During the British control of the Chesapeake Bay region amid the War of 1812, the British forces guaranteed freedom to any enslaved person who escaped their American captor. More than 400 Black refugees, seizing this opportunity, broke free from their bonds of slavery in Virginia and Maryland, and reached the warship HMS Regulus in Saint John Harbour on May 25th, 1815. A total of 371 individuals disembarked from the ship.
In 1813, the British Royal Navy had already pledged liberation to any American slaves who managed to reach their ships or British military forts. The refugees were then provided with the choice to either serve in the Crown’s military or be relocated as free settlers to the West Indies or British North America. Consequently, two thousand former slaves were relocated to Nova Scotia.
By 1816, the refugees who had landed at Saint John began their challenging quest for land in the Loch Lomond area, to the east of Saint John. After facing substantial delays and hardships, they were ultimately awarded a grant of 55 acres of land at Willow Grove.
Established in 1831, the Black Settlement Burial Ground at Willow Grove became the final resting place for approximately 100 of these Black loyalists and refugees.
On September 7, 1836 the grants were finally issued and 74 black refugees received titles to lots in the settlement. This was twenty years after the first proposal had been made to settle the Black refugees in the Loch Lomond area.
Willow Grove also served as the site for the Willow Grove Baptist Church, constructed in 1875 and inaugurated in 1878 by Reverend Edmund H. Duval. Born in Houndsditch, London, England on February 8, 1805, Duval was the son of Peter Duval and Elizabeth Wood Duval. He married Sarah Turner, the daughter of Mary Lamb and John Turner, in Aldgate, London, on September 28, 1828. The couple parented at least seven children. In the 1840s, Edmund Duval and his family migrated to New Brunswick and made their home in Saint John. His brother, George Duval, followed a few years later and also settled near Saint John.
From 1835 to 1845, Edmund H. Duval served as the headmaster of a sizable school in Bristol, England, funded by the British School Society. This society ran several such schools designed to provide basic education for the working class. In 1845, he was invited by a group of Saint John entrepreneurs to establish a British Model school within the Mechanics’ Institute for the purpose of teacher training. Between 1848 and 1859, Duval was the principal of the Normal School in Saint John, which rapidly became the benchmark for teacher training across the province. In 1859, he took on the role of chief inspector of schools for the city and county of Saint John.
As a Deacon of the Germain Street Baptist Church in Saint John, Edmund H. Duval obtained a preaching license from the congregation in 1870. He advocated for the improvement of social conditions for Black individuals and descendants of Black Loyalists, particularly those residing in Willow Grove, also known as Loch Lomond, near Saint John. To better aid the residents of Willow Grove, he purchased a farm there and instructed the inhabitants in farming techniques. He played a key role in the establishment of the Willow Grove Baptist Church in the 1850s, which was seen as an extension of the Germain Street Baptist Church. Edmund Hillyer Duval passed away at Willow Grove, Simonds Parish, on September 17, 1878.
Several of Edmund H. Duval’s offspring continued his legacy. In 1870, Eliza Lury Duval married William Fotherby Burditt, son of Rev. Thomas Burditt, a Baptist preacher from England and Wales. They lived in or near Saint John. Edmund Hillyer Duval, Jr., married Matilda Jane Marshall in 1863, and they settled in the province of Québec. His daughters, Marianne Duval and Amelia Duval, were likely adherents of the Social Gospel movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the early 1860s, Marianne Duval led a Mothers Meeting group at Willow Grove for the underprivileged, regardless of race. She wed twice; first to John George Lewis Wilson of London in July 1866, and second to Charles H. Allan of Saint John in 1877. Amelia Duval was actively involved in social welfare groups in Saint John, operating a Sunday school at the local almshouse and working with the King’s Daughters Society, later known as the International Order of King’s Daughters and Sons. She remained unmarried until her death on September 13, 1906.
Many African Canadian people in New Brunswick have a family connection with the arrival of 1815.
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