African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery
Otterville African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery
African Methodist Episcopal Church
British Methodist Episcopal Church
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery is situated on the west side of Church Street, 1km north of County Road 19, at the edge of the Village of Otterville, in the Township of Norwich. The property is the location of the former African Methodist Episcopal Church and the burial ground of the area's first black settlers.
The property was designated by the Township of Norwich, in 2006, for its historic or architectural value or interest, under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 63-2006).
The African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, the burial place for over 140 Black pioneers, is one of the few remaining black pioneer burial grounds in Ontario. It is also significant as the site of the former African Methodist Episcopal Church. Established by Isaac Grey, Isaac Durphy and Lindsey Anderson, who were trustees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the frame church, with Anderson as its first preacher, served the Black pioneer community from 1856 until the late 1880s. Free Blacks and escaped slaves fled persecution in the United States and sought refuge in Canada. On the encouragement of the local Quaker population, Blacks came to the Norwich area beginning in 1829. The local Black pioneer population grew to almost 100 by the year 1860.
Though the Black population in the Norwich 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. Over the course of time, the church fell into disrepair and was demolished. The cemetery site became degraded and most of the stones which marked the burials were removed. Nature has taken its course and the site is now a forested landscape.
More recently, however, the Township of Norwich and the local community has undertaken a restoration of the Cemetery site that includes small marble markers with candle engravings that denote the burial places of the 144 Black pioneers. Cornerstones were placed to mark the location of the original frame Church. These efforts demonstrate Otterville's pride and appreciation for a truly significant era in its history.
Sources: Township of Norwich, By-law 63-2006; Pettigrew, Joyce, Safe Haven: the Story of the Black settlers of Oxford County.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery include its:
- archaeological resources, including the location of approximately 144 burials
- original grave marker and plaque placed in a cairn at the cemetery entrance
- grave stones with candle engravings marking the burial placement of the settlers
- cornerstones which mark the location of the frame church
- plaque placed in the cairn at the entrance, commemorating the first Black settlers, their leaders, the church and the cemetery
- entrance gates on which, “African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery” is inscribed
Local Governments (ON)
Ontario Heritage Act
Municipal Heritage Designation (Part IV)
1856/01/01 to 1880/01/01
1988/01/01 to 2007/01/01
2006/01/01 to 2006/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Philosophy and Spirituality
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Township of Norwich
210 Main Street East
Cross-Reference to Collection