Tag Archives: Black History Month

The Settlement Begins – Wm. King, 18 of 28

Isaac Riley, his wife and children, were the first settlers.

Isaac Riley and his wife and children were the first settlers.

Mob violence was the next option for those opposed to the settlement. King was to meet the Government Agent and a surveyor from Chatham to have the land in Raleigh Township surveyed. The surveyor informed Larwill who assembled “a number of Roughs (who) came out to drive us off the land.” (80) But the Government Agent had become ill and the meeting was called off, but not before Larwill, the surveyor and “the Roughs” had spent the day in the woods drinking and threatening what they would do to the minister when he appeared. “A few coloured men in Chatham who had heard of the threats made against me by Larwill and others went out armed to the land under the pretext of hunting, as it was the fair season, but really to protect me from violence should any be offered. They continued all day on the land hunting. Had I come out that day there probably would have been bloodshed. “ (80)

“When informed of the treachery of the surveyor, I paid him off and employed another who remained with me until I divided the block into lots of 50 acres each and prepared it for settlement. I purchased 100 acres in the middle road and moved unto with my coloured servants.” (81)

Word of the settlement had travelled far and wide. When he and his former slaves moved in Rev. King found that he already had coloured neighbours. “Isaac Riley had entered on a lot adjoining mine as he told me afterwards that he might be near the School and Church to give his children a good education. He had just come from Missouri with his wife and four children. His Master was about to sell him to the South. He got word of it, crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois, made his way to Chicago, got on a boat that took him to St. Catherines, where he heard of the Elgin Settlement. He returned back with his family to Detroit and from there made his way to Buxton, entered 100 acres of land and became one of the best settlers.” (85)

I like the Rileys’ sense of agency. They, like so many of the refugees who were to head to Canada, were bold in their actions. They “made things happen”.  I invite you to think of those you have met who have that same sense.

“I Will Not Surrender” – Wm. King, 17 of 28

Rev. William King
Rev. William King

Rev. King left “his slaves” with his brother in Ohio and proceeded on to Canada West to purchase land on which he could settle them.  The Chatham area had the “soil, climate and nearness to market” he desired.(74)  Nine thousand acres were to be purchased “for settlement by people of color and to solicit for this purpose the aid of all who are desirous to promote the improvement of this long neglected and deeply injured race.” (75)

Word got around Chatham that the popular minister who had preached on two different Sundays had “chartered  a vessel and intended to bring in a shipload of coloured persons from the United States and settle them in Canada in the Township of Raleigh…My popularity fell rapidly; the next time I visited the Town I got the cold shoulder. Scarcely anyone would speak to me. One man came to me when riding down King Street on horseback and told me as a friend that my life was in danger, and that I should not expose myself after dark in the town.

A public meeting was scheduled and a memorial written “in not very respectful language to the Coloured people and signed by 400 citizens. A copy was sent to the Governor General and one to the Commissioner of Crown lands, and one to the Synod of the Presbyterian Church with a letter threatening my life if I should settle the coloured people in Raleigh. On my way to Toronto I met with the Sheriff in the stage who handed me the requisition calling the meeting, who also informed me of what the enemies of the coloured persons were doing.” (77)

King finished his business in Toronto and returned to Windsor by lake the night before the meeting. “To my dismay I found the boat (for Chatham) was disabled in her machinery and would not run for a couple of days. The meeting was to take place.” (77) He hired a horse and buggy and travelled all night and arrived at Chatham to find the Magistrate swearing in twelve special constables to keep the peace, as trouble was expected at the meeting.

The crowd that assembled was too large for the barn in which the meeting was to take place, so they moved to the front of the Exchange Hotel where the speakers could be heard from the balcony. “The crowd became noisy, and would not let me speak. Mr. Larwill (the loudest opponent) said I was a Yankee, and had no right to speak. I said I was a British subject, owned property in the Township, paid taxes and had a right to speak. I had come 200 miles to attend this meeting and they could not put me down. Besides, I am from LondonDerry and LondonDerry never did surrender.  Several influential persons at the meeting insisted that I should be heard.” (79)

And heard he was! By the end of the meeting the land was secured and Rev. King could begin surveying.

