Mapleton Historical society draws full house for presentation on local Black history

MOOREFIELD – About 100 people attended the annual general meeting of the Mapleton Historical Society on May 12 at the Moorefield Community Centre.

After a short business meeting, guest speaker Tracy Cain was introduced.

Cain has researched her family’s genealogy on both sides, discovering that one ancestor escaped slavery, one purchased his freedom, and a third was bequeathed his freedom when his master died. 

This intensive look into her family’s history led her to Mapleton, where some of her ancestors had settled in the mid-1800s. Mallott Road, which heads south from Line 86 just east of Wallenstein, is named after one of them, Joseph Mallott.

Some of her history goes back to Andrew Lucas, a slave on the plantation of Andrew Jackson, who eventually became the seventh president of the United States. Lucas arrived in Canada via the Underground Railroad and lived to be at least 120 years old, according to his gravestone in Brantford.

Last winter the Discovery Channel featured Cain and her sons as part of a four-part series on slavery, Black history and the Underground Railroad. Although their story was only a short segment at the end, it was a fascinating look at resilience and adventure.

Cain augmented her presentation with some singing, which included audience participation as everyone learned the hidden messages in popular Negro spirituals. 

With storytelling and an informative slide show, she had originally created this presentation for her son’s school. This would be a fantastic piece for our local schools to add to their curriculum.

Born in Brantford, Cain’s parents Winston and Doreen Johnson were the first Black teachers hired by the local school board in the 1960s. In spite of being respected and well educated, they couldn’t find rental housing because of racial prejudice and ended up purchasing a house, the first Black homeowners in their neighbourhood.

Cain was well received by the audience, with several thoughtful questions afterwards. During refreshments following the presentation, more people approached Cain for even more insight into this little known piece of local history.

Marlene Ottens for the Mapleton Historical Society