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William King

William King was a Canadian pioneer who established the Elgin community, Buxton, Ontario, Canada, in 1849, as a haven for African-Americans escaping slavery in the United States.

A missionary of the Presbyterian Church, Reverend William King was recognized as one of the foremost leaders of the antislavery movement in Canada. The thousands of acres of land he purchased near Chatham, enabled former slaves to become self-sufficient farmers, landowners and successful business people, despite the fact settlers were given no money, charity, or handouts. His African-American settlement thrived and saw its population soar from the original 14 former slaves, to over 2,000. The school he established in Elgin became so renowned for its accelerated learning, that neighboring white settlers began sending their children there, making it one of the first integrated schools in North America.

Biographical fast facts

Date and place of birth: November 11, 1812, near Newton-Limavady, Londonderry, Ireland

Date, time, place and cause of death: January 5, 1895, at approximately 10:00 p.m., Chatham, Ontario, Canada (Heart failure/Malaria)

Marriage #1
Spouse: Mary Phares (m. 1841 - February 25, 1846) (her death)

Marriage #2
Spouse: Jemima N. Baxter (m. 1853 - November 6, 1887) (her death)

Son: Theophilus King
Daughter: Mary Elizabeth Chalmers King* (b. 1845, Edinburgh, Scotland - d. May 9, 1846, of hydrocephalus)

Note: Both children were by his first wife Mary, and both died in infancy.

Father: William King, Sr. (a farmer)
Mother: Elizabeth (Torrance) King

Burial site: Maple Leaf Cemetery, Chatham, Ontario, Canada

Error corrections or clarifications

* NOTE: William King reported his daughter's name was Mary Elizabeth, not "Johanna Elizabeth" as the biography, William King: Friend and Champion of Slaves claims.


The most in-depth of our sources was the 1925 biography, William King: Friend and Champion of Slaves, by Annie Straith Jamieson.

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