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The Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation project was formed to save the Fugitive Slave Chapel built in 1848 in London Ontario Canada. More information at

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  1. 1. Originally built in 1848, the Fugitive Slave Chapel was sold on May 15th, 1869 and was used as a residence from that time until March of 2002 when the lot was purchased by Aboutown Transportation. On May 16th, 1869 the congregation held their dedication service at their new location , Beth Emanuel Church on Grey Street, which is still being used by the congregation.
  2. 2. When Aboutown purchased the lot it was for the intention of eventually expanding their parking area. It was only used for storage for about 10 years. On March 13, 2013 an application was filed to have the building demolished.
  3. 3.  Heritage activist Joseph O’Neil was not ready to let it go. Heritage activist wants to save building linked to the Underground Railroad By Chip Martin, The London Free Press Thursday, March 14, 2013
  4. 4.  A Savior is found when the current pastor of Beth Emanuel Church, Delta McNeish, agrees to have the old chapel moved to a location beside the congregation’s present church building.  Deal saves church built by former slaves from demolition  By Chip Martin, The London Free Press , Tuesday, March 19, 2013
  5. 5.  March 22, 2013 saw the formation of the Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation Project when concerned citizens representing 13 different organizations crowded into the Basement at Beth Emanuel Church. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Heritage London Foundation Congress of Black Women of Canada, London Chapter Architectural Conservancy of Ontario Beth Emmanuel Church Diaspora Black Men's Group (at the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection) African Canadian Federation of London and Area (its members include the Somali, North Sudanese, South Sudanese, Darfurian, Kenyan, Eritrean, and Ethiopian community associations) 7. Hidden History of Hamilton Road 8. London and Middlesex Historic Society 9. SoHo Community Association 10. London Black History Coordinating Committee 11.The London Advisory Committee on Heritage (LACH) 12.The City of London 13.Aboutown Transportation Limited
  6. 6.  Fundraising started off with a bang. We had two $5,000 donations and a fundraising Concert on June 14th, 2013.
  7. 7.  A quilt raffle brought in more money. The draw was made in Harris Park during London’s Canada Day celebrations.
  8. 8.  The next big fundraiser was a concert with the Karen Schuessler Singers on February 8th, 2014.  It was a huge success with about 600 in attendance  Road to Freedom contains narratives of fugitive slaves.
  9. 9.  Another quilt has been donated. It is valued at $400 and fundraising ideas are being discussed. A silent auction at future events will likely include this item.
  10. 10.  On November 7th, 2013 the 2¢ worth campaign was launched with a story in the London Free Press.  This campaign saw $24,307 raised by the end of November surpassing what had been raised during all events from March – October (7 months) As of mid February 2014 we have raised $61,708 and the City of London has promised a grant of $60,000. This leaves $43,292 still needed to move and stabilize the building. We have a lot of support for the project and money is still pouring in.
  11. 11.  Why is the Fugitive Slave Chapel important to so many people? a. It is an important part of the History of London, Canada, North America and the World. b. It played a part in the American civil war and the shaping of American politics. c. It was an aid to fugitive slaves and was instrumental in the abolition of slavery. d. It was a refuge to an oppressed people. e. It played a role in the spiritual healing of those escaping the horrors of slavery. f. It is an important part of Christian history and religious history in general.
  12. 12. On May 8th, 1926 the London Advertiser did a full page story about the Fugitive Slave Chapel during their Landmarks of London Series.
  13. 13. Reporter Edmund J. Carty claimed he had talked to a couple of people a few years prior to his 1926 report. They told him that they remembered abolitionist John Brown speaking in the chapel in 1858. A password was required to attend the gathering and the purpose was to raise a London regiment for his army who would be trained and then join others to fight the war against slavery in the USA. John Brown led 22 men on a raid against the armories at Harpers Ferry and held it for 30 hours in October 1859. He was executed by hanging on December 2nd, that same year.
  14. 14. The American Civil War  Many regard this raid at Harpers Ferry to be the incident that started the civil war. The civil war resulted in an overhaul of the American political system and the abolition of slavery. John Brown passed a note to a guard on the day of his execution. On it he had written, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.”  The civil war began 16 months later. This war accounted for more American casualties than all wars combined up until the Vietnam war.
  15. 15.  The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. The term is also applied to the abolitionists, both black and white, free  and enslaved, who aided the fugitives.
