Grand River Branch
United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada
Selected Reprints from the
Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches
"Black Pioneers of Artemesia"
uncredited, February 1995, Vol.7 No.1, Page 9
The monthly meeting of the Grand River Branch of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada was held on September 18, 1994 at the Annesley United Church in Markdale. Local historian and chairman of the Black Pioneer Cemetery Committee, Les McKinnon, spoke on the Black pioneers of Artemesia Township.
"Although black history in this area was glossed over in the Artemesia Township history book," Mr. McKinnon says he "has proof that blacks existed in this area." The Black Pioneer Cemetery is located 4.3 km west of Flesherton on Highway 4 to County Road no. 14, then south 2 km to the Old Durham Road, across from the Artemesia Landfill site.
In the 1800's, this cemetery was the burial ground for people of African descent, some of whom it is believed came to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. These wound their way west to the Fergus area, then up the Garafraxa Road to Glenelg and Artemesia Townships. In the 1851 census almost every 50-acre lot along the Durham Road was settled by a black family with the parents stating their birthplace as U.S. and children as old as 17, giving Canada as their birthplace.
Some of these people registered patents on their property and later fulfilled the requirements for a deed, but for some reason blacks never did, and by 1865 Anglo-Saxon names showed up on the properties and some of the former people disappeared from the records. A number went to the ships at Collingwood, while others joined the Oro settlement in Simcoe County. Collingwood has recognized the contribution of Blacks to their history and has opened a historic museum in their honour.
By October 1990, the Cemetery Committee had the pasture designated a historic site. With 100 percent backing from Township councillors and donations of materials to help preserve the location, a work bee was held in 1990 to resurrect the cemetery upon which rubble had been dumped. Tombstones at one time were removed and placed along a roadside fence and many vanished. With assistance from Barry Gray, archaeologist and former Markdale resident, four old tombstones were found. The green marble was in good shape as they had been buried in limestone and not exposed to the harsh elements. Today the committee is using ground probing radar to scan and show round corners of tombstones and hopes to locate 40-60 stones.
In October, 1990, Lieutenant-Governor Lincoln Alexander unveiled a memorial that honoured the early pioneers of African descent:
The old Durham Road Pioneer Cemetery Committee hopes to reclaim, transcribe and preserve tombstones and promote research into all aspects of Black history.