Historic Otterville/ Mill-and-Station Museum
*Mill is located at 243 Main Street West, Otterville N0J 1R0* Otterville's Black Settlement and the African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery Black people leaving the northern United States for Canada often settled near Quakers. Around Otterville, home of ardent abolitionist William Cromwell, they felt safe and were accepted. The first recorded land record for a Black settler is dated 1833. By 1840, the Otterville area had become a significant area of Black settlement in Upper Canada. Education was extremely important to them and they soon built a school for their children, which became S.S. #18. School records show Black children attending every school in the former Township of South Norwich.
Backstory and Context
By 1856 they had constructed the African Methodist Episcopal Church on the outskirts of Otterville. Renamed the British Methodist Episcopal Church, this structure became the centre for large church camp meetings attended by Blacks and Whites from surrounding areas. Often the visiting Black minister preached in the Otterville Methodist Church. Surrounding the site of the former church is the cemetery, which was restored by the South Norwich Historical Society in 2007.
Guided tours are available of this site and the Grand Trunk Railway Station Museum that houses the local Black History collection. These souls found their way to Otterville as early as 1829 looking for a better way of life here in what was at the time Upper Canada, some before the term Underground Railroad was coined. Though the Black population in the Otterville area thrived for many decades, by the early 1900s the community was in decline, as most of its members had moved to live elsewhere, many resettling in the United States.