Voices of Freedom
Chloe Cooley: The Act to Limit Slavery
One of the most influential enslaved persons in Canada was Chloe Cooley. On March 14, 1793, her owner Adam Vrooman forcibly transported her across the Niagara River to sell her. Days later, the Executive Council of the Legislative Assembly heard eyewitness accounts that Chloe was violently screaming and resisting. Her screams jolted the conscience of the community and served as a catalyst for Simcoe and Attorney General John White to introduce legislation to abolish slavery.
On July 9th, 1793, Simcoe gave Royal Assent to “An Act to prevent the future introduction of Slaves, and to limit the terms of contracts for servitude within this Province.” The Act did not free any existing slaves. However, it forbade the importation of new slaves and allowed for the gradual abolition of slavery in the province. It set the stage for the Underground Railroad coming north into Canada.
Richard Pierpoint: The Coloured Corps
Richard Pierpoint, a Black Loyalist, received land grants in the Niagara area along with other Black Loyalists, where they established homes. At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Blacks had to protect their newly-acquired freedom. Pierpoint petitioned the government proposing the establishment of a corps of “Coloured Men” to defend the Niagara Frontier. The Coloured Corps was established. They guarded Fort George and served in the Battles of Queenston Heights and Stoney Creek. Later because of their skills, they contributed substantially to the building of Fort Mississauga. In 1821, Richard Pierpoint asked the government for passage back to his native home in Senegal, Africa in lieu of the land grant he was entitled to for service in the War of 1812. Instead, he was granted land in Garafraxa Township (Kitchener area) where he died during the winter of 1837/38.
Solomen Moseby: The Moseby Affair
With slavery abolished in 1834 in Canada and throughout British territories, the number of freedom-seekers in Niagara-on-the-Lake and other places in Ontario grew. Solomon Moseby was enslaved in Kentucky when he escaped in 1837 on his master’s horse and successfully made the extremely dangerous journey to Niagara. Moseby was located by bounty hunters and was charged by his master, in absentia, in a Kentucky court for horse stealing. He was found guilty and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Moseby was arrested and held in the Niagara courthouse. He was ordered extradited. Two to three hundred Blacks from the Niagara region, led by the women of the group, blocked the jailhouse for days against Moseby’s extradition. A riot ensued and Moseby was able to escape. Two Black men were killed by law enforcement. White allies offered support by donating food and offering shelter. Moseby fled to Montreal and later to England. He returned to Niagara to live in freedom. The Moseby Affair reflected the extent to which Blacks would defend freedom on British soil.
The Waters Family: Roots of Black Settlement
Since the establishment of the Town, Black settlers have established roots in the community. One longstanding family of African roots is the Waters family. Humphrey Waters Sr., his wife Ann, and sons Humphrey Jr. and James moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1794 from Kingston upon receiving land grants. James was appointed sergeant in the Coloured Corps, while Humphrey Jr. served as a corporal. After the war, their families were able to rebuild their houses and farms. Humphrey Jr. and his wife Catherine Servos had several children, including John Waters and Daniel Servos Waters. Daniel owned a livery stable while John was a landlord and served as a Town councillor for six years. The Waters family were members of St. Mark’s Anglican Church. The Waters family, like many Black families, have roots going back generations.