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Description found in Archives
Collection consists of
Place of creation
1 microfilm reel.
Scope and content
The collection consists of Rev. William King's manuscript autobiography, a transcript of the autobiography, correspondence, personal papers, legal documents, printed material pertaining to slavery and fugitive slaves in Canada, newspapers, and other records relating to the Elgin settlement, Buxton Mission, and the settlement of Blacks in Ontario.
The originals in volumes 1 to 4 have been withdrawn from circulation. Researchers must use the copies on microfilm reel C-2223.
Textual records The finding aid lists the correspondence in chronological order and lists the newspapers and dates of issues microfilmed on reel C-1462. MSS0191 90 (Electronic)
Biography / Administrative history
William King was born 11 November 1812 in Northern Ireland, son of William King, a farmer, and Elizabeth Torrence. He was sent in his early teens to an academy near Coleraine where he received a classical education. He attended the University of Glasgow but left in 1833 to move with his family to the United States and settle in Ohio. He moved south in 1835 to Jackson, Louisiana, where he taught and became rector of Mathews Academy. He married Mary Mourning Phares, 10 January 1841, in East Feliciana, Louisiana, the daughter of a wealthy slave owner. King, who had become disillusioned with southern society and slavery, returned to Scotland in 1843 to study theology and was licensed to preach by the Free Church of Scotland. His wife died while they were in Scotland. Appointed by the church's colonial committee to serve as a missionary in Canada, King returned to North America alone in 1846.
King conceived a plan to return to Louisiana to sell his estate, bring his slaves to Canada, and free them. Returning to Canada in June 1848, he proposed creating a settlement that would offer Blacks land, education, and religion. The synod of the Presbyterian Church in Canada formed a committee, including Rev. Robert Burns and Rev. Michael Willis, to assist in his design and they selected a large tract of land in Raleigh township near Chatham, Canada West (Ontario). King became the managing director of a stock company named the Elgin Association with authorization to purchase the land and establish the Elgin settlement. In spite of local opposition led by Edwin Larwill, King arrived in Elgin on 28 November 1849 with the fifteen slaves he had freed to form the nucleus of the new settlement. The Elgin Association governed the secular affairs of the community while the Buxton Mission, supported by the Presbyterian Church, attended to its religious needs. Black families acquired 50 acre lots which they cleared and farmed. The population of the settlement, known both as Elgin and Buxton, had grown to 130 families by 1853.
King remarried, 15 September 1853, to Jemima Nicolina Baxter at Buxton. He had been ordained by the Canadian church in 1851 and during the 1850s travelled extensively in North America and Great Britain to raise funds for the mission. The success of the settlement did not forestall an exodus back to the United States after the outbreak of the Civil War. Seventy men from Elgin enlisted in the northern army. The settlement continued but the Elgin Association, no longer required, eventually dissolved in 1873. King retired from active ministry on 10 July 1883 but continued to preach on occasion. After the death of his wife in 1887, he moved from Elgin to Chatham where he died, 5 January 1895.
For more information see the biography by Jason H. Silverman in the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography" or King's own autobiography in the collection.
Associated material note
Exhibition Title: Culture and Democracy: Lord and Lady Elgin in Canada, 1847-1854. Curators: National Archives of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. (FC 3100 N3 K55 1860 folio) Further Venue: Rideau Hall, Ottawa, Ontario; 2003.04.02-2003.08.18. Further Venue: La Citadelle, Quebec City, Quebec; 2003.09.05-2004.02.16. Further Venue: Château Ramezay Museum, Vieux-Montreal, Quebec; 2004.04.16-2004.05.02.
1. Newspapers - Canada, 1849-1895 Buxton Mission, 1836-1895.
2. Missionaries - Ontario, 1836-1895 Elgin Association, 1836-1895.
3. William King - Biography, 1836-1895.
4. Slavery - Canada, 1835-1895.
5. Legal documents - Ontario, 1836-1895.
6. Schools - Ontario - Records and correspondence, 1836-1895.
7. Associations, institutions, etc., - Canada, 1836-1895.
Other system control no.
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