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5 Canadian stations of the Underground Railroad

 

A re-enactment of the Freedom Crossing (Wikimedia/Lynn DeLearie/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Canada is proud to be an integral part of the Underground Railroad, with many stations across our southern border with the United States.

photo of abolitionist Harriet TubmanThe Underground Railroad was not an actual railroad, but instead, a secret network of people — known as abolitionists — who helped between 30,000 to 40,000 African Americans escape slavery. Freed slaves would find sanctuary in Canada, as well as some Northern states that abolished slavery.

John Freeman Walls Underground Railroad Museum
Lakeshore, Ontario

In 1846, former slave John Freeman Walls and his white wife escaped from North Carolina to Canada where they raised a family and built a cabin. This cabin would become one of Canada’s famous stations in the underground railroad.


list of Underground Railroad codes and symbols


Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site
Dresden, Ontario

photo of abolitionist Josiah HensonAbolitionist Josiah Henson is the inspiration for the character Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book Uncle Tom's Cabin, and his famous cabin was inspired by a home in Ontario. Henson was also an abolitionist who helped settle other fugitives at his New Dawn Settlement. He escaped to Canada from Kentucky in 1830.

Sandwich First Baptist Church
Windsor, Ontario

The Sandwich First Baptist Church was a significant stop along the Underground Railroad. The land was granted to the newly freed inhabitants of Olde Sandwich Towne — now a neighbourhood of the city of Windsor — by Queen Victoria in 1847. During services, the ringing of a particular bell and the start of a certain spiritual song was a signal for runaways to hide in the church’s trap door cellar when bounty hunters swept through.


archival photo of students in front of the only school in Canada built by fugitive slaves

Class photo taken in front of the only school in Canada built (1861) by fugitive slaves at the Elgin Settlement in Buxton, Ontario. (Wikimedia/Public Domain)


Buxton National Historic Site
Chatham, Ontario

Portrait of a Black Loyalist soldierThe Buxton National Historic Site & Museum commemorates the Elgin Settlement: one of the final stops for the Underground Railroad. Founded in 1849 by Rev. William King, this settlement was known for its superior educational system and became a self-sufficient community for about 2,000 people. Today, descendants of the original settlers who remained in Canada still live in Buxton.

Birchtown National Historic Site
Birchtown, Nova Scotia

Long before the Underground Railroad, black settlers from both French and English backgrounds settled in towns like Annapolis Royal and Birchtown, Nova Scotia. These cities not only became a welcome home to freed slaves searching for sanctuary north of the border, but also to former black soldiers in the British colonial military forces, known as Black Loyalists, who were looking to relocate north to Canada after the American War of Independence.