Elm Hill

Elm Hill Sign

Elm Hill

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

As part of the British Empire, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia had legalized slavery from as early as 1767. However, the first sizable group of Blacks to the Maritimes occurred as a result of the Loyalist immigration following the defeat of the British by the Americans in 1781. 

All Loyalists, whether white or black were promised free grants of land. Unfortunately, many Blacks did not receive the same assistance and rights as their white counterparts. When they arrived in Saint John, 433 free Blacks were given small town lots that were too small to farm on. By 1785 blocks of 50 acres each were surveyed and given to approximately 100 Black families in areas now known as Loch Lomond, Kingston Peninsula and the Westfield area. Many Blacks were not adequately prepared for clearing and farming the land, having nothing in the way of money or provisions beyond what the government provided. 

Throughout the 1800s, the community enjoyed a period of relative prosperity, as its remoteness allowed the residents to develop their economy free from outside interference. Elm Hill functioned well while the steamers plied the river, stopping there to transport people and products. Once the railroad replaced the river as the highway, however, the community’s isolation worked against it. 

Hay cutteer in Elm Hill

Elm Hill had been a self-sufficient farming community until the 1960s, when many area residents moved to urban areas for better opportunities. Those remaining were not able to keep up the farms, and decline set in. 

Elm Hill once supported a post office, a store, two churches (Pentecostal and Baptist), and a school although those are all now closed.

The community was previously known as Otnabog (1854–1893), Upper Otnabog (1876–1911), and Pleasant Villa (1911–1933), before the name was changed back to Elm Hill. 

Elm hill Cemetery Sign

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. See a list of names of those who were buried in the cemetery here

Click on a thumbnail to see more photos. 


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