Thus far the life of Hiram Wilson has been detailed regarding his activities as a Lane Rebel, an Oberlin seminarian, and as an aid in various parts of Southwestern Ontario, but one aspect of Wilson’s life has not been detailed, and that is his final years in St. Catherines, Ontario. Because of rising tension at the Dawn Settlement between Wilson as administrative official and, Josiah Henson as a “spiritual leader,” Wilson would be forced into resignation in 1847. 
After leaving the Dawn Settlement Wilson and his family would move to St. Catherines to protect fugitive slaves as well as provide education both theologically and academically. Much of his work was with the American Missionary Association where he would act as both preacher and teacher. During this period he would help many fugitives on their passage of the Underground Railway network, and even house many in his own household.
One noteworthy slave which Wilson would aid was the famous Harriet Tubman who arrived to Canada in 1851. At this time she would meet the Rev. Hiram Wilson at “Bethel Chapel” an church which would eventually become Salem Chapel a British Methodist Episcopal Church in 1855. Both Wilson and Tubman were very influential in guiding the slave activity in the region. 
Wilson would remain an influential preacher and teacher as well as abolitionist in St. Catherines. The activities of Wilson and Tubman at Bethel Chapel, later Salem Chapel would place it as St. Catherines first National Historical site.
For further reading:
 HENSON, JOSIAH in Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?BioId=39700
The Wilberforce settle is a free black community that is notable to the time period with our class is studying in regards to the letters of Hiram Wilson and his abolition work in Canada and the United States. Named after the famous British abolitionist, William Wilberforce, the Wilberforce settlement was founded in 1829-1830 by free blacks from Cincinnati, but due to poor management the settlement disbanded in six years later. Today,north of London, in Lucan, Ontario all that marks where the former Wilberforce colony stood is a plaque (pictured below).
Free black residents of Cincinnati were forced to leave the city when a $500 fee paid to the city was mandatory. The fee was part of the city’s 1807 Black Laws.Most free blacks could not afford this fee so they decided to seek refuge in Canada. The American Colonization Society played an active role in the formation of the Wilberforce settlement and helped fund the black settlers journey to freedom. Israel Lewis and Thomas Crissup were elected by Cincinnati black to help find land in Canada that would be suitable for a colony. They decided on an area north of London, Ontario, Biddulph County, on the Ausable River. They struck an agreement to purchase the land from the Canada company, at the cost of $1.50 an acre. In 1831, the settlement was named Wilberforce in honour of the British abolitionist William Wilberforce.
In 1829, the Cincinnati Riots sparked a mass exodus of black citizens from Cinncinati. Many made there way to the Wilberforce colony. The deal that had been struck between the Thomas, Crissup and the Canada company required $6000 for the land, which the settlers could not afford. They received financial assistance from Quakers James Brown and Stephen Duncan purchased 600 acres for Wilberforce. Some of the first homes and structures were constructed by 1832. The first year of the colony, there were only a handful of families, but within a few years estimates put the number of families in the colony from anywhere between 150-200 families settled here. The colony began to flourish and one of the first institutions established was a school. The original contingent of free blacks to Wilberforce were of a wealthier, more educated class who valued education and therefore wanted to establish a school for their children. Around 20-30 children attended this school.
Eventually conflicts between the the original group of settlers from Cincinnati and other black settlers divided the colony and led to its diaspora. Irish settlers began moving into the area and it became the town of Lucan. By the 20th century the only family from the Wilberforce colony with descendants still living in the area was Peter Butler. Many gravestones of the Butler family remain in a small family cemetery plot today in Lucan.
For further reading:
 Leverton, John, Wilberforce Colony , from Lucan 125 Souvenir Booklet 1871-1996.
Hiram Wilson was an active abolitionist and after the Slave-Debates at Lane Seminary he would enroll in Oberlin Seminary with some of the other “Lane Rebels.” As noted famous evangelist and revivalist Charles Finney was the Professor of Theology at Oberlin and would tutor Wilson. With his permission and blessing Wilson received twenty-five dollars and migrated north to Upper Canada in 1836 to investigate the fugitive slaves.
Image Source: http://collections.ic.gc.ca/freedom/page19.htm
It was during these years that Wilson would build a name for himself distinct from Finney, Oberlin, and the “Lane Rebels” as an abolitionist. Wilson would move to Upper Canada as a delegate of the American Anti-Slavery Society.  The status of the “free” slaves in Canada was in a despondent condition.  Utilizing charity and different fundraising methods he would help establish several different schools and churches for the former slaves.
With the aid of the Canada Mission Board, Wilson would be able to help establish a community as well as schools.  The Dawn Settlement was chosen as the place where the community would prosper and was already the home of Josiah Henson a run-away slave. In 1841 Henson and Wilson would work together to form a group called British-American Institute near Dresdon, Ontario. Wilson would continue to work at the institute until 1849.
Currently at the site of the school is the famous Uncle Tom’s Cabin which was noted in a previous post in relation to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Information relating to this historic site can be found at their website here.
For further reading, the following works were referenced:
 “Hiram Wilson”. accessed March 01, 2012.http://www.oberlin.edu/external/EOG/LaneDebates/RebelBios/HiramWilson.html.
 Allen P. Stouffer 1992. The light of nature and the law of god: Antislavery in ontario, 1833-1877. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 67.
 Jacqueline L. Tobin and Hettie Jones, From midnight to dawn: The last tracks of the underground railroad, 2007, 26.
The source material that has provided a jumping-off point for our research, abolitionist Hiram Wilson’s letters, came to us via the Amistad Research Center. The Amistad Research Center, based out of Tulane University in New Orleans.
