St. Andrews, founded in 1783, had a black population from its inception. However, limited information is available about these individuals due to the absence of a local newspaper until 1818 and minimal local news coverage until around 1840. The black community in St. Andrews primarily consisted of landless, poor, and illiterate individuals who worked as laborers and servants. Consequently, they rarely appeared in public records. Additionally, church records of marriages, births, and deaths before 1818 are scarce, leaving much of their early history undocumented.
According to William Spray, a New Brunswick historian and author of the book Blacks of New Brunswick, St. Andrews, like other larger cities such as Saint John and Fredericton, had slaves. By 1810, it is believed that slavery had mostly disappeared from New Brunswick. Interestingly, St. Andrews was the only location in Charlotte County with a black population, accounting for approximately 60 individuals in the 1851 census. While the exact composition of slaves and servants remains uncertain, the Stewart family is recognized as one of the early black families in the area, with several members listed in Anglican Church burial notices from the early 19th century.
By the 1851 census, at least three sizable black families lived in St. Andrews, including the Stewarts, Alexanders, Bannisters, and Norris’s. One legendary figure, known as “Black Violet,” was discovered to be Violet Tucker, who reportedly could recall being taken from her African village. She likely arrived in St. Andrews around 1798 with Colonel Christopher Hatch and married Rueben Alexander. Unusually, they owned land for some time. The Bannister family is particularly notable for producing a distinguished painter, Edward Bannister, who left St. Andrews as a young man, ultimately achieving success in Rhode Island and winning a prestigious award at the first annual Philadelphia Exhibition for his painting “Under the Oaks.”
The Norris family was connected to the Stewarts through a patriarch named Moses Stewart, a poor farmer living on Cedar Lane, formerly known as Slabtown. His granddaughter Maria married Charles Norris, a freed Maryland slave, and they raised a family in the area.
The family is most remembered for a son, John Cadman Norris (Caddy Norris), the last visibly black citizen of the Town and a local favourite, as one who was greatly beloved of the children of the Town, but who for reasons perhaps too obvious to mention, never married. At the time of his death, he was the last black member of the St Andrews community. The funeral was the largest that the town had hosted with attendees standing outside the church in crowds. He was beloved by all the local children and adults alike because of his kindness and warmth. He was known throughout his life to give rides to children around town on his team of horses. The community cherished him so much that they had gifted him a house. Flowers were sent from Toronto, Boston, New York, Montreal and from the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick.
A plaque in his honour is proudly displayed at the All Saints Anglican Church in St. Andrews. The history of Black Canadians in St. Andrews dates back to the formation of the town in 1783, but little documentation exists on their residency, making the grand social impact of the passing of Mr. Norris that much more significant.
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