The Riley Family

Isaac Riley was born a slave in North Carolina in 1813.  Isaac probably was sold to a master in Missouri. His wife Catherine was also born a slave in Maryland, her master moved to Missouri when she was a little girl. Isaac and Catherine married and dreamed of a better life for their children.  After their son John was born, they decided to run away. They settled in Windsor, but did not like the people there, and Isaac had difficulty finding work. Isaac began working at a better paying job in Michigan, but he was afraid that slave catchers would come and get them. The Riley family moved to St. Catharine’s and found that life there was better than in Windsor. They had two sons, Jerome and James, while living in St. Catharine’s. Isaac and Catherine learned about a settlement for former slaves opening in Raleigh Township, so they packed up their belongings and headed for Kent County. The Riley family arrived in Buxton before Reverend King returned with his former slave. They stayed in a barn on King’s property, waiting for him to arrive in 1849. They purchased 100 acres of land at Lot 10 on Concession 11, next to Reverend King’s farm.

Isaac Riley had said that he wanted to educate his children. He saw to it that his children received a good education and they made him proud.  Son, John attended Knox College (University of Toronto) and became a minister. He married and moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where he lived with his wife and two sons.  Son, Jerome went to college, graduated with honours and became a doctor.  He settled in Washington, D.C. and helped to establish the Freedman’s Hospital.  Son, James worked as a waiter in a hotel in Chicago, Illinois. Daughter, Ann Celeste married William Robinson and settled in Chatham. She died in Chatham in 1880.

Isaac and Catherine returned to the United States and bought a farm in Nebraska. Son, William travelled west with them. William married Charlotte Hatter and raised his family in Nebraska. He died in 1892.  James eventually joined his family in Nebraska. He died in Lexington, Nebraska in 1886. Isaac Riley died in Nebraska in 1882 and Catherine, his wife, died in 1899. Descendants of the Riley family visit Buxton every year.

**  The Riley family are featured in several Classroom Lessons.