In the early 1800s, The Queen's Bush was a wild tract of unsurveyed land. John Little, a black Queen's Bush settler, was interviewed in the early 1850s by Benjamin Drew for his book, A North-Side View of Slavery. Mr. Little said that, "We heard of the Queen's Bush, where any people might go and settle, colored or poor, and might have a reasonable chance to pay for the land. We set out to find the Queen's Bush ...Then we marched right into the wilderness, where there were thousands of acres of woods which the chain had never run round since Adam."
In 1843, Livas "Joseph" Anderson, Hester Freeman's maternal grandfather, took his family from Baltimore to Ontario's Queen's Bush. The family included Mary, his wife, daughters Catherine, Mary, and Bathemia, and, son, Livas. During the next two years Livas "cleared and cultivated six acres of land."
Canadian born Robert Freeman, Hester's father, also settled in the Queen's Bush. It is there that he met Catherine Anderson. Robert and Catherine were married in Peel Township in 1850. The marriage register read, "Robert FREEMAN, to Catherine ANDERSON, both of Peel. ? Dec. 1850, by banns. Rev. SIM. Wit. Lyvis ANDERSON and Geo. Selby." The marriages of Rev. Sims are recorded in THe Marriage Registers of Upper Canada/Canada West.
When the Queen's Bush was surveyed, settlers (squatters) feared losing the land they poured their sweat into. In 1847, Black settlers sent a petition to the Governer-General of Canada. Livas "Joseph" Anderson and Robert Freeman both signed the petition. The petition read in part:
"...we earnestly intreat your Excellency favour to grant your pettrs this their Humble request for if your pettrs is driven from our little Homes our distress will be great ... we are loyal subjects to our sovering Queen Victoria every man and when the outbreak of '37 took place we turned out to a man in defense of the Country and done our duty as soldiers and is ready and willing at any time to the same."
The petitioners never received a response.
[NOTE: The "outbreak of '37" was The Patriot's War or the Rebellion in Lower Canada.]
Left: Joseph Livas Anderson, father of Catherine Anderson and grandfather of Hester Freeman Meehan. From the collection of Hester Meehan.
Right: Transcribed marriage register of Rev. Sim, reflecting marriage of Robert Freeman and Catherine Anderson in 1850.
* The Queen's Bush Settlement, Black Pioneers 1839-1865, Linda Brown-Kubisch
* Drew, Benjamin. 1856. A north-side view of slavery: The refugee, or, The narratives of fugitive slaves in Canada: related by themselves, with an account of the history and condition of the colored population of Upper Canada. Boston: Published by John P. Jewett and Company.
The Marriage Registers of Upper Canada/Canada West, Volume 9: Part 1, Wellington District 1840-1852, Compiled by Dan Walker & Fawne Stratford-Devai, Global Heritage Press/Genealogy.com. Inc. 2013.
* The Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum, 10 Huron Road, Kitchener, Ontario
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