Sunday, 23 March 2014


The First Baptist Church in Chatham, Ontario connection to American Civil War


There is a small church in Chatham, Ontario that has a very important history. It is, however a history that is often not shared in Canada. Before I continue, let me ask all of the readers, have you heard of John Brown or the Raid on Harpers Ferry? If the answer is no, know that you are not alone. Many people recognize the name, but cannot identify exactly why he is important to the annals of time.
 John Brown, the infamous American abolitionist arrived in Chatham, Canada West on April 30, 1858. The purpose of his trip was to hold a convention. Brown chose Chatham due its large affluent Black population and because of its proximity to other settlements. (Buxton and Dawn) The intention of the convention was to write a new constitution for an independent settlement for free slaves established under the United States government. The settlement, however, would be without the sovereignty of the compact. According to Brown, It would be similar to the Nations of Indians and Mormons living in the United States.

John Brown

 In attendance at the convention was his son Owen, some of his Kansas followers and about sixty black men. The first convention was held at the BME Church in Chatham; however, once Rev, Toyer realized the purpose of the convention and Brown intentions, he refused Brown further access. Therefore, the second meeting was held down the street in the First Baptist Church. It was during this meeting that Brown formalized his plans to attack an arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, arm the slaves and lead a slave uprising in order to establish his new settlement. Only one gentleman from Chatham, Osborne Perry Anderson, participated in the raid. On October 16, 1859, Brown and his men attacked the arsenal. After holding the arsenal for two days, Brown and his men were defeated, and several men perished during the fight including two of Brown’s sons. Brown himself was captured and put on trial for treason against the U.S. government. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. Brown was executed on December 2, 1859. Anderson, however, survived the raid and returned to Chatham and wrote a book detailing his experience. Browns raid would is regarded as one of the impetuses for the American Civil War.

First Baptist Church, Chatham, Ontario.

Short of visiting Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, I would suggest to anyone who is interested in learning more about both John Brown and the raid on Harpers Ferry to visit the First Baptist Church. Tours of the First Baptist Church are conducted by members of the First Baptist Church Historical Society. Their enthusiasm for the history shines through with each tour, especially when pointing out the table that John Brown sat at during the convention. To visit the Church, one has to book a tour in advance with the society.

The Raid on Harpers Ferry

1 comment:

  1. In response to your question, yes, I have heard of John Brown. No, I did not know his role in relation to African-Canadian history. Thanks for sharing more information on this subject! I think you might do well to source this column to 9th grade American history textbooks...