Not Always A
Land of Free People
by Canadian at Simcoe
There was a time in the
early history of Hamilton when colored people were held by law as
slaves, and Miss Laura B. Durward's great-grandfather was the
owner of one of the first slave women brought into Canada from New
York about the year 1800.
James Durand was a
Welshman by birth who came to the United States in the latter
years of the 18th century, where he lived for a time, and when the
United Empire Loyalists began their march on Canada he joined in
the procession and settled in the County of Norfolk, where he
entered a farm.
The town of Simcoe was
then but a struggling village, giving promise of a prosperous
mercantile business, and Mr. Durand began as a country merchant,
having in his employment as a clerk Peter Desjardin, who later
became prominent as the promoter of the Dundas Desjardin Canal.
James Durand remained in
Simcoe till the year 1805, when he sold his farm and stock of
merchandise and came to the Head of the Lake and bought 100 acres
of land described above, which he afterward sold to George
Hamilton, which was platted in the year 1813, and put on the real
estate market as the original town of Hamilton.
George Hamilton was a
member of the large family of Hamiltons of the Niagara District
who located in this town about the beginning of the last century.
When James Durand came to
Hamilton he brought with him a colored woman, who was an
apprenticed slave, for by law in Upper Canada a sort of
semi-slavery was allowed then.
Another case we have
history of was a slave man who was brought into Canada by the
Beasley family, but who was set free, refusing however, to accept
his freedom, preferring to live with the family who had always
treated him kindly.
That colored man ended his
days in a home provided for him by the Beasleys, out near the
Delta, with every comfort, and he was the last of the old time
slave apprenticeship in this part of Canada.
Editor Reformer:-- The
land taken up by Mr. Durand afterwards became what was long known
as the Kent property. The home stood near the present residence of
Mr. E. H. Jackson, and the tradition is that the old apple trees
scattered in the gardens of that part of the town were once his
orchard. If we remember correctly, there is one gnarled veteran,
little now but a stump, on Mr. Jackson's own lawn.