Considered the destination for freedom seekers, this region was home to some of the most successful Black settlements in Canadian history. Today, Buxton National Historic Site & Museum, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historical Site and the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society all serve as windows into the past, allowing visitors to touch, feel, see and hear the stories of those who took heroic journeys, following the North Star to freedom in Chatham-Kent.
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Annual Underground Railroad Events
One of the last stops on the Underground Railroad, the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum preserves the successful Buxton settlement and features original artifacts and structures built by former fugitive slaves. At Ontario’s second largest national historic site, visitors can "Ring the Liberty Bell", tour one of the last standing schoolhouses, 1852 log cabin, 1853 barn, church, cemetery and museum. Each Labour Day Weekend, Buxton Homecoming features events focused around family, friends and homecoming.
Travelling to Buxton National Historic Site and Museum from west of Tilbury?
Take the Queen's Line Exit (63) off of the 401 in Tilbury and head east on Highway 2, turning right onto Bloomfield Road once you come to Chatham. Follow the signs at the Bloomfield Road overpass.
Uncle Tom's Cabin
The Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site recognizes the accomplishments of Josiah Henson through interpretive videos, interactive exhibits, numerous artifacts and tours reflecting the Black experience in Canada. The five acre site consists of the Josiah Henson Interpretive Centre, with its Underground Railroad Freedom Gallery and North Star Theatre, plus three historic buildings, two cemeteries, a sawmill and numerous artifacts that have been preserved as a legacy to these early pioneers. Each August Civic Holiday weekend (August 3, 2019) the site hosts Emancipation Day, with various speakers, performers, exhibits and cuisine reflecting early Black life in Ontario. Black History Month programming takes place each February. The museum is owned and operated by the Ontario Heritage Trust.
The Black Mecca Museum ran by the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society shares the story of Chatham's Black Community beginning at the end of the 18th century until present day. In the early 1800s five Black families settled along McGregor's Creek in the tiny town of Chatham, then known as "the Forks". The Village soon became a haven for runaway slaves a free Blacks. By 1850 the population was about 1/3 Black. The small museum, located inside the WISH Centre features displays that contain a wealth of information, special interest artifacts and figures of prominent Blacks of early Chatham. They also specialize in preserving the history of Chatham's Black population, holding a wide range of primary and secondary sources. When stopping in for a tour, make sure you take in the Walking Tour of the surrounding area including a stop at the BME Freedom Park.
Chatham-Kent is also home to the Ontario Genealogy Society's Kent Branch, where descendants of fugitive slaves, and those with black ancestry can trace their roots and gain knowledge about details in how, when and where their ancestors arrived in Canada. The Kent Branch is located within the Chatham-Kent Public Library and invites members of the public seeking knowledge about their ancestry to do their own research using materials on their "open shelves" resource centre.