St. Andrews had a black population from its founding in 1783, but very little is known about these people. There was no local newspaper until 1818, and no local news in these papers, hardly, until 1840. Even then, there would have been little reportage.
The blacks of St. Andrews were, as might be expected, landless, illiterate and poor. They worked mainly as servants and labourers, almost none owned land, and as such did not figure much in public records. Also, church records of marriages, births and deaths do not predate 1818, so the very early history of these people is almost non-existent.
We have it on the authority of William Spray, New Brunswick historian and the author of an excellent small book titled Blacks of New Brunswick that St. Andrews had slaves, right along with the larger cities such as Saint John and Fredericton, adding that there was probably no slavery left in New Brunswick by 1810 or so. Interestingly, St. Andrews had the only black population in Charlotte County; it numbered about 60 in the first census of 1851. Who these blacks were, what percentage were slaves and what percentage servant, can only be speculated from church accounts of deaths, but it seems fairly certain that the Stewarts were an early black family in St. Andrews, as the Anglican Church burial notices give several black persons by this name as having died in the first decades of the nineteenth century at an advanced age. Also, the census of 1851 notes at least three sizable black families by this name living in the Town, and the Town’s first execution was of a black brother and sister by the name of Richard and Maria Stewart in 1826.
Briefly, the main black families of St. Andrews were the Stewarts, Alexanders, Bannisters and Norris’s. In my researches I was pleased to discover that a legendary black woman of the town named “Black Violet,” who was said to have been able to remember being taken away from her African village, was actually Violet Tucker. She probably came to St. Andrews in 1798 or so with Colonel Christopher Hatch, who had been stationed in Saint John until that date. She married Rueben Alexander, had many children, and was unusual in that she and her husband owned land for a time. The Bannister family is notable for having produced a distinguished painter, Edward Bannister, who shipped out of St. Andrews as a boy and made a name for himself in Rhode Island, winning a prestigious prize at the first annual Philadelphia Exhibition for his painting “Under the Oaks.”
The Norris family was actually related to the Stewarts through a patriarch named Moses Stewart, a poor farmer along Cedar Lane, then called Slabtown. His grand-daughter Maria married a freed Maryland slave by the name of Charles Norris and raised a family here.
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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