from the United States and the West Indies. These people or their ancestors came from West Africa as slaves brought there by Whites, who were looking for a cheap labour force to work plantations in the New World. However, long before the Whites arrived in West Africa there existed great civilizations which were organized politically with administrative machinery as complex as many similar structures existing in Europe. African Black empires traded in gold and ivory and produced works of art, such as the bronze sculpture of Ghana, which are equal if not superior to similar work produced in Europe. 

Many people, both Black and White, believe that the first Black people came to the Province of New Brunswick as slaves brought here by the loyalists at the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War. This is not correct. Black people had lived in Canada since before the American Revolutionary War. They lived in New Brunswick before this Province was established in 1784. Many Black people did come to this Province with the loyalists as slaves or “servants” but at the same time many came as free Blacks.

The first record of a Black man in New Brunswick dates from the last decade of the seventeenth century. This man was brought to New Brunswick much against his will. W. O. Raymond says that he “was probably the first of his race to set foot within the borders of New Brunswick”. This man, a native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, was carried to the St. John River by the French, who captured him during a raid down into New England. He was freed in 1696 by Major Benjamin Church, who led an attacking force from Massachusetts which raided the French settlements on the St. John River. When Church returned to Boston he took this man with him. Raymond may be right about this man being the first of his race to come to New Brunswick. There is no recorded evidence that Black people lived in any of the French settlements in New Brunswick before the last decade of the seventeenth century. Nevertheless, since there were Black people in New France and in what is now Nova Scotia in the early part of the seventeenth century, it is very probable that Black slaves were brought to what is now New Brunswick.

In the various records discussed above there is ample evidence to show that Black people lived in Canada and New Brunswick long before the arrival of the loyalists. There is also sufficient evidence to show that slavery was an accepted fact in Canada during the French Regime. However, after the arrival of the loyalists, slavery became much more widespread in New Brunswick. Also with the arrival of the loyalists came the first free Blacks to settle in New Brunswick.

LoyalistsThe largest number of Black people ever to come to New Brunswick arrived in the years 1783-84 with the United Empire Loyalists. As a result of the loss of the American colonies 30,000 to 35,000 people, who remained loyal to Britain, carne to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Shortly after the arrival of the loyalists, in 1784, the Province of New Brunswick was created to satisfy those loyalists who had moved to the St. John and who did not wish to be governed from Halifax. With the loyalists were several thousand Black people. Some came as slaves or indentured servants, others as free Blacks or mack loyalists. In documents, the loyalists always preferred to refer to their slaves as “servants”. However, the status of the majority of Blacks who were listed as “servants” was certainly no different than that of those listed as slaves. It is impossible to determine the exact number of Black people who came to New Brunswick with the Loyalists as slaves. In a report of 1784 the number of servants listed as having come with the loyalists is 1,232.6 A second list states that 1,578 servants came to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with the loyalists.

Many loyalist officers had one or two slaves, some had 4 or 5 and a few as many as 9 or 10. Many other loyalists who were not connected with the various regiments disbanded in New Brunswick also brought slaves with them. Gabriel G. Ludlow, the first mayor of Saint John; Col. Isaac Allen, a judge of the Supreme Court; Col. Edward Winslow, a member of the Executive Council of NB and later a judge of the Supreme Court; and a number of ministers of the Anglican Church such as the Rev. James Scovil, who brought two slaves with him to Kingston.

St. Peter’s Anglican ChurchSt. Peter's Anglican Church, Fredericton in Fredericton was constructed in 1837 by the local black community, former slaves and their descendants. From its inception, the degree of integration of black and white at St. Peter’s was unique. Not only did white and black worship together, blacks also served as sextons, vestry members and constituted a significant portion of the choir. Black and white are buried together, without distinction, in St. Peter’s cemetery. This was in stark contrast to other nearby churches and community cemeteries where segregation and separation were the norm. St. Peter’s cemetery is the only known instance of integrated burial dating from the nineteenth century in the greater Fredericton area, and perhaps all of New Brunswick.  See also Black Settlement Burial Grounds. 

The Wheary graveyard is on private property in Keswick. Most of the gravestones are more than 100 years old and have begun to crumble. The cemetery is overgrown and difficult to see. The gate has fallen from its post.  and hardly visible through the brush and some have started to decay.

Wheary Graveyard Fredericton

Wheary Graveyard Fredericton

Wheary Graveyard Fredericton

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The Mactacquac Heights cemetery was only discovered when the land around it was developed in the 1990s. Now cared for by neighbours, the tombstones of some of the first African Canadians in the area such as Wheary, O’Ree and Dymond can be found there.

Mactacquac Heights Black Cemetery

Mactacquac Heights Black Cemetery

Mactacquac Heights Black Cemetery

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We also discovered the Black Settlement Burial Ground in Willow Grove located on highway 111. It was founded in 1831, and is the resting place of some 100 of those Black loyalists and Black refugees.  

Elm Hill was established by black Loyalists from Virginia in 1806, as one of Canada’s earliest black communities. It is located on the St. John River between Saint John and Fredericton. The Elm Hill Cemetery is located 6 miles east of Highway 102, on the south side of Elm Hill Road. Over a hundred people were buried there over the years, many field stones – too worn to read. 

Elm hill Cemetery Sign

Click on a thumbnail to see more photos. 

Here is a list of those buried in the Elm Hill Cemetery. It may be incomplete. 

