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February 24, 2012

The War of 1812 and Black History Month

At first glance there doesn't seem to be a connection between the two celebrations above but there is. In the stories about 1812 there is always the mention of the British, French, and Native forces but no Black troops. I recently noted a reference to a Colored Corp of Upper Canada in a Toronto newspaper article. It was written, coincidentally, by Steve Pitt, and author and columnist among other things who lives in North Bay. Steve moved to North Bay recently and his latest book was launched at Gulliver's Books and Toys in November and he appeared at Books by the Bay.

Steve noted a reference to a Colored Corp on a monument in Toronto and researched the story and wrote a book about it. The book is called To Stand and Fight Together - Richard Pierpoint and the Colored Corps in Upper Canada.

Cover of Steve Pitt’s book To Stand and Fight Together.

Richard Pierpoint's real name is not known since he was brought as a slave to the 13 colonies from the West African location called Bondu. A British officer named Pierpoint bought him and gave him his name and called him Richard. In the American Revolution Richard stayed loyal to the crown and was one of a many blacks that fled to freedom in Upper Canada. He served in the famous Butler's Rangers, which coincidentally my ancestor Benjamin Fralick served in.

Richard petitioned for land, as did my ancestor, but Richard was not given land because he had no family. He served as a laborer until the war of 1812 broke out and Richard helped organize a black Corps to fight the Americans. The Corp participated in many battles in the Niagara Peninsula where they distinguished themselves. Many of the Upper Canada blacks were owned by landowners and Steve Pitt talked about one black that wanted to fight but his owner refused.

After the war

Richard was eligible for a land grant but with failing health and fear of isolation he refused. He did petition to be sent home to his West African country. Many Nova Scotia Blacks did return to Sierra Leone in the past. Richard’s petition is the main source of Steve Pitt's information about Richard. His petition was rejected so he took his land grant near what is now Fergus and in 1822 became a property owner at age 78. Steve wrote a remarkable book on Richard that is just touched on here and deserves to be read by many. Copies of the book are available online at Amazon or can be ordered direct from Steve at 1-705-776-1683.

200th Anniversary of Charles Dickens’ Birth

Speaking of Bicentennials it is appropriate to remember the 200th birthday of one of the most remarkable novelists in the English language whose books are a pleasure to read. One recognition was a notice in a Toronto paper by the Dickens Fellowship (Toronto branch)– a Dickens book club which noted that they are “proud to be celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens whose death in 1870 left a void that has never been filled".

Air Apparent

Another story of achievement is the success of author Danielle Metcalfe – Chenail. She recently received the Maverick of the Year award by Chatelaine Magazine. Danielle and I launched books together at Discovery North Bay in 2009 and I was very impressed with the 29 year old Ottawa resident.

She is an aviation enthusiast, historian, and the first woman president of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. Her book is called For the Love of Flying: the Story of Laurentian Air Services.

Now based in Edmonton she recently spent three months in Dawson City, Yukon as a writer- in -residence at the former home of Pierre Berton. Her next book will be 100 Years of Aviation in Canada's North, out next year. She is profiled in the February /March issue of Canada's History Magazine.

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