History

Founding of the Original SS13 Schoolhouse


Schoolhouse History



Shrewsbury's first school, School Section #13, was built on the new Scotland Line in 1860-61, due in no small part, to the efforts of Mr. Addison Smith. It was an integrated school and it's first teacher was Mrs. Emeline Shadd. During the 1860's Raglan was a thriving harbor and community of its own. 
Because a common school could be started where there were at least 20 students, the Raglan community petitioned for it's own schoolhouse, to be known as S.S. No. 13 1/2 Raglan. The original school was wood framed and built on School Street, (Hunter Sideroad). When the new school was built in 1895, on the corner of School Street and New Scotland Line, the original framed schoolhouse was moved across from the Methodist Cemetery on the Eau Road.






Addison Smith Founder of SS13 Schoolhouse
Addison Smith 

Story by:
Catherine Meehan Blount

The story of my great grand uncle Addison Smith (through marriage) always leaves me in awe.  Although he did not travel to Harpers Ferry, he was certainly the type of man John Brown would have recruited for his army.

Addison Smith was a remarkable man who touched our Meehan family. My great grandmother’s sister, Mary Anderson (Hester Freeman Meehan's aunt) married Addison Smith sometime around 1850. Addison Smith was born enslaved in Murfreesboro, Tennessee about 1797.  By 1849/50 he escaped those who held him captive and made his way to Canada. There he married his third wife, Mary. Mr. Smith fathered 29 (yes 29!!!) children, 8 while enslaved and 21 with my great grand aunt in Ontario, Canada.

Mr. Smith was said to have been “the militant and public spirited first colored citizen of the village” of Shrewsbury, Ontario, Canada. An 1855 article in the Provincial Freeman reported that when Addison Smith first moved to Shrewsbury his house on Brock Street was burned as a form of intimidation to blacks. Unmoved, Addison purchased the lot next door to his original house, giving him a beautiful, large corner lot to build on.

Along with Mary Anderson Smith’s cousin, Osborne Perry Anderson, Addison Smith was listed as a member of John Brown’s Chatham Convention in 1858 and a signer of Brown’s Provisional Constitution – precursor to the Harper’s Ferry raid.  Interestingly, Mr. Smith said in an 1896 newspaper interview that he “kept out of it” when John Brown was in Chatham. He goes on to say in that same article that John Brown’s son was “with him long after” in Shrewsbury trying to convince him to go to Haiti.  [The article isn’t clear if this refers to after the Convention or after the Harper’s Ferry Raid. The son’s name is not referenced.]

Addison Smith died on Christmas day 1908 at the age of 111, having lived in three centuries.

The Buxton Museum holds the 1896 newspaper interview with Mr. Smith, in which he shares details of his life in slavery, his escape and his life in Canada.

The picture of Addison Smith was taken from the 1896 article.




Article by Carol Pinkerton,
Michigan Chronicle, Sept. 13, 2006

Of our founding, the life of Addison Smith has been the most documented to date. In an interview with Gwen Robinson, Historian and author from Chatham-Kent, the former slave from Murfreesboro Tennessee, Addison Smith related his travels, life and experiences. Escaping from bondage, he traveled the Underground Railroad to the Detroit River where he came upon a man he asked to take him across. The man told Smith that he had to talk with someone first. Fearing that the man's statement may be a trap, Smith took the boat across the river himself and made his way to Chatham. He settled there and eventually opened a grocery store, thus becoming one of Chatham's and ultimately Shrewsbury's first "affluent" Blacks.
After some time, he met and married Mary Anderson, a cousin of Osborne Anderson of the Harpers Ferry fame. The couple stayed in Chatham only a short time before moving to Shrewsbury where they purchased 600 acres of property. Smith taught their 21 children to read the stars and constellations at an early age so that they could read the trail of the Underground Railroad.
Smith was a very outspoken and determined man who believed that education was the solution to the problems of the former slaves. As a result of his drive toward education, Addison Smith made getting a school house in the hamlet of Shrewsbury his primary goal. His efforts paid off when a decision was made to construct a school in Shrewsbury. During Construction, a largely attended "town hall" meeting was held where a heated discussion ensued regarding whether or not the school should be integrated. Addison Smith made an impassioned speech and subsequently, the majority voted for integration. In 1861 the school names SS No.13 Harwich was complete.






Shrewsbury SS13 Harwich School

SS13 Schoolhouse 1910

Shrewsbury's first school, School Section #13, was built on the new Scotland Line in 1860-61, due in no small part, to the efforts of Mr. Addison Smith. It was an integrated school and it's first teacher was Mrs. Emeline Shadd. During the 1860's Raglan was a thriving harbor and community of its own. 
Because a common school could be started where there were at least 20 students, the Raglan community petitioned for it's own schoolhouse, to be known as S.S. No. 13 1/2 Raglan. The original school was wood framed and built on School Street, (Hunter Sideroad). When the new school was built in 1895, on the corner of School Street and New Scotland Line, the original framed schoolhouse was moved across from the Methodist Cemetery on the Eau Road.



SS13 School, just after closure


Shrewsbury-Raglan Assembly


Through the 1960's the province of Ontario centralized and urbanized school districts and built a number of large schools to replace the numerous "One Room Schools" dotting the rural landscape. All of the small schoolhouses were sold. Many were purchased by incorporated villages and community groups. Here a small group of dedicated citizens, both Canadian and American, formed a corporation to purchase the surplussed SS13, Shrewsbury School.

These are the minutes of the first Community Meeting at the SS13 School, July 13th, 1958.
Canadian and American community members, were presented the advantages and disadvantages of the Incorporation of the Village of Shrewsbury, by Mr. Harold Harrison .





On the 19th of August, 1965, the Shrewsbury Raglan Assembly, received a Charter of Incorporation without share capital, within the province of Ontario.

Founding members were:
Patricia Newton Roby- Detroit
Douglas Haig Lewis - Detroit
Grant Chappelle - Detroit
Sagasta Murphy- Harwich Township, Kent County
Wellington Hartford- Harwich Township, Kent County

This not-for-profit was formed with the following objectives:

(a) To cultivate co-operative and friendly relationship among the residents of Shrewsbury and Raglan community: and
(b) To provide facilities for the discussion of community projects and for the promotion of the general welfare of the Shrewsbury and Raglan community

The Assembly then pooled their resources and raised funds necessary to purchase the building and grounds that now serve as our community hall.

In 1981, the Assembly received its Charitable Status from the Canadian federal government.
in that year, the addition at the buildings rear was added.


Shrewsbury and Raglan Assembly 2006



From Gwen Robinson’s book, “Seek The Truth”,
“Black Heritage is equally important to the white community as it is to the black community”

Some passages , and information are borrowed from Victor Lauriston’s, “Romantic Kent” and Kate Clendenning’s, “Tracking Back”


No comments:

Post a Comment