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African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery

0, Church Street, Township of Norwich, Ontario, N0J, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2006/08/08

Featured are the 1950s entrance sign and the plaque erected by the Ontario Heritage Trust.; Ministry of Culture, 2007.
African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, 2007
Plaque commemorating the first black settlement and the only original stone from the cemetery.; Ministry of Culture, 2007.
Commemorative Cairn, 2007.
Featured is one of the stone markers marking the burial place of over 140 black settlers.; Kendra Green, 2007.
Grave marker, 2007

Other Name(s)

African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery
Otterville African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery
African Methodist Episcopal Church
British Methodist Episcopal Church

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/01/07

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).

Heritage Value

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

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




Recognition Authority

Local Governments (ON)

Recognition Statute

Ontario Heritage Act

Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Designation (Part IV)

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

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

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Philosophy and Spirituality
Peopling the Land

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Township of Norwich 210 Main Street East Norwich, Ontario N0J 1P0

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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