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CBC Hamilton: St. Catharines Early Black Church in Jeopardy
Samantha Craggs | October 31, 2017

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Harriet Tubman's former church is in dire need of repairs

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/harriet-tubman-church-1.4378720

From Issue No. 262 | November 3, 2017

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman is shown in a photograph dating from 1860-75. Tubman was born into slavery, but escaped to Philadelphia in 1849. She lived in Niagara around 1851 to 1861, among other places. Now a church she helped build is in dire need of repair. (Library of Congress/Associated Press) 

A little Niagara church built by Harriet Tubman and other freed slaves is falling down, and desperate volunteers say they need at least six figures to save it.

'I have no doubt she and her brothers participated in building that church.'- Kate Clifford Larson, author of Bound for the Promised Lane: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero

 The Salem Chapel BME (British Methodist Episcopal) church in St. Catharines, Ont., is in the heart of what was once known as "the Coloured Village."

In 1853, freedom seekers and freed slaves who arrived via the Underground Railroad laid the log frame. The church held about 200 people who sang and prayed in its wooden pews. Some of their descendants still attend today.

Now, the awning is held up by wooden posts, said Rochelle Bush, church historian. The rumbling traffic of nearby Geneva Street has shaken the 162-year-old wooden frame.

Salem Chapel

The church hopes to raise $100,000 for emergency repairs by next fall, but needs thousands more to meet Ontario accessibility standards. (Salem Chapel BME)

 

 The congregation needs to buy cable wire or earthquake straps with turnbuckles to crank the wood tight again, she said. The upper balcony is beginning to break away from the walls.

'We have to keep trying.'- Rochelle Bush

 Beyond that, the 11-member congregation needs thousands more to make the church accessible.

 "The church represents a gateway to freedom for many, many African Americans who fled," Bush said. "It was a hub for abolitionist activity."

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