Joseph Brant among Haldimand's slave owners museum exhibit shows

The Regional

February 4, 2009

In celebration of Black History month, Haldimand County Museum & Archives, in partnership with the Archives of Ontario, invites you to visit its latest exhibit, "Enslaved Africans in Upper Canada." Produced by the Archives of Ontario as a traveling exhibit, Enslaved Africans delves into the history and people who were connected to the practice of slavery in Upper Canada.

Historical photographs and documents of slaves and their owners paint a clear picture of the personal experiences of five Ontario slaves.

Slavery existed on a global scale for centuries and had devastating implications for the individuals from around the world who were subjected to it. Many people do not know that slavery existed in Canada.

The number of black slaves in Upper Canada is hard to pinpoint. At the time of the United Empire Loyalists migration to Nova Scotia in 1783, historians have stated that approximately 1232 slaves were brought by their owners into the new province. Seeing as there were slaves already in the province it has been estimated that there were about 1000-1400.

Records indicate that the first white settler in Haldimand brought four slaves.

Mohawk leader Joseph Brant owned 30 slaves, one of whom was Sophia Pooley. For a time, Sophia lived in the Haldimand area. Brant bought Sophia when she was seven years old and sold her when she was twelve.

Sophia was born a slave in Fishkill, New York, the daughter of slaves Oliver and Dinah Burthen. At a young age, she and her sister were taken to Niagara, where they were sold to Brant.

Brant brought the two Black girls to his home on the Mohawk reserve in Upper Canada. Sophia's memories included hunting with Brant's children and speaking the Mohawk language better than English. Her mistress was Brant's third wife at whose hand she was badly mistreated. She bore the scars of a hatchet wound on her head and a knife cut over one eye.

The history of black settlement in Haldimand dates back to the early 1900s. Many black settlers came here to escape slavery and settled along the Talbot Road. By 1851, there were several established settlements in Haldimand County. Black individuals and families were living in North Cayuga, South Cayuga, Dunn, Oneida, Moulton/Sherbrooke and Rainham Township. The largest population was in North Cayuga, with 137.

To learn more about the Enslaved Africans of Upper Canada and the early black settlement of Haldimand, visit the museum. The exhibit is on display until mid-May. A talk on the exhibit and the History of Black Settlement in Haldimand will take place on Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. at the museum.