More than a century ago, Owen Sound served as the most northern terminal of the Underground Railroad. In honour of its distinguished history, the city recently held its 150th Anniversary Emancipation Festival.
The three-day celebration began at the Grey Roots Museum, a repository for records and artifacts of the local Black community and was followed by a rededication ceremony at the Black History Cairn in Harrison Park.
The Cairn, a rounded or conical heap of stones, is a memorial to Owen Sound’s Black settlers.
“One of the many inscriptions in the Cairn reads ‘Over my head I see freedom in the air,’” said Owen Sound native and current Town Crier of Bracebridge, Bruce Kruger.
“Owen Sound is recognized as being the Northern Terminal of the Underground Railway, through which escaping slaves fleeing from the tyrannical yoke of slavery made their way to freedom.”
The ceremony also featured a question and answer session with Damion McMillan, a Grade Eight student who is researching Black history.
Among those present at the festival was Bonnie McIntyre (Hall), a direct descendent of John “Daddy” Hall, an escaped slave and veteran of the War of 1812. In 1842, Hall became the Town Crier of Owen Sound.
Following the rededication ceremony, an anniversary picnic and concert was held at Kelso Beach Park, where guests enjoyed Caribbean food and were entertained by a live orchestra.
One of the highlights of the celebration was the presentation of a carved wood bowl, made from a 150-year-old silver maple that was struck by lightning in Owen Sound, to Emancipation Festival chair Blaine Courtney from Councillor and Founding Chair of the Black Heritage Committee, Peter Lemon.
A “Gospel Fest” was held on the final day of the celebration, featuring performances by the David Sereda Sheatre Singers and the Divine Worship Singers.
By TED SHAW