This burial ground was used by people of African descent who started arriving in Artemesia Township (Grey Highlands) late 1840’s to settle along the newly surveyed (Old) Durham Road. Location Tickets set the requirements for settlement. When fulfilled, Crown Patents could be issued. Many of the 16 families who arrived spring & summer of 1849, came from earlier Queens Bush settlements in Wellington County near the Garafraxa Road (Wellesley & Peel Townships.) Most originally came from the United States and it is assumed that they were largely refugees from slavery. All these settlers had been in Upper Canada for at least 8 years; many for from 12-20 years. The 1851 census shows almost every 50-acre lot along the Durham Road was settled by a Black family with parents born in the USA, but most children born in Upper Canada. The 117 listed Black settlers represent 12% of the total 1851 Artemesia Township population. Over time, the Black settlement diminished. Some intermarried with White settlers and gradually integrated into White society. Many left marginal farms to seek paid work in Owen Sound, Collingwood or farther afield. Others may have been quietly “dispossessed” because, for whatever reason, their land title had not been properly registered. Throughout the province, uneducated settlers (both Black and White) often did not fully understand the need to apply for legal title; and instances of title irregularities are known to have occurred in Artemesia Township. In the 1930’s, the farmer who owned the property removed some 90-100 headstones, ploughed the land and planted potatoes. Human remains were not removed, and recent geo-thermal scans have found evidence of at least 80 burial sites. Rumors circulate that the removed headstones were used to pave barn floors. In 1989, a group of interested citizens formed the Old Durham Road Pioneer Cemetery Committee to restore the burial ground and register it as a cemetery. 1990 they found four headstones in a nearby pile of rocks. These were placed at the site in a display case and October of that year, Lieutenant-Governor Lincoln Alexander unveiled a memorial granite boulder which had an inscription that honored these early pioneers of African descent. In 2015, the Cemetery Committee refurbished the site. The original memorial is once again fully visible and thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the four historic gravestones are now safe guarded from damage in a covered pavilion designed to evoke memories of cemetery dead houses, roadside chapels and rural structures such as log cabins and covered bridges. The monument symbolizes safe passage and is oriented due north, to commemorate the many paths to freedom taken by refugees from slavery.
for more information about local Black History: https://greyroots.com/story/northern-terminus