  16. 16. Fugitive Slaves ran great risks to escape. They had to contend with alligators and poisonous snakes in the southern swamp areas. They may have had to travel on foot through blizzards or extreme heat. Bloodhounds that were trained to tear them apart were set on their trail. But the most terrifying animal was the slave catcher. Many would prefer death to returning to the horrors of slavery.
  17. 17. The Horrors of Slavery  One only needs to look at the laws of the time to get a glimpse of the horrors of slavery. Today we hear of horrible crimes were children are raped and murdered. Just imagine how much more often that would happen if it were legal. Imagine how you would feel if you had to stand by while your owner was raping your little girl. If you tried to stop him you would be killed and your little girl would continue to be raped and you would not be around to comfort her.
  18. 18.  In the Book, Twelve Years a Slave, Solomon Northup describes the flogging of Patsey. She is described as the most productive worker on the plantation. She is bright and quick and everyone likes her. Her only crime is that her master took a liking to her and her mistress is jealous. For a while her master protects her, but when she is caught returning from a neighboring plantation he becomes jealous and has her flogged. She is stripped naked and staked face down on the earth. She is whipped until pieces of her flesh fly off with each lash and it continues until she can no longer scream.
  19. 19.  The free blacks were not much better off. They could not testify in a court of law and if a white person claimed a black as his slave, the law would force him into slavery. Some states had laws to allow for the retrieval of a free person thus kidnapped, but once in the South one had little chance of escape. Solomon Northup spend 12 years in slavery before he could get a letter off to let friends and family know were he was. Then the process of the law dragged out a few more months until he was rescued. If his owner had known about it in advance he would have hidden him were he would never have been found. Fortunately the rescuers reached him before the owner knew they were coming.
  20. 20. Canada  When the “Fugitive Slave Law” was passed in 1850 it gave greater power to the slave catchers and also put many free backs in jeopardy. Slave catchers could venture into the north and capture any black person and claim him or her as a slave. The law not only sanctioned their efforts but rewarded those who helped and there were severe punishments for those who aided runaways. Thus, with increased danger in the northern states, many free blacks and fugitive slaves came to Canada for safety.
  21. 21. London  Slave catchers would also venture into Canada. They would grab fugitives and load them on to boats or drag them across the border. Sometimes the fugitives would be enticed to go with them by the promise of a high paying job or some other reward. London, being further from the borders and the lakes, was regarded as a safer haven for the fugitive slave.
  22. 22.  Now, if you could imagine for a moment that you were a fugitive escaped from slavery. How would you feel? You had to run from the horrors you faced in slavery. You avoided being caught by your owners bloodhounds. You ran though swamps infested with poisonous snakes and alligators. You had to walk for months while being bitten by every kind of insect. You had been caught in a blizzard with inadequate clothing. You had almost starved to death while being afraid to approach anyone for help for fear of them being slave catchers. But you made it to London and you are now standing in front of the little chapel built by fugitive slaves and free blacks that came before you.
  23. 23.  The Fugitive Slave Chapel was there to help such people as these. The process of healing could begin, but first they needed to learn how to survive. The earlier fugitives would help them to find employment and find housing. They were taught how to deal with the prejudice of their new neighbors. When their children were excluded from the white schools, they fought for education. Against all odds, they created a better life for themselves and many became among the most affluent of London’s population.
  24. 24.  The historic structure on Thames Street was plaqued by the London Public Library's heritage sites committee in 1986, but this interpretive heritage plaque inexplicably went missing about a decade ago after Aboutown bought 275 Thames Street in 2002. The building is not designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act but is a "priority one" on the City's Inventory of Heritage Resources.
  25. 25.  Reporter Edmund J. Carty has an article about the Fugitive Slave Chapel published in the London Advertiser on May 8th, 1926  London Public Library has the building plaqued on August 11, 1986  A huge army of God’s angles arises to save the Chapel on March 22, 2013
  26. 26. 2¢ worth  When the chapel was built in 1848, 2 cents represented about 15 minutes of work for an unskilled labourer.  At today’s minimum wage that would be equal to about $2.50.  Is it worth 15 minutes of your time to save the Fugitive Slave Chapel?
  27. 27. Go to to find out how. Or mail a cheque to Beth Emanuel BME Church 430 Grey St, London, Ontario. N6B 1H3 You are invited to participate. Our speaker will let you know other ways of helping.