WELLINGTON COUNTY — Just in time for Black Heritage Month, the Wellington County Museum and Archives is continuing to find ways to share the story of the Black settlers of Wellington County with online tours.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic closing access to the facility, activity programmer Kyle Smith said the museum wanted to find a way this year to continue to educate the community of the impact Black Canadians have had in Wellington County.
“Last year we did a big event; we had … Diana Braithwaite tell stories about Black History Month in Wellington County, but we obviously can’t do that (this year),” said Smith.
“We can’t bring people in. Instead we are refocusing and we’re doing virtual presentations and virtual tours.”
The museum is currently offering several tours that anyone can book for a $50 fee, each running about 60 to 90 minutes, Smith explained.
“One of the things we have on offer is for school children. We’re doing virtual field trips,” he said.
“We have a whole series of virtual field trips, but one in particular that we’re really trying to push for Black History Month is The Black Pioneers of Wellington County.”
The presentation is not about the overall importance of Black history, says Smith, but instead on the local impact of Black settlers.
“It’s a very big story, and it’s a story that people don’t know about,” he said.
With Fergus and Elora being such Scottish/Irish towns, Smith says most people assume the first settlers in the area were European, but that isn’t true.
“Black Canadians who were free or escaped slaves from the United States, a lot of them had no places to go,” he explained.
“They have no money, they had nothing, and the only place where they can start to build their own life and own culture is in the woods, so they came up here.”
According to Smith, in the 1850s over 3,000 Black Canadians were living in a community called the Queen’s Bush, which included a portion of Wellington County.
A short video on the Queen’s Bush settlement Smith compiled last year is available to watch any time on the museum and archives website for anyone looking to learn more on the subject.
And more content on Black history in the county will be on its social media channels.
Anyone interested in booking a tour can call the museum at 519-846-0916 or reach out to Smith directly at Kyles@Wellington.ca.