Some of the most poignant stops on the Ontario Underground Railroad tour are historic sites in Chatham-Kent. Considered the destination for freedom seekers, this region was home to some of the most successful black settlements and the greatest populace of former slaves in Canada. Original structures, artifacts and memoirs preserve this heritage and invite the visitor to explore the national treasures that best reveal this period.
Buxton National Historic Site & Museum
One of the last stops on the Underground Railroad, the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum that preserves the successful Buxton settlement features original structures built by slaves. At Ontario’s second largest national historic site, visitors can tour the last standing schoolhouse built by slaves, an 1852 log cabin, two churches, a cemetery and museum.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Chatham-Kent is also home to Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site that displays the life story of one of history’s most famous black slaves, Rev. Josiah Henson. Visitors can tour Henson’s home, a smokehouse, sawmill, the Henson Family Cemetery and Pioneer Church. While in Dresden, a two-hour guided bus tour features 17 places of interest, and supports and enhances the story told at Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site.
Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society
The stories of slaves who established roots in Chatham are displayed at the self-guided exhibit Black Mecca: The stories of Black Community. This exhibit highlights the struggles and achievements of blacks during the days of slavery, early settlement in Chatham, the Civil Rights movement and modern times.
BME Freedom Park
A short walk from the Black Mecca Exhibit is the BME Freedom Park, located on the site of the first BME Church in Canada. At the BME Church, Abolitionist John Brown gained supporters for his attack on harper's Ferry, Virginia. The focal point of the park is a bronze bust of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, an educator and abolitionist who sought to improve the lives of people regardless of race or gender.
Another point of interest in Chatham includes the Chatham First Baptist Church (available for exterior viewing only).