Founding of Oro Settlement

Image: Map of Oro, showing areas of Black settlement

The Oro Settlement was one of the earliest Black settlements in Ontario. It was not the largest in Upper Canada, but it was the only one that resulted from government planning and encouragement. The settlement was established in 1819 to help secure the region's defence. Construction began in 1819 under the guidance of the then Lt. Governor of Upper Canada.

Oro was intended to settle Black Loyalist refugees after the War of 1812. Black veterans who could be mustered to meet hostile forces coming from Georgian Bay were offered land grants. Among them were veterans of Captain Runchey's Company for Coloured Men, which fought at Stoney Creek, Queenston Heights, Lundy's Lane and St. Davids. Oro settlers also included free persons and the formerly enslaved.

Between 1819 and 1831, Black settlement in Oro Township was concentrated on Wilberforce Street, along the west side of Concession II. Settlement occurred in two waves, from 1819-1826 and 1828-1831, with 9 residences established in the first wave. The community's maximum population was approximately 100. Population declined, however, as farmers left, discouraged by the poor soil conditions and harsh climate.

The Wilberforce Street residents were among the first permanent agricultural settlers in the area. Some of their descendents remained in Oro Township for nearly 130 years and in other parts of Simcoe County to the present.

The Oro African Church: A History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Edgar, Ontario
Articles, photographs, and stories about the history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Edgar, Ontario. From the Our Roots website.

The Queen's Bush Settlement: Black pioneers, 1839-1865
Scroll down to page 26 for an account of the founding of the Oro Settlement on the western shore of Lake Simcoe. From Google Books.

Anti-Black Racism in Canada - A Historical Perspective
Scroll down the page for a brief history of the Oro settlement, the only government sponsored Black settlement in Canada. From a paper prepared by the Ontario Black History Society.

The Black Settlement in Oro Township
About the history of the Oro settlement, which became home to veterans of the War of 1812, formerly enslaved Africans, and others. From the website for the County of Simcoe.

Walter Rolling
A virtual exhibit featuring the life and career of local teacher Walter Rolling. Also chronicles the Rolling family’s journey from the US to King Township. From the website for the King Township Public Library.

Oro Township
A history of Oro Township, the only government-sponsored Black settlement in Upper Canada. From the Ontario Heritage Foundation.

Our Roots: Oro African Church
This online digitized book includes a collection of articles about the history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Oro.