Buxton bell tolled freedom for escaped slaves

(Canscene) — Fittingly this year, the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire occurs follows Black History Month. Britain’s anti-slavery act became law on March 25, 1807.

It would be another 60 years before slavery would be totally abolished in the United States and memories of the Underground Railroad that helped so many Black men, women and children to freedom are still strong in southwestern Ontario communities, particularly Buxton where a bell was rung each time a freed slave arrived.

Buxto Bell
Launching of the Buxton Bell replica at Queen’s Park Minister Colle with sculptor Brett Davis, Buxton Museum Curator Shannon Prince, Vice President of Buxton Historical Society Bryan Prince, and President of Buxton Historical Society Keenan Thomas.

In February, Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Mike Colle paid tribute to the Buxton Liberty Bell, by hosting a launching of a newly made replica which will remain on display at Queen’s Park until March 23.

“During the 1800s, the Buxton settlement represented safety and freedom for hundreds of American slaves escaping through the Underground Railroad,” said Colle. “For the first time, here at Queen’s Park, the Liberty Bell and its significance in our history will be shared with Ontarians.”

The original Liberty Bell was rung every time a slave reached freedom in Buxton, the largest planned fugitive slave settlement in Canada. This is the public’s first view of the replica bell as it makes its way home to the Buxton Historical Museum where it will be dedicated on Labour Day.

The original bell still hangs in the steeple of St. Andrews Church in South Buxton, calling the faithful to worship every Sunday morning. The bell has been out of public sight for nearly a century and a half.

“We, at the Buxton Museum, thank Minister Colle and everyone associated for helping us to create this replica of the Liberty Bell,” said Bryan Prince, Buxton Historical Society vice president and Shannon Prince, Buxton Museum curator. “The symbolism of the Liberty Bell represents more than just the Buxton story. It’s Ontario’s story.”

Last year, the Ontario government gave the Buxton National Historic Site the first Ontario’s Community Builders program grant to help build the replica. These grants are designed to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the diverse communities across the province.

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