Bob Meads of Georgetown and his sister Bonnie (Meads) McIntyre of Durham chat with Bill and Jean Hutchinson in front of the structure at The Old Durham Road Cemetery. The Hutchinsons live "just down the road" from the cemetery. In 1990, he found the grave stones in a nearby rock pile and both he and his wife were on the original committee to refurbish the cemetery.
BY LYNNE TURNER FOR SOUTHGREY.CA — "Seven Families, Many Stories" was the theme of the first official self-guided tour of The Old Durham Road Black Pioneer Settlement , held Sunday, September 29 as part of Canada Culture Days.
The map and accompanying information was provided by The Old Durham Road Pioneer Cemetery Committee which has been caring for the cemetery since 1989.
"When the 1851 census taker came by this section of the newly surveyed Durham Road, in Artemesia Township, he found a vibrant community of about 120 Black settlers who had cleared land, built log cabins and had begun farming," the brochure said. "The two remaining markers of this community are the cemetery and the schoolhouse."
Four headstones from the cemetery were found in a nearby pile of rocks in 1990, which the committee displayed at the cemetery site on Durham Road B, near Priceville. That October, then-Lieutenant-Governor Lincoln Alexander unveiled a memorial granite boulder which had an inscription honouring the early pioneers of African descent. The site was further refurbished in 2015 and, thanks to an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant, the four historic grave stones were moved to a covered pavilion "designed to evoke memories of cemetery-dead houses, roadside chapels and rural structures such as log cabins and covered bridges. The monument, which is situated so as not to be atop any of the more than 80 unmarked grave sites, symbolizes safe passage and is oriented due north, as a way to commemorate the many paths to freedom taken by refugees from slavery."
The tour included the cemetery, the school and five homesteads which had belonged to Black pioneers back in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Lillian (Meads) Robinson, centre and her daughters Sandra Robinson of Aurora and Jennifer Minderlein of Caledon visited the Meads farm, one the historic sites that was part of The Old Durham Road Black Pioneer Settlement.
Four historic grave stones are housed in the covered pavilion at The Old Durham Road Cemetery.
The Old Durham Road School, SS #7, has been a private residence since 1968 but was open to those taking the Canada Culture Days' Tour of the Old Durham Road Black Pioneer Settlement. Terri Jackson of Owen Sound, a member the Old Durham Road Pioneer Cemetery Committee, showed visitors how the current owner, Cindy Dymond, preserved the old chalkboard and teacher's platform which took up one wall of the schoolhouse.
SS #7 was originally a log structure, with the present building erected in 1882.
Photos by Lynne Turner.
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