Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church National Historic Site of Canada
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, Owen Thomas, 1999.
1645 Line 3 N., Oro-Medonte, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1849 to 1849
1849 to 1900
Event, Person, Organization:
Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church
Oro African Church
Oro AME Church
Research Report Number:
2000-006, 1998-SUA Dec
Existing plaque: 1645 Line 3 N., Oro-Medonte, Ontario
Built in 1849, this church is the last vestige of one of the oldest African-Canadian settlements in Upper Canada. Here at Oro, former members of the Loyalist militia from the War of 1812 established the only Black community sponsored by the government. Free Blacks from the northern United States later joined them. Located in the heart of a strategic and vulnerable region, the community guarded against an American invasion via Georgian Bay. This church is a testament to the contribution of African Canadians to the settlement and defence of Canada in the 19th century.
Description of Historic Place
Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church National Historic Site of Canada is a simple log church with an unmarked cemetery that stands on the south-east corner of the intersection of Line 3 of Oro-Medonte and Side Road 10/11, commonly known as the Old Barrie Road, Simcoe County, Ontario. It has been preserved as witness to an early African Canadian settlement associated with Black militiamen from the War of 1812. The official recognition refers to the church and the property that contains an associated burial ground.
Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church was designated a national historic site of Canada because: it is the last built remnant of a community of African Canadians whose roots are uniquely anchored in the history of United Empire Loyalists, it represents the important role that Black militiamen played in the defence of Upper Canada during the War of 1812, and early Upper Canada land policy.
Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church was built by African Canadians. The Oro Black settlement was a unique approach to integrating African Canadians into a farming community. The idea for an African Canadian community originated in 1783 with Sir Guy Carleton, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America. During the American Revolution, Carleton had promised that the slaves of non-Loyalists who joined the British Army would have their freedom and protection from re-enslavement. Black soldiers not only fought with the British during the American Revolution, but also as the “Coloured Corps”, a trusted unit of the Upper Canadian militia during the War of 1812. Between 1819 and 1826, the British granted 25 plots of land in Oro County to Black settlers, eleven of them former soldiers who received their grants in acknowledgement of military service. Although the area had strategic value, the land was both remote and agriculturally poor. Only nine of the original grant recipients took up their plots, settling along an area of the Penatanguishine Road known as Wilberforce Street. In 1829-1831, the settlement was augmented by thirty more families. They built Oro Church in 1847, and it remained active until around 1900 when the community itself faded away. The British Methodist Episcopal Church declared the building abandoned in 1916. Local residents rallied to preserve it in 1947, in 1956, and again after vandalism in 1981.
The heritage value of Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church National Historic Site of Canada resides in its associated history as illustrated by the form and composition of the building, the integrity of the remnant cemetery, and in their site and setting.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 2000.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include: the location just east of the old Penatanguishine Road; the pastoral nature of the site with the church as focal point in the grassed landscape of the unmarked burial ground; the church with its rectangular footprint and single-storey massing under a gable roof; its minimalist detailing, including the single door centred on a gable end and two evenly spaced, relatively large multi-pane windows on each side elevation; its open volume interior; the surviving elements of the original construction; the remain original interior elements.