By Fred Landon

[...] Wilberforce colored colony does not take rank as one of the larger settlements of this kind in Canada. Neither was it as long lived as some others. It was a failure almost from the start.

[...] From the beginnings of the Wilberforce colony we go to Cincinnati, Ohio. [...] In Cincinnati there was constant turmoil over the race question and the abolition movement. [...] The climax came when in 1829 the law of 1804, known as the Ohio Black Law, was revived in the state and enforced. By this law every colored man was to give bonds of $500 not to become a town charge and to find bonds also for his hiers. No one could employ a colored man or colored woman to do any kind of labor under penalty of $100.

[...] There were about 3,000 colored people in Cincinnati at the time and they were all thrown out of work. Moreover there were threats that if they remained they would be sold back into slavery. [...] There was talk of going to Texas, then Canada was proposed and a colonization Society was formed with J.C. Brown as President.

[...] Inside of a month they were in Canada and a contract was entered into with the Canada Land Company for a township of land for which $60,000 a year for ten years was to be paid. The intention was to bring as many as possible of the Cincinnati people to his township and settle them as a colony. But the Black Law having really become inoperative in Cincinnati, of the 2, 700 or more who were affected only 460 left their home and of these 460 only five or six families actually settled in Biddulph. [...] Almost at the same time, however, there was an immigration of refugees from Boston and fifteen families came to Biddulph and settled. As a matter of fact the colony only paid for about 1,200 acres which was divided into plots of 25 to 50 acres per family. The site was the present village of Lucan.

[...] The failure of the colony came through two main causes. First of all, the persecutions in the state of Ohio moderated almost as soon as the first refugees left, reducing the number of emigrants to a handful. In the second place, the Canada Land Company's agents, fearing that the colored colony would tend to keep away white settlers, suddenly refused to sell more land to the colonists and thus prevented any expansion. Then, while this rule was in force, there came the Irish immigration of the Thirties and Biddulph, instead of becoming a colored colony, was in a very few years turned into an Irish colony and has so remained to this day. The old colored families who had settled there remained and prospered in a measure but few new ones came and by the middle of the Forties Wilberforce as a colony was practically non-existent. Henceforth it was but a small colored settlement in the midst of the Irish. [...]

Source: Fred Landon, "Transactions of the London and Middlesex Historical Society" (London: London and Middlesex Historical Society, 1918). Notes: J.J. Talman Regional Collection, University of Western Ontario Archives, Reaney Papers, Box 27 (B1313), File 16.

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