Research Minute - Professor Naomi Norquay on the Old Durham Road Black Pioneer Settlement

Researching the Old Durham Road Black Pioneer Settlement

I’m interested in both the oral history and the document history of a disappeared Black pioneer settlement in ceded Chippewa territory in present day Grey County, Ontario. The settlers along the Durham Road were among the first non-native settlers in this area, arriving around 1849 / 50. In my research, which includes oral history interviews with community members, archival searches and also, walking the land, I’m uncovering lots of interesting stories about this disappeared community.

Although school curriculum has begun to move away from Black history that is centred around the Underground Railroad, there is still an emphasis on individual people of note (Hariett Tubman, Mary Bibb, Elijah McCoy, for example) and little about communities and “every day” people. My research attempts to animate the scant details found in the census documents and other government records with an aim to provide a more complex and detailed account of settlement.