Owen Sound has several Black history sites dotted throughout the City. Some are significant for the role they have played in Black history; others are resource sites where more information on the City’s Black history can be found. The Owen Sound Underground Railroad Driving Tour has directions and more information on these and other Black history sites.
Black History Cairn, Harrison Park
The commemorative Cairn was erected in honour of Owen Sound’s Black settlers. The dedication ceremony took place at the annual Emancipation Celebration Picnic on July 31, 2004.
British Methodist Episcopal (BME) Church, 11th Street West
This traditionally Black church building is the fifth in the congregation’s more than one hundred year history. It was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act (1974) as of "historical significance" on July 17, 1989. Fundraising is now underway for major repairs to the building.
Buchan Manor, 682 2nd Avenue East
Arrivals from the Underground Railroad are believed to have been welcomed here. Fugitives entered a tunnel that ran from the river to a building in the home’s back garden.
Charles Rankin House, 996 1st Avenue West
Charles Rankin was the Deputy Provincial Surveyor and the nephew of Captain Charles Stuart, an ardent abolitionist. Stuart was corresponding secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society. It is reported that Stuart did not allow the use of any products of slave labour in his home, including sugar and cotton.
Congregational Church, 898 1st Avenue West
Now housing the Christian Science Society, the original Congregational Church and the building behind it were “safe houses” for escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad. It is the oldest church building in Owen Sound, built from local stone cut onsite.
Damnation Corners, 4th Avenue and 8th Street East
Only two of the four “local establishments” that once graced these four corners remain. Many Blacks worked at these or one of the City’s other many hotels in various positions.
Douglass Street Mission, 1723 8th Avenue East
Now home to the M’Wikwedong Cultural Centre, this building was once the Douglass Street Mission, organized by the Central United Church to assist Black families during the new settlement’s earliest years.
Greenwood Cemetery, 190 1st Street South West
A quiet corner of the City cemetery is the resting place of many of Owen Sound’s Black citizens. Others are in various locations throughout the cemetery.
Grey Roots: Your Heritage & Visitor Centre, 102599 Grey Road 18, R.R. #4
The award winning exhibit, “From Slavery to Freedom”, traces the Black history of Grey County and is a permanent exhibit at this facility. The Grey County Archives are also stored here and available for research.
Local Heroes Square at City Hall, 808 2nd Avenue East
John “Daddy” Hall, believed to be Owen Sound’s first Black resident, is featured on a plaque honouring him as one of the City’s local heroes.
Northcliffe Mission, 1835 3rd Avenue East
The building today known as the Scout Building was dedicated as the Northcliffe Mission for Blacks in 1922.
Oldest Slave Built Home Still Owned by a Descendant, 242 11th Street West
In the 1870s, Francis Molock, an escaped slave from Maryland, built this home. The door and windowsills are constructed of stone quarried locally. Francis’ descendants still own and occupy the residence.
Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library, 824 First Avenue West
The Bruce Grey branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society houses their genealogical records in the library. Also available for research are County newspapers on microfilm, historical documents, books and papers.
Owen Sound Farmers Market, behind City Hall
A farmers market since 1851, this area once was the hub of the community. Mary “Grannie” Taylor and her husband, John, a blacksmith, were escaped slaves. Mary set up a small eatery here, serving pies, oysters and fruit.
Salvation Corners, 10th Street and 4th Avenue East
This corner earned its nickname of “Salvation Corners” as a church sits on each of the four corners: St. George's Anglican Church, Division Street United Church, First Baptist Church and Church of the Nazarene. Black masons were part of the labour force that built the churches from locally quarried stone. It has been said that the Church of the Nazarene (then known as the Church of Christ Disciples) offered shelter to runaway Blacks from slave catchers and bounty hunters.
Victoria Park, 7th Avenue East
The Pleasure Grounds site was once the location of a small community of Black residents, including John “Daddy” Hall and his family. At that time, it was thickly wooded and full of wildlife. Daddy Hall claimed squatters’ rights, apparently granted by Queen Victoria herself, to his home until his death in 1900.