Willow Grove

Willow Grove

Willow Grove

During the War of 1812, while the British controlled the Chesapeake Bay region, they promised freedom to any enslaved individual who fled from their American masters. Capitalizing on this, over 400 Black escapees from Virginia and Maryland reached the HMS Regulus at Saint John Harbour on May 25th, 1815. Of these, 371 set foot onshore.

Previously in 1813, the British Royal Navy had committed to freeing any American slaves who made it to their ships or forts. These refugees were then given an option: serve in the British military or relocate as free settlers to the West Indies or British North America. As a result, 2,000 former slaves made Nova Scotia their home.

By 1816, those refugees who arrived at Saint John began their arduous journey for land in the Loch Lomond area, east of Saint John. Overcoming significant challenges, they were finally granted 55 acres at Willow Grove.

In 1831, the Black Settlement Burial Ground at Willow Grove was founded, becoming the final resting place for about 100 Black loyalists and refugees.

Black Settlement Burial Ground

Grants were officially issued on September 7, 1836, with 74 black refugees securing titles in the Willow Grove settlement. This took place two decades after initial plans to resettle them in the Loch Lomond area.

Willow Grove Baptist Church

Willow Grove was also home to the Willow Grove Baptist Church, erected in 1875 and inaugurated in 1878 by Reverend Edmund H. Duval. Born in London in 1805, Duval migrated to New Brunswick in the 1840s. He had a notable career in education and was a staunch advocate for the Black community, especially in Willow Grove. He notably established the Willow Grove Baptist Church in the 1850s and passed away there in 1878.

Willow Grove Baptist Church

Between 1835 and 1845, Edmund H. Duval headed a significant school in Bristol, England, supported by the British School Society. This organization operated multiple schools focused on basic education for the working class. In 1845, Saint John entrepreneurs beckoned him to set up a British Model school at the Mechanics’ Institute, aiming to train teachers. From 1848 to 1859, Duval led the Normal School in Saint John, setting the standard for teacher training in the province. By 1859, he became the chief school inspector for both the city and county of Saint John.

Serving as a Deacon for the Germain Street Baptist Church in Saint John, Duval earned a preaching license in 1870. He championed the enhancement of living standards for Black residents, especially those in Willow Grove or Loch Lomond. To support Willow Grove’s community, he bought farmland, teaching locals farming practices. In the 1850s, his efforts culminated in the founding of the Willow Grove Baptist Church, seen as an extension of the Germain Street Baptist Church. Duval’s life came to an end in Willow Grove on September 17, 1878.

Edward H. Duval Memorial

Duval’s children upheld his values and efforts. In 1870, his daughter Eliza wed William F. Burditt, a Baptist preacher’s son from the UK. They resided close to Saint John. Edmund Jr. married Matilda J. Marshall in 1863 and moved to Québec. Duval’s daughters, Marianne and Amelia, were likely associated with the Social Gospel movement. In the 1860s, Marianne led a community group in Willow Grove, aiding the disadvantaged irrespective of their race. She married twice, first in London in 1866 and later in Saint John in 1877. Amelia dedicated her life to social causes in Saint John, including teaching Sunday school and affiliating with the King’s Daughters Society. Amelia never married and passed away on September 13, 1906.

Willow Grove Baptist Church

Many African Canadian people in New Brunswick have a family connection with the arrival of 1815. 

To learn more Black History of New Brunswick, click here


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