Tell of a time when you stood up for yourself or others.

Northward Bound – Wm. King, 16 of 28

King and "his slaves" travel north on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
King and “his slaves” travel north on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

On May 5th, 1845 William King and “his fifteen slaves” boarded a steamboat bound for Cincinnati. “A crowd of spectators had gathered to see me start with my negroes (sic) to Canada. Some of the planters present had slaves there who had gone without their knowledge or consent… We had now a journey of 1500 miles through a slave country 1000 miles on the Mississippi River with slavery on both sides of the river and 500 miles on the Ohio with slavery on the south side of the river. “ (70)

During a lay-over in Cincinnati some “abolitionists called on them (the slaves) and asked where they were going. Stephen, one of my old faithful slaves said he did not know, he was going with his Master wherever he was going. The man told Stephen I was going to take them to a slave state and sell them.  Stephen replied, ‘my Master has brought me 1500 miles from New Orleans and if he had been going to sell us, he would have sold us there.’” (70)

First to Louisiana – Wm. King 15 of 28

King had to settle his affairs in Louisiana.*
King had to settle his affairs in Louisiana.*

Still surrounded by sorrow, William King finished the last of his theological studies and exams and accepted an appointment as missionary to Canada. But first he needed to return to Louisiana. His father-in-law had also died that year and King – now Rev. King – was named executor, along with Mr. Phares’ widow. “I could know see the dispensation which appeared so dark and mysterious to me at the time that I lost my whole family that it was preparing the way for me to manumit the slaves that were coming to me by inheritance. By my being appointed Executor of my Father-in-law’s estate and the death of my own family I was left free to do what I pleased with all the slaves that belonged to me which I could not have done had my family been living.” (62)

Things were not going well on the plantation King owned. “The cotton crop had been destroyed during two years by the Army worm, that great pest of the cotton plant. They are so numerous when they come that a large field of cotton will be eaten bare with them in a few days.” (65) King sold the plantation, paid the debt and placed the slaves on his father-in-law’s estate until matters could be settled with it. The widowed Mrs. Phares (his father-in-law’s second wife)  was young. She “expected that King would settle down in the south and become a Planter, put an overseer on the Plantation, take a church and preach to the Planters.” (65)  But Rev. King had other ideas. He turned down an offer of $9,000 for his slaves and another to hire them out at $900/year. He announced that he was taking them to Canada where he would free them. “They seemed not to understand what was meant by going to Canada. Most of them thought it was some new plantation that I had purchased. I explained to them that Canada was a free country, that there were no slaves there and that when we reached that Country I would give them their freedom and place them on farms where they would have to support themselves by their own industry.” (68) “They had come to consider that slavery was their normal condition.  They did not know what freedom meant. They thought that to be free was to be like their master, to go idle, and have a good time.“ (69)

“One of my slaves had married a woman in my absence in Edinburgh. The woman belonged to the Estate of my Father-in-law and had a child two years old. In the division of the slaves, the woman fell to me but the child fell to another of the heirs. The woman came to me with tears and asked if I would not buy her child that she might take it with her. The heir had agreed to sell it for $150. I told her I did not see it my duty to buy children and set them free. However the woman was so distracted about leaving her child that I bought it. Here is a bill of sale, a curious document in its way. He is warranted to me to be a slave for life although I was going to set him free in a few weeks.” (69) This was the boy Solomon.

I invite you to tell of a time when you turned down money because it would involve selling your soul.

* This photograph is a story in itself. To learn more about it see http://www.mirrorofrace.org/carol.php

Death and Wings of Kindness – Wm. King, 14 of 28

More death.

Toward the end of the first year after the couple arrived in Edinburgh Mary King gave birth to a daughter. Not long after Mrs. King began to show symptoms of consumption. William King details in his autobiography how he cared for her and how he got a wet nurse for the child. But his wife was to die Feb. 25, 1846. “After the death of my wife my whole affection was placed on the Child now left the last of my family and the very image of her Mother, her playful innocence had drawn my affection strongly towards her. On coming from the Class she would stretch out her arms as soon as she saw me enter the door, to leave her nurse and come to me and quite contented when she got on my knee… My child who was growing well with her wet nurse was taken suddenly on the fifth of May with Hydrocephalus or water in the head and died on the ninth of May.”

