Town unveils heritage plaque honouring Oakville’s black community

Wed, 27 Nov 2019

On November 24, Town Councillors Ray Chisholm, Cathy Duddeck, and Natalia Lishchyna joined Andrew Tyrrell of the Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton, and Lorraine Unett and Arlene Duncan, descendants of Jeremiah Adams, at Burnet Park for the unveiling of a heritage plaque entitled, Burnet Street and Oakville’s Black Community.

The plaque commemorates Oakville’s black history and community members. As an official Port of Entry into Canada, Oakville was one of the major destinations along the Underground Railroad and the first glimpse of freedom for many freed and escaped African-American slaves. The Underground Railroad saw over 40,000 African-American people migrating from the United States to Canada between 1850 and 1860 alone.

“It is an honour to celebrate Oakville’s vibrant black history and the legacy of the many African-American individuals who have contributed so much to the fabric of our community,” said Councillor Cathy Duddeck.

The plaque tells the story of Samuel Adams, who became a prominent member of Oakville’s black community after settling here in the early 1850s, and the history of the home that once sat at 104 Burnet Street, owned by Jeremiah Adams (Samuel’s son).

Samuel, a freed slave from Baltimore, moved to the Oakville area with his family in 1851. He established a successful blacksmith practice in Bronte and used his wealth to help other former slaves make a home for themselves in Upper Canada. He was also integral in the creation of the Turner African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1891, which was a large part of Oakville’s black faith community and a hub of social activity.

Jeremiah was a dedicated member of the community who worked at the Chisholm family’s mill and volunteered at the church.

In 1909, Jeremiah and his wife Eliza purchased the home at 104 Burnet Street living there for nearly 40 years, raising five children together. Shortly after celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary, Jeremiah and Eliza both passed away in 1948. The home was left to one of their daughters, Nina Adams, and was then passed onto other members of the Wayner, Duncan and Skeete families - descendants of Jeremiah.

The home remained in possession of Jeremiah’s family and descendants for over 100 years before it was demolished in 2016.

In addition to the heritage plaque at Burnet Park, Oakville’s black history is also showcased through several permanent exhibitions at the Oakville Museum. Text from the Museum’s display panels can also be viewed on the Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton’s website.