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Skip Navigation LinksSimcoe County > Archives > Researching Black History in Simcoe County

Researching Black History in Simcoe County

​​​​​​​Updated: 2022-09-27

This page will direct users to resources on researching Black History in Simcoe County.​

2017-129 African Methodist Episcopal Church front, 2000
From the Eileen Murdoch collection​

Black people have been building lives in North America for as long as there has been a colonial presence here, and this includes the County of Simcoe. ​Enslaved Africans were taken to British North America from the mid-17th century until the abolition of the slave trade​ in 1807.​​

Following the abolition of the slave trade, dating back to 1819, there were a number of well-documented migrations of Black people to Simcoe County, primarily from the United Sates and southwestern Ontario. Many of those original families settled in the Township of Oro (today the Township of Oro-Medonte), with later generations branching out to the surrounding Township of Medonte (Township of Oro-Medonte), the Townships of Flos and Vespra (Township of Springwater), the Townships of Sunnidale and Nottawasaga (Township of Clearview) and beyond. 

 ​The Simcoe County Archives holds very few records that predate the 1830s. For this reason, the resources listed here will mainly focus on early Black settlements in the County following the War of 1812. These resources will also be of use to those researching Black families and individuals living in Simcoe County through the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. 

Class photo for School Section Number 6 Edgar in Oro Township, 1893 ​2016-25  S.S. No. 6 Oro Township (Edgar) school children, 1893
From the Oro Township Historical Committee collection

It should be noted that the majority of records and collections held by the Simcoe County Archives were created by agents of municipal governments and/ or white historians and researchers. The Archives have​ very few records created by Black people describing their lives and experiences. This is an obvious and unfortunate gap in our collections. Archives staff are working to identify the gaps, silences, and biases present within these records and collections and are working to create better, more contextualized, archival descriptions​. For more information about this process, please refer to our Historical Content and Language Advisory​.​​​

 The Archives is also seeking to acquire records from interested BIPOC community members, businesses, and organizations. 

​Resources at Simcoe County Archives 

Institutional records

These resources are available for review on site at the Archives. To book a Reading Room Appointment please visit the Archives Booking Service page​

 ​Land records 

  • Municipal Tax Assessment Rolls 
  • Simcoe County Patent Book

imcoe County Patent Book, page 298, features entries of early Black land patent holders in Oro Township, on Wilberforce Street

972-86​ Simcoe County Patent Book, page 298.
Features entries of early Black land patent holders in Oro Township

School records​, church records, cemetery records 

  • School, church, and cemetery records, particularly for the historic Townships of Flos, MedonteSunnidale, and Oro, as well as the Town of Collingwood 

​Corporate and municipal records

  • Corporation of the Town of Collingwood fonds 

  • Corporation of the Township of Flos fonds 

  • Corporation of the Township of Medonte fonds 

  • Corporation of the Township of Oro fonds

    • Oro Township Historical Committee collection​

  • Corporation of the Township of Sunnidale fonds  

Private fonds and collections

  • Gary E. French collection 

  • East Simcoe District Women's Institute fonds

  • Eileen Murdoch collection 

  • New Lowell Women's Institute fonds

  • West Simcoe District Women's Institute fonds​

 Thematic Finding Aids 

  • Township of Oro Thematic Finding Aid 

  • Town of Collingwood Thematic Finding Aid 

  • Township of Medonte Thematic Finding Aid 

  • Township of Sunnidale Thematic Finding Aid 

  • Township of Flos Thematic Finding Aid 

  • Simcoe County Archives Photo Index 

  • ​Simcoe County Archives Map Index 

 Printable Guide​​s 

  • Morgan's Seed
    By Janie Cooper-Wilson, 2004​

  • The Oro African Church:  A History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Edgar, Ontario, Canada 
    Edited by Tim Crawford, 1999 

  • Men of Colour:  An Historical Account of the Black Settlement on Wilberforce Street and in Oro Township, Simcoe County, Ontario, 1819-1949 
    By Gary E. French, 1978  

  • Medonte:  A Township Remembered 
    Compiled by Mary Garbutt, 2003 

  • Emancipation Day:  Celebrating Freedom in Canada 
    By Natasha Henry, 2010 

  • Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Simcoe: including the district of Muskoka and the townships of Mono and Mulmur for 1872-3 
    By W.H. Irwin, 1872  

  • ​A History of Oro Schools, 1836 to 1966
    Compiled by the Oro School Board Historical Committee, 1967 

  • Kith 'N Kin 
    Compiled and edited by Joanna McEwen, 1978  
  • The Story of Oro 
    Edited by Oro Township Historical Committee, 1987 

  • Wilberforce Street 
    By Janet Read, 1998 

  • Sunnidale looks at… Yesterday:  A History of Sunnidale Township 
    Compiled by The Township of Sunnidale, 1984 ​