The Amistad Research center can find its roots in the American Missionary Association, which emerged from a group of abolitionists called The Amistad Committee. The Amistad Committee was a collection of abolitionists who came to the defense of the African slaves revolted against the crew on the ship. The AMA later became an inter-racial organization committed to equality, that contributed to the founding colleges such as Fisk University, Dillard University and others.
Following the WWII, the Amistad research center set up a race relations department at Fisk University. After several moves throughout the years, the Amistad Research Centre was moved to Tulane University in 1987, where it remains today.
As well, the Amistad Research Center provides a wealth of primary sources for researchers, including photos, letters, diaries from a variety of ethnic minorities and the United States.About 90% of the resources at the research centre focus on the experiences of black Americans, but the other ten percent focuses on other ethnic minorities.
The Amistad Research also has a blog that is updated regularly, which can be found here
Hirim Wilson is a central figure in the research done by Huron University College’s Promise Land Project, specifically in the Historians Craft. Utilizing the skills necessary as a historian we have been continuing the transcription of his letters as well as placing his life in the context of African American history. A wonderfully short biography of Hirim Wilson is available at the Oberlin University website here.
For our purposes the following post will follow the theme of the Lane Rebels and their connection with Canada. As an active abolitionist Wilson partook in the Slavery Debates which took place over 18 days at Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio beginning in February, 1834. The abolitionist cause did not begin in Ohio, but this was still one of the foundational debates which took place and caused quite a stir amongst the local magistrate. The school board as well as local citizens were concerned about this “radical” expression of abolitionism and silenced any further debates. Hirim with about 40 to 50 other students left the college and formed an agreement with the newly founded Oberlin College.
The conditions for their joining the college were as follows: 1) Oberlin accepts students of any colour, 2) the college respect Freedom of Speech, and 3) that the city not interferes with the affairs of the school. It was here under the guidance of professor of theology Charles Finney that a young Wilson would receive his theological degree. With a small capital of twenty-four dollars Finney sent Wilson to Upper Canada in 1836 to investigate the situation with the escaped slaves.
By 1850 the Fugitive Slave Act was in effect and many of the free slaves in Ohio were in serious harm. With such close proximity to Upper Canada it became a safe haven for many fugitives. Unlike the earlier Fugitive Slave Act’s slave-owners could enter different states and could force the assistance of local authorities. By this point Wilson had established many different educational institutions for fugitive slaves and blacks; with the aid of Oberlin graduates and others teachers were available for the growing populous in Canada.
The following is part of a serious on Hirim Wilson.
The “Lane Rebels” were a group of about 50 students who revolted against the civil magistrate of Cincinnati, Ohio which prohibited antislavery agitation that was growing at Lane Theological Seminary. Oberlin College seized upon this opportunity and invited the rebels to join them. The result of this was both an agreement and the founding of Oberlin Theological Seminary with the famous Charles Finney as the Professor of theology. Oberlin College became an interracial which was committed to the cause of emancipation as well as education of African Americans. Unlike Cincinnati the magistrate of Oberlin were not permitted to infringe upon either the enrollment of students or their freedom of speech.
While the slavery debates at Lane Theological Seminary were silenced their legacy lived on in Oberlin, Ohio, where the abolitionist cause would only grow. One of the leaders of the rebels Theodore D. Weld would be admitted to Oberlin Seminary. Calvin Ellis Stowe, the husband of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe was a professor at the theological seminary at this time. It was by this point that Oberlin became a vital and active point on the Underground Railroad as many slaves made their way to freedom.
One very important person who is connected with both Oberlin and the Lane Rebels is the minister Hirim Wilson who left with the rebels for Oberlin. After receiving his degree in 1836 the professor Charles Finney would give him some money to travel to Upper Canada and observe the slaves who travelled there. Hirim Wilson’s letters are central to the Historian’s Craft class at Huron and the research for Promised Land Project.
Because the focus of our research is on abolition as well as the importance of African Americans throughout the month of February we will be making regular posts on Black History. It seems fitting that the first post relate to the history and origins of the annual event of Black History.
The origins of Black History Month begin with Black History Week which is credited to the son of a slave, Carter G. Woodson (b. December 18, 1875). Because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born in February, it was selected for the commemoration of Black History. In order to preserve African American history and culture Woodson started the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 to publish information regarding black people and their history. He would later found the Journal of Negro Studies in 1916. Woodson’s aim was not the education of only black people, but all people regarding the importance of the contributions black people offer to everyone.
In 1976 Black History Week formally became Black History Month. Worth noting is that since 1926 the annual celebration has also highlighted different themes. The current theme for Black History Month in 2012 is Black Women in American Culture and History. This is fitting as it not only highlights an aspect of racial history but also gender history which can sometimes be minimized.
On our trip to Oberlin in the fall, as well as visiting the archives, we had an opportunity to tour the the campus and surrounding area of Oberlin. This tour was a great starting point to our research, and provided a great opportunity to learn about the abolitionist roots of Oberlin College. We learned about such prominent figures as that contributed to the foundation of the college and seminary such as Charles Finney and John Mercer Langston.
A plaque explaining Oberlin’s abolitionist past.
The monument commemorating the Oberlin Wellington Rescue of the slave John Price.
A plaque commemorating those who assisted in the rescue of John Price.
Clark Bandstand at Tappen Square, a Square named for the 19th century abolitionist Charles Tappen.
The famous “Reading Girl” statue at the Mudd Library. She even has has her own blog!
The Little Red Schoolhouse at Oberlin College, the oldest building at Oberlin. Built in 1837, it’s current location is the fourth place it has been moved to.
This is just a small sample of our tour at Oberlin. In addition to posting other content, we will continue to post more pictures of our trip to Oberlin. As well, look for our Black History Month, starting tomorrow and continuing every Wednesday for the month of February.