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Freedom to Learn
Education in the Elgin Settlement

  Events People Objects
1849 >

Rev. King brings his 15 slaves to the Elgin Settlement; the settlement begins

Isaac Riley  
1850 >

Built in April, SS#7 or the Buxton Mission School opens.

Night school offered for adults taught by Rev. King.

  • 41 pupils in SS# 7
John Rennie  
1851 > Standard classical subjects added to the curriculum
  • 69 pupils in SS# 7
  Mission School Library
1852 > Notation made on Superintendent Report
  • 85 pupils in SS# 7
1853 >
  • 159 pupils in SS# 7
1854 >
  • 63 pupils in SS# 7
1855 >

Superintendent Report Facts

  • 128 pupils in SS# 7
  • The SS#4 closed
1856 >

Superintendent Report Facts

  • 96 pupils in SS# 7
  • SS#6 opens;  57 pupils
  • SS#6 PR opens (religion listed as Roman Catholic); 70 students

Anderson Abbott

Alfred Lafferty

Thomas Stringer

Jerome R. Riley

Richard Johnson

1857 >
  • 89 pupils in SS# 7
  • 88 pupils in SS# 6
  • 48 pupils in SS# 6PR
1858 >
  • 70 pupils in SS# 7
  • 82 pupils in SS# 6
  • 46 pupils in SS# 6PR
1859 >
  • 52 pupils in SS# 7
  • 68 pupils in SS# 6
  • 52 pupils in SS# 6PR
1860 >
  • 90 pupils in SS# 7
  • 77 pupils in SS# 6
  • 42 pupils in SS# 6PR
1861 >
  • 117 pupils in SS# 7
  • 57 pupils in SS# 6
  • 57 pupils in SS# 6PR
  SS #13 School
1862 >
  • 86 pupils in SS# 7
  • 71 pupils in SS# 6
  • 44 pupils in SS# 6PR
  • 97 pupils in SS# 13
James Rapier  
1863 >
  • 98 pupils in SS# 7
  • 53 pupils in SS# 6
  • 61 pupils in SS# 6PR
  • 76 pupils in SS# 13
1864 >
  • 82 pupils in SS# 7
  • 59 pupils in SS# 6
  • 68 pupils in SS# 6PR
  • 94 pupils in SS# 13
1865 >
  • 89 pupils in SS# 7
  • 78 pupils in SS# 6
  • 71 pupils in SS# 6PR
  • 67 pupils in SS# 13
1866 >
  • 115 pupils in SS# 7
  • 54 pupils in SS# 6
  • 62 pupils in SS# 6PR
  • 111 pupils in SS# 13
1867 >
  • 67 pupils in SS# 7
  • 61 pupils in SS# 6
  • 74 pupils in SS# 6PR
  • 79 pupils in SS# 13
  • SS#4 opens;  71 pupils

In 1867, SS #4 is included on the Superintendents Report and funds are allocated to it.

The report also lists A.W. Shadd as teacher, who taught 71 pupils for the annual salary of $300.00.

A.W. Shadd  
1868 >
  • 91 pupils in SS# 7
  • 81pupils in SS# 6
  • SS# 6PR; no records
  • 87 pupils in SS# 13
  • 67 pupils in SS# 4
1869 >
  • 110 pupils in SS# 7
  • 117 pupils in SS# 6
  • 119 pupils in SS# 13
  • 75 pupils in SS# 4
1870 >
  • 104 pupils in SS# 7
  • 108 pupils in SS# 6
  • 133 pupils in SS# 13
  • 72 pupils in SS# 4

"I left the states for Canada for rights; freedom and liberty.  I came to Buxton to educate my children."

In 1854, Henry Johnson spoke these words to author Benjamin Drew who was compiling Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada.  The quality of the education and of the schools in the Elgin Settlement and the Buxton Mission was one of the primary reasons it was said to be the most successful black settlement in North America.  Reverend William King, a White Presbyterian Minister, who had himself been a slaveholder in Louisiana, founded Buxton in 1849 as a refuge for fugitive slaves and free Blacks.

Reverend King told Samuel Gridley Howe of the Committee of Inquiry, commissioned by Abraham Lincoln's administration, to study the progress of Blacks in Canada in preparation for the emancipation of slaves in the United States: "The whole of my plan was this: to provide these people with a home, and their children with an education; and with these two things, I felt confident every blessing would come."

And the blessings did come. In the words of John Scoble, secretary of the British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society: "I am not the advocate for exclusively coloured schools; I believe that one mode of breaking down the prejudice which exists against colour will be educating the children of all complexions together.  An important fact came to my attention at Buxton which illustrates this point.  At this interesting settlement an excellent school was opened by the Rev. Mr. King, at which superior education was imparted, and the result was that the white school in the neighborhood was given up, and the children transferred to the coloured school where I had the pleasure of seeing them distributed through the various classes, without distinction, and found that they studied harmoniously together."

This school was soon able to boast of an exceptional group of graduates; among which were people who went on to become missionaries, teachers, doctors, founders of the Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C., one of the most powerful Black political leaders in Mississippi, and a Congressman from Alabama.

From this era and from this tradition came the school known as School Section #13 Raleigh.  In 1861, a by-law was passed in the township to establish a school in the northern end of the Settlement. This relieved the crowding in the mission school and made a more convenient location for those people living near there.

That first generation of people removed from slavery joined together to build and support this new school. It served the community for over a century and prepared several generations of students for all of the possibilities that their ancestors could only dream about.

Today, the Buxton Historical Society, which is entrusted to the preservation and promotion of that tradition, has restored this school to the use and to the beauty that our ancestors achieved. The Buxton Historical Society in partnership with the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities has developed several curriculum based educational programs and the S.S. #13 Buxton, again, functions as an institution to inspire and educate.

It is the only known early Underground Railroad school to still exist in Canada and, as such, holds a very special place in North American History.

written by Bryan Prince

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