When William King, the Elgin Settlement's founder, arrived in Raleigh Township in the early winter of 1849, he found "camped in his barn, waiting for him on the Elgin reserve, ... Isaac Riley, Riley's wife, and their two children." More than sixty-five years before DeWitty, Nebraska was established, the seeds for Nebraska's "largest and most permanent colony" were planted in Canada.
The Elgin Settlement, located about fifty miles east of the Detroit-Windsor border, was a planned community for black people escaping enslavement. It was one of several Canadian Underground Railroad endpoints.
The community was based on land ownership and the “development of churches, schools and social institutions.” Rules for the settlement required residents to purchase their land, pay for their own possessions, and further stipulated that
· liquor was not allowed on the settlement
· land could only be sold to blacks and had to remain in their hands for ten years
· land had to be purchased, not leased
· settlers had to build houses at least 24 X 18 X 12 feet with a porch across the front
· houses were required to be 33 feet from the road, with a picket fence and flower garden in front
Isaac Riley was joined in the Elgin Settlement by others who would eventually form the nucleus of the DeWitty community. Guilds, Hatter, Rann, Robinson, Walker, Emanuel, and several others made their way to the Buxton Mission. Samuel Hayden, Charles Meehan’s stepfather, is first recorded in a Settlement land document in 1853, three years before Charles was born.
There is no evidence to suggest that there was a planned exodus from the Elgin Settlement to Nebraska, but by 1880 at least seven family groups relocated to Nebraska. By the early 1900s several more families followed, first to Overton in Dawson County, and then to Cherry County where DeWitty was established in 1915.
Much has been written about the Elgin Settlement. To learn more follow any of the links provided here.
Crossing the Border, A Free Black Community in Canada, Sharon A. ROger Hepburn, University of Illinoisi Press, 2007.
The Canadian Encyclopedia, Elgin Settlement, Shannon Prince, March 22, 2021.
The Buxton Museum, buxtonmuseum.com, history, rules.
The articles pictured above are from the Voice of the Fugitive, December 2, 1851, located at OurOntario.ca (left side), and from Frederick Douglass' Paper, Rochester, NY, August 25, 1854 located at GenealogyBank (right side).
Those Audacious Meehans
All pictures used on this site are the property of Catherine Meehan Blount unless otherwise noted. Other images are used with permission.
Copyright © 2022 Those Audacious Meehans - All Rights Reserved.
Powered by GoDaddy Website Builder