Sunday, 16 March 2014

AFRICAN CANADIAN HISTORY: THE STORY BEHIND THE DESIGNATION OF THE BUXTON NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

BY: BLAIR NEWBY

On Thursday it was announced in my hometown of Chatham-Kent that two of the individuals involved in preserving the African Canadian History in my community were named citizens of the year by the Chamber of Commerce.  Both Shannon Prince, Curator of the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum and Bryan Prince, an author and vice chair of the Buxton Historical Society, are quite deserving of this honour.  The husband and wife team have worked for years tirelessly saving and sharing the history of the Buxton Settlement. 

Bryan and Shannon Prince at the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum.

Learning that the Princes, my Aunt and Uncle, had been bestowed this honour made me think of the time and effort that the former Curator of the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, then referred to as the Raleigh Township Centennial Museum put into the museum. As you may remember, from a previous post I wrote during Black History Month, prior to Mrs. Prince assuming the position of Curator, my Mother Alice Newby held that position. However, what I didn’t mention was the reason my mother had to retire. For years, since my mother was in her early twenties she had suffered from Crohn’s disease and in 1998, due to her illness she was forced to retire. However, in one of her last official duties as the Curator of the museum, my mother did something that would forever change the status and the future of the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum.  

Alice Newby (right) and Quinn Newby at the unveiling of the Buxton Liberty Bell replica at Queens Park.

There are more than 950 National Historic Sites in Canada and each one is a unique representation of Canada’s past.  In September of 1998, as part of an inquiry to distinguish the significance of the sites connected to the Underground Railroad in Canada, Shannon Ricketts, a Parks Canada historian visited the Buxton Settlement. My mother having been ill for several months and hospitalized during the summer months summoned the strength to guide Ms. Ricketts during her survey of the settlement. What was only supposed to be short visit turned into a daylong tour. In December of 1998, Ms. Ricketts submitted her report to the Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada (HSMBC) and when the Board met that same month, the HSMBC decided to recommend the Buxton Settlement for designation as a national historic site and commemoration by means of a plaque. In 1999, 150 years following the founding of the Elgin Settlement and during the Buxton Community’s 75th Homecoming celebration the plaques were officially unveiled. The timeframe for a site, person or event to be designated as Nationally Significant is normally much longer than a few months. I like to think that it was not only the rich history that impacted Ms. Rickett’s report that afternoon. But also, the dedication to the  preservation and promotion of the Buxton Settlement that my mother had in order for her to leave her sickbed influenced her writing too, because it definitely has left a lasting impression on me.
For more information concerning the Buxton Settlement please visit www.buxtonmuseum.com

Buxton National Historic Site plaques. The plaques are located on the museum 
grounds in front of School Section #13 Raleigh. The one room schoolhouse
 is the only school still standing in Canada that was built by fugitive slaves.
Image courtesy of Blair Newby.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations for Bryan and Shannon! Such a pleasure and honor to have met them only a few weeks ago! I am more and more amazed at the history of the Buxton Museum and look forward to organizing a trip for MMSt students in the Fall or Winter of next year.

    ReplyDelete