Dr. and Mrs. Chalmers were to take William King under their wings. He often breakfasted with them, especially on Wednesday mornings when they held public breakfasts for the many guests who would call upon the president of the college and head of the church.  “A great deal of information was obtained at those breakfasts; as the guests were men of learning and from all parts of the world.”

Who would you like to sit down to breakfast with?

A Storm of Controversy – Wm. King, 13 of 28

The people of Edinburgh are furious with members of the anti-slavery movement  holding slaves.
The people of Edinburgh are furious with members of the anti-slavery movement holding slaves.

In the winter of 1845 a delegation from the Abolition Society of USA came to Scotland to decry the fact that the Free Church of Scotland had not only received money from wealthy American slave owners, but  also had a slave owner in their midst studying to become a minister.

“The lectures were attended by crowded audiences. The large hall was filled to overflowing. Placards were put up everywhere in the city crying, ‘Send back the Money!’ Children on the streets, when they saw a Free Church minister, they would cry to him, ‘send back the money’”. (56) “In one of the public meetings the Delegation stated that one of the students attending the Free College was a slave owner. I was not named but the Students all knew that I came from a Slave State and that my wife was the Daughter of a planter, I was not able to explain my position. I was a Slave owner but there were legal difficulties in the way that I could not then set them free, but those difficulties were removed two years afterward when I gave them their freedom. I told Dr. Cunningham my position and said that I would go on the platform and explain my position but he advised me to say nothing about it. I was abused in good company. When a person is doing that which is right and gets abuse for it, he need be in no haste to vindicate his character. It will vindicate itself. When Frederick Douglass (former slave and orator of the highest caliber and leader in the Anti-Slavery movement) heard two years after that I had given my slaves their freedom and brought them to Canada and planted a colony of freedmen there called the Elgin Settlement he came from Rochester, NY, called a public meeting in the Settlement and apologized for the hard things he and others had said about me in Edinburgh.” (57)

I love the line that is in bold. Does this passage stir up any memories of similar circumstances?

Death in Ohio – Wm. King, 12 of 28

A death in the family.
A death in the family.

William King returned to Jackson, Louisiana where he found his wife and child well. The three headed up the Mississippi to visit with King’s family in Ohio before returning to Edinburgh. “At Detroit my boy took what the Doctors called intermittent fever. On the third day he appeared to be better and the Doctors said I could go on to Ohio, that he would be well in a few days. So I left Detroit on a Steam boat for Toledo where I took the canal to go to Father’s who lived about thirty miles from Toledo. But before I reached Waterville on the Canal my boy got worse and died on the canal boat. I got out at Waterville to get a coffin for my child, and wait till it was made. There I hired a team to take myself, wife and child out to my Father’s and there I buried him in a grave yard on my Father’s farm where most of my Father’s family have been buried since. This was a severe trial to my wife but she bore the dispensation with Christian fortitude and in a week she was able to go with me to New York where we took a sailing Packet for Liverpool and arrived there in fourteen days and twelve hours.” (55)

Can you imagine???????

I have no question for this passage. I just can’t imagine how Mary King left for New York and what the trip across the Atlantic must have been like for her.

You’ll Never Know Unless You Ask – Wm. King, 11 of 28

King travelled across the Atlantic as a Second Mate - never having piloted a ship before!
King travelled across the Atlantic as a Second Mate – never having piloted a ship before!

That April, William King planned to return to America for his wife and son but when he arrived in Liverpool he discovered the ship that was to sail that week had a full complement of passengers and could take no more. So he asked the Captain if he had a full complement of ship-hands. Luckily he required a second mate, so King “bought himself a red shirt, and a Sou’Wester and shipped as Second Mate. When we left the harbor I was on the quarter deck doing duty, and every day at noon I took the sun’s altitude with a quadrant that the Captain furnished me with. The rest of the time I was in the Cabin reading until the Pilot came on board at New York , then I was again on the quarter deck doing duty; and when the Manifest was handed in to the proper authorities in New York my name was read out as Second Mate.” (53-54) Not bad, for a student of theology!

