The Salem Chapel British Methodist Episcopal church in St. Catharines, built by Harriet Tubman and other freed slaves, is getting much needed repairs.
The church, a national historic site, was recently approved for a $100,000 grant through the federal Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative. The church was already undergoing restoration efforts through a GoFundMe campaign, but it was halted due to COVID-19.
Construction of the church began in 1853, and it became the cornerstone of the Black community in St. Catharines. The church held about 200 people, and some of their descendants still attend today.
St. Catharines was the terminus of the Underground Railroad, a series of clandestine routes used by Tubman and others to help escaped slaves find freedom in Canada.
Tubman herself moved to St. Catharines after the U.S. Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. She lived with her family in the city from late 1851 to early 1862 and attended the Salem Chapel.
The Fugitive Slave Act allowed escaped slaves to be captured and returned to enslavement in the southern U.S. Thousands of freedom seekers fled to Canada as a result.
In 1868, when asked why she guided the freedom seekers, Tubman said, “I would’t trust Uncle Sam with my people no longer; I brought them all clear off to Canada.”
SOURCES: CBC.CA, THECANADIANENCYCLOPEDIA.CA, SALEMCHAPELBMECHURCH.CA