“The fame of the settlement, had in a few years spread over the US and Canada as an asylum where coloured men could provide for themselves by their own industry.” (105) This drew not only fugitives, but also wealthy coloured families from Buffalo, St. Catharines, Niagara and Toronto.
Rev. King, with his usual foresight, could see that the settlement required industry. Timber was being treated as a waste product. If they could erect a sawmill to cut the wood into lumber and use the ash from the burned brush to create pot and pearl ash, the community could have another source of income. He called a public meeting. Out of it William Abbott and Henry Thomas, both wealthy business men who had moved to Buxton for their children’s education, agreed to form a mill company. They engaged the finances and expertise of their wealthy friends in Toronto and Buffalo and began the Buxton Mill Company. Two others attending the meeting had worked as brick-makers in US. “They agree to open a brick yard on their own account. During the first year they made 300,000 bricks, which found a ready sale as there was no brick yard nearer than Chatham.” (105) “King also went to Delta, Ohio and engaged F. Gates, a Pearl ash manufacturist, and brought him into the settlement with his family to give instruction to the settlers how to convert the ash into black salts.” (106) From Cincinnati he purchased a portable corn mill which ground the corn for the settlement and for many of the neighbours around.
In 1856 one of the editors of the New York Tribune visited the settlement and gave a glowing report of the industry and moral standing of the settlement. Of King, he said, ” We left Buxton with the belief that we had seen one of those rare men who by a single-minded devotion to one worthy object not only accomplished great ends, but enoble our common humanity.” (110)
Quotes from Autobiography of William King, The National Library and Archives of Canada.
Collaboration brought about such great results in the early days of the settlement. If you could collaborate with anyone on a project, who would it be?