You are invited to tell of a time when you, or someone else, found a way through a dilemma with a brilliant solution.

Ruffians and Wm. King, 10 of 28

Burke and Hare were notorious criminals in the area where King served.
Burke and Hare were notorious criminals in the area where King served.

In January of 1844 the 31 yr. old William King started his studies as one of 300 students drawn from all over the world to the newly-formed College of the Free Church of Scotland.  Victor Ullman, in Look to the North Star, says of the relationship between King and the charismatic President of the College, “ For all of his three years in Edinburgh, William was to be in Dr. Chalmer’s thrall, as a student, a protégé, and a friend… he was to pattern his life and beliefs after that man’s rare combination of unswerving faith and administrative practicality. “ (53)

Part of Dr. Chalmer’s focus was “raising the lower classes from that state of moral degradation into which they had fallen” .(48) His plan was to divide the poorest sections of Edinburgh, “appoint a gentleman and Lady who were to visit all the families in their division once a week.” (49) Their mission was to create a relationship which would encourage the parents to send their children to schools administered by the Free Church.

West Port was considered one of the lowest and most degraded slums in Edinburgh. Impoverished Irish immigrants flooded to this area to labour in the harvests. King tells in his autobiography of two men who provided boarding for the immigrants in Burks Close, West Port. As a way of lining their pockets, they took to smothering some of their boarders and selling the bodies to the medical school for dissection. For his part in the crimes, the one man was hung. (The story of Burke and Hare has been made into a movie. It’s worth reading about them on Wikepedia!) Also in Burks Close was an old tannery where a school and church was opened by the divinity students. Children were invited to attend both. “The boys collected from the street when first placed in School were in such a state of filth and rags that their bodies had to be washed and their hair cut, before they could be set on the benches…the boys had their hair cut close by a barber and perfumed, which so pleased the boys that when they saw a few thus dressed by the Barber, willingly came of their own free will to be washed and perfumed. The girls washed their clothes and combed their hair. A seamstress was appointed to assist them in making and mending their own clothes. The cleaning up of the Scholars had an influence on the Parents, who began to come to Church with their clothes clean and tidy. The girls also began to knit and sew for their brothers.

“A night school was opened for the boys that were grown up and could not attend the day school. In School they were up to all manner of mischief and the boys without would disturb those that were within. On a signal given the lights would be put out and the boys would pitch into each other, and for a few minutes all would be in confusion until the gas was again lited and order restored. It became necessary, during the first winter of the night school to have a policeman placed at the door of the schoolroom to keep the boys without from disturbing those that were within. But the second winter all this difficulty disappeared. The boys began to like the school and to study and gave no trouble, and many of those boys that were wild at first became diligent students and soon learned to read and write, attended the Sabbath School and became useful members of Society.” (52)

When have you witnessed people completely turning their lives around?

Cotton Ships Don’t Sink – Wm. King, 9 of 28

King sailed across the Atlantic on a ship filled with cotton.
King sailed across the Atlantic on a ship filled with cotton.

And so William King found himself locked into a system of which he deeply disapproved. He was popular with the students and trustees of the college. He had status. He had a good income. His wife was amongst her family and childhood friends. He writes in his autobiography, “The way was dark before me, my oldest boy was nearly three years old and I wished to remove him from the south before he was capable of knowing betwixt right and wrong. But I could not leave without some good excuse.” (44)

The opportunity came when the College proposed a change in governance. King announced that he was returning to Scotland to complete his theological studies. First he needed to establish sponsorship for a poor white student whose tuition he had covered. He also needed to provide for the slaves he owned and those he would inherit, so he purchased a plantation next to his father-in-law’s where the slaves might be self-sufficient.

“In November I had made all my arrangements for leaving, but I concluded to go alone to leave my wife and child with her father and I would return in the spring to take them over to Edinburgh in the summer, when the sea was calm. “ (46) It was a rough passage. The captain of the ship said that he had never seen one rougher. The one consolation was that “a cotton ship will not sink, she is as light as a cork and where she had sea room in mid-Atlantic, there was no danger of her going down. I was sea-sick the whole voyage, and when I arrived in Liverpool I was scarcely able to walk.” (46)

Tell of a time when opportunities opened up for you.