|The Fugitive Slave Chapel (above) and today.|
Friday, February 7, 2014
LONDON'S FUGITIVE SLAVE CHAPEL
The Fugitive Slave Chapel shown above dates back to pre-Civil War days and slavery. London was once an important station in the Underground Railway, a mythical term for the trail to freedom in Canada from the horrors of slavery.
Escaping slaves, often whole families, made the frightening journey to freedom. The trip was no walk in the park. They were trailed by men with bloodhounds, paid to bring them back dead or alive by the plantation owners. If they were caught, they were returned to their owners where they faced floggings and even death.
Once the lucky ones reached the area south of Buffalo, N.Y., they faced one last obstacle—the mighty Niagara River. Most had no money with which to pay the ferry toll to Canada. But sympathetic captains frequently took them across at no charge.
The Rev. Josiah Henson and his family are an example. The captain ferried them across at no cost. When they reached the Canadian shore, Henson fell to his knees and promised to use his freedom well.
He was the primary figure in the novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. You can see the cabin in Uncle Tom’s park near Dresden—a short drive along Highway 401.
He assisted ex-slaves in London where he was involved in establishing a trade school for black boys and girls.
In early 2013, the owner of the property on which the chapel had stood for so many years, needed the space for additional parking for his business. A committee was formed to collect donations for the removal of the chapel.
Here is an update by chairman of the Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation Project, George McNeish:
“We have raised just over $60,000 and have less than $5,000 to go to reach our phase one goal. The city is chipping in with a $60,000 grant that is for moving and stabilizing (Estimated cost of $165,000.) We should have enough now to get the building moved and the paperwork is being done to start construction of a basement/foundation to set it on. Once the paper work is done, construction should start very soon, weather permitting. We will still need an additional $45,000 to get the building stabilized and still more to do proper historically accurate renovations. Once we get the building moved, we can get some experts to look at it and give us advice on renovations. We should then be able to estimate a cost for this.”
Click on this link to see very interesting information and illustrations about the project and history of the Thames St. area. http://www.http://www.fscpp.ca