March 27: Canada Mill & Mercantile Co. was formed to establish a sawmill, gristmill, and general store. Wm. Abbott and Henry Thomas volunteered to raise the capital among prominent Blacks in Toronto and Buffalo, NY. The venture was enormously successful, raising the necessary $3,000 in just a few months. Within the year, the settlement had the saw and grist mill and general store.
By August 1, there were 400 settlers. Twenty-five families had purchased land close together, furthering the community atmosphere. Within the district, there were about 100 families.
350 acres of land cleared by this time, 204 of those were under crop. The land had been adapted to grow corn, tobacco, and hemp.
A court of arbitration was set up to encourage peace among the settlers.
A settler named Alfred West built the Temperance Hotel, a 2 story brick building.
A shoe store and carpenter shop were also established in Buxton Village.
Rev. King petitioned for regular postal service in the Raleigh District and opened a Buxton post office.
A pearl ash factory was built under the guidance of Mr. F. Gates from Delta, Ohio to manufacture fertilizer (‘black salts’) from lumber burnt to clear the land.
A fugitive from Georgia introduced barrel making (coppersmith) production for export to Cincinnati and Buffalo, which was a money crop more profitable than lumber.
More houses were built in the settlement; one person even constructed a brick home.
There were approximately 150 families settled in Elgin.
By this time, 726 acres were cleared and under fence, 174 trees were cut down and ready for clearing. 334 acres were planted with corn, 95 with wheat, 48 with oats and 100 with other assorted crops.
At a community meeting Buxton settlers voted to work together to clear the proposed Centre Road to ship their produce inexpensively — on Lake Erie. They organized teams and cut the road (Centre Road) from the 7th Concession past the 14th Concession to Lake Erie. The pearl ash from the elms alone was sufficient to cover the cost to build the road.
However, due to drainage problems, the road was difficult to traverse much of the year (mud). Therefore, the settlers petitioned Raleigh Township and obtained permission to build a tramway along the road. In 1854, the settlers organized into teams and in one month a track was laid from Buxton square to the Lake Erie cliff edges. The tramway permitted a team of oxen to haul huge cargos on wagon beds on the greased wooden rails.
There were close to 800 people living in the Elgin Settlement. The settlement now had a school and mission's church. The Buxton mission was named after the Earl of Buxton (British Parliament) who passed the Emancipation Act of 1833.
The Elgin settlement had a post office, store, a two-story hotel, a blacksmith, a carpenter, shoe shops, factories, and a savings bank.
Six men had finished their education at King's school. Nearly, 300 children were enrolled in Buxton schools (120 in the mission school).
In 1859, the ringing of the mission bell awakened and warned the settlement of a fire in their midst. As residents rushed from their homes to investigate, they saw a tower of flames in the night sky near the Town Square — the pearl ash factory was ablaze! Men quickly armed with pails and sped through the bush to reach the fire with hopes of putting the fire out –or at the very least to contain it. Unfortunately, the pearl ash factory could not be saved and a source of income was lost to the community.
"I left the states for Canada for rights; reedom and liberty. I came to Buxton to educate my children."
The Elgin Settlement, also known as Buxton, was one of four organized black settlements developed in Canada.
The black population of Canada West and Chatham was already high due to the area's proximity to the United States. The land was purchased by the Elgin Association through the Presbyterian Synod for creating a settlement. The land lay 12 miles south of Chatham.
When news of the Elgin settlement spread, white settlers became worried, and attempted to block its development with a petition. Regardless of sentiment, plans for the settlement went ahead and many of Buxton's settlers feared for the life of William King due to the resistance of whites.
William King believed that blacks could function successfully in a working society if given the same educational opportunities as white children. "Blacks are intellectually capable of absorbing classical and abstract matters."
Being a reverend and teacher, the building of a school and church in the settlement was a necessity to him. The settlement also was home to the logging industry.
George Brown, who became one of the Fathers of Confederation, was a supporter of William King and helped build the settlement.
The first settler, Isaac Riley, was already waiting at the settlement before King even arrived. Mostly all adults living in the settlement had been slaves before.
The settlement was made of 9,000 acres of land, 6 miles in length and 3 miles in width, situated between the Great Western Railway and Lake Erie. The land was divided into farms of 50 acres each. Certain standards had to be maintained in the settlement regarding property conditions.
Land had to be purchased by the settlers at the price of $2.50/acre. The payments could be made in ten equal installments with 6% interest. Ten years was allowed for the settlers to pay for their farms, most settlers would have had a deed in possession by then. The settlers were given no money, no grants of land, or farming tools; the only thing given was protection and advice.