Name                                                  Age                                    Date of Death 

 Boyd, Frederick                                  3 months                               October 15, 1910

 Boyd,  Prince Arthur                          11 months                             June 19, 1912               

 Bree, Douglas                                       6 years                                  June 29, 1935

 Bree, Marsha Elizabeth                      76 years                               July 30, 1940

 Cole, Donald H.                                    8 months                             August 29, 1931

 Cooper, Benjamin                               48 years                                November 30, 1927

 Cooper, Francis                                   30 years                                October 22, 1903

 Diggs, Alexander                                52 years                                 April 23, 1917

 Charles Hall, Child of                         2 days                                   January 28, 1910

 Charles Hall, Child of                         stillborn                               March 13, 1911

 Charles Hall, Child of                         1 day                                     May 20, 1917

 Hall, Charles T.                                   4 days                                   June 07, 1921

 Hall, Emily                                           44 years                               January 28, 1922

 Hall, Emily                                           23 years                               May 31, 1934

 Hall, Irene                                            17 years                                June 28, 1916

 Harrison, Almon                                48 years                               December 31, 1913

 Harrison, Blanch                                10 months                           May 27, 1903

 Harrison, William                               1 year                                   February 09, 1910

 Harrison, Willis                                   2 years                                 June 04, 1903

 Hector, Joseph                                     55 years                              May 09, 1912

 Hill, Rachael J.                                    39 years                               March 03, 1920

 Jackson, George                                  59 years                               December 12, 1892

 Jackson, Mary                                      92 years                              September 07, 1926

 Kennedy, George                                 70 years                              April 28, 1900

 Kennedy, Georges                               52 years                              March 17, 1935

 Kennedy, William                               26 years                              August 24, 1904

 Parrot, Julia                                         75 years                               August 12, 1913

 Roach, Ronald                                     1 month                              June 17, 1943

 Roche, Edward                                    50 years                              June 05, 1939

 Roche, William Percy                         4 months                           November 10, 1921

 Sasso, Anne                                          39 years                              July 22, 1935

 Shears, Joseph W.                              66 years                              February 23, 1941

 Shears, Walter                                     1 year                                   January 05, 1906

 Snead, Bertha                                      89 years                              June 22, 1935

 Snead, John                                         65 years                              November 18, 1922

 Taylor, Daniel                                      50 years                              December 20, 1910

 Thompson, James                              72 years                               December 02, 1935

 Thompson, Hannah                           78 years                              December 21, 1940

 Williams, Freda St. Clair                   20 years                             December 18, 1919

 Williams, Henry John                        Very Old                            December 31, 1925

Resource: Information for this post came from “The Blacks In New Brunswick” by W.A. Spray. Click here to view the entire article. Please note: this link takes you to a PDF. 

Visit the New Brunswick Black History Society or the  Heritage Branch, Province of New Brunswick site to read more about NB Black History. 

 

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7 thoughts on “Black History of New Brunswick

  1. Richard Thomas was the business agent for local 131 international insulators union in the 1970`s. He may have been the only black man in our union. I do not think there have been many black business agents in north America for unions. he was probably the first if not the only ever here in canada. I’m surprised I’ve never heard it mentioned anywhere . I only know because my family are all 131 members.

  2. In doing my niece’s family history, I traced her black ancestry back to Botsford, Westmorland. Her ancestor, James Chapman Jr., his daughter, Clara, his wife Elizabethe (Arthur) were buried in Trenholm Cemetery, Bayfield, Botsford Parish, Westmorland, New Brunswick. His father is buried there also. James’ mother, Jane Chapman, was listed as Mulatto in the 1861 census for Botsford and then listed as African in the 1901 census. I do not see that cemetery listed as having blacks buried there.

  3. WOW… is this my lucky day. The New Brunswick Black History Society has been looking for some information on Elm Hill for the last five years about, who was buried in the Elm Hill Burial Grounds. My two sons and I have made two trips to Elm Hill to help clean up the over growth. The Folks from that community keeps those burial grounds in Great shape!
    HI…I am Ralph Thomas …. Brother to the late Richard Thomas. I would like to talk to person that knew him. My email is: ralphthomas09@gmail.com.

    To: MyNewBrunswick.ca…. You are doing WONDERFUL WORK and thanks for including us in shearing the word on Our History to New Brunswickers as well!

  4. Hello,
    My mother’s family was from Woodstock. Her name was Alice Mabel Winslow, born in 1895 and the youngest of 7 children. One of my mother’s sisters, Mary Mathilda Winslow’s likeness is currently featured on a flag in New Brunswick for black history month because Mary Mathilda was the first black and the first woman to graduate from UNB in 1905. I am very interested in talking with anyone who may have information about the Winslows’. My grandparents were Fairfax and Sarah Ann (DuBois) Winslow. I have photos.
    My name is Helene Ertha Vann and my email address is: helenevann@comcast.net. Thank you.

  5. February is Black History Month. It is a time to reflect, honour and celebrate the many contributions made by Black people and all people of Caribbean and African heritage. It is a time to recognize the important role Black heritage have played in the progress and development of Canada, as well as their impact on its history. Blacks have a unique history and experience in Canada that is often ignored or seen through a colonizer’s lens. Black contributions must be recognized, and Black lives must be valued.

    (Edited for copyright material)

  6. Hi. My Great grandmother Rosella blanch McIntyre was born here. She married an Eatmon than my grandfathers dad Johnson. I’d love to know who her parents were and sisters and brothers. Any information would be appreciated. Thank you. Otnabog, Queens County in 1880 is when Rosella was born.
    Justina

  7. Rosella Blanch McIntyre is also my great grandmother. Any information I have, I will gladly share with you
    I sent you a fried request on Facebook.

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