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http://www.thestar.com/news/article/580 … ef-s-slave
Exhibit tells story of Mohawk chief's slave
Published On Mon Feb 2 2009
One of Burlington's most famous early settlers, Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant, owned a kidnapped, black, slave girl and other human chattel.
Sophia Pooley was her name. She was born to slave parents at Fishkill, N.Y., on the Hudson River north of New York City, in perhaps the mid-1760s. At the age of 12 or 13 she was snatched away with a sister.
"My master's sons-in-law ... tied their handkerchiefs over our mouths, carried us to a vessel, put us in the hold, and sailed up the river," Pooley recalled late in life for an oral history by Benjamin Drew. The account is held by the Archives of Ontario, which is hosting an exhibit as part of Black History month, which began yesterday.
Nothing more is known of the sister, but the kidnappers sold Pooley to Brant on the U.S. side of the border near Niagara. When he moved to Burlington in 1784, he brought her and his other slaves with him.
"(He) probably owned over 30 slaves," says a panel from Enslaved Africans in Upper Canada, created by the archives department and showing until Feb. 26 at Toronto's First Post Office.
Paul Stone, curator at Burlington's Joseph Brant Museum, confirms the archival record. "There has even been a suggestion that they came along willingly – that they were just workers more than slaves and that he looked after them well," he says. "But that could be artistic – or historical – licence."
Brant ranks as one of Greater Toronto's most powerful historical figures. He made his name as a warrior chief for the British side in the American Revolutionary War of 1775-83, and later as political leader of the Six Nations peoples who settled in southwestern Ontario.
Burlington's museum makes no reference to slave ownership but the record is clear: Five years before arriving in Canada, Brant began collecting unpaid black workers.
"Joseph already had the beginnings of a retinue of Negro slaves whom he had captured or who had run away to join him," writes the late Isabel Kelsay in her biography, Joseph Brant, 1743-1807, Man of Two Worlds. "If any of these expected an end to their labour, they were mistaken," she writes.
"He tolerated no nonsense of his slaves. They were fed and clothed but they worked."
At one point, Brant moved his household to Brant's Town, now Brantford, where travel writer Patrick Campbell visited him on Feb. 11, 1792. "Dinner the next day was another lavish meal," Campbell writes, "with handsomely attired Negro slaves waiting on the table."
In the oral history Refugee: or the Narratives of the Fugitive Slaves in Canada, published in 1856, Pooley speaks of good times and bad.
"While I lived with old Brant we caught the deer," she recalls of her days hunting with Brant's children. But she also describes Brant's third wife, Catharine Brogham, as a "barbarous creature," who beat Pooley and cut her with a knife, leaving a scar over her right eye.
Brant once scolded his wife for the abuse. "I adopted her as one of the family," Brant protested, according to Sophia's testimony quoted in the Enslaved Africans in Upper Canada exhibition, "and now you are trying to put all the work on her."
Sometimes the exhibition's Pooley segment contradicts itself, saying Brant bought Pooley when she was 7 and sold her when she was 12. Other sources agree Brant bought her when she was 12 or 13 and sold her at 20 to English settler Samuel Hatt of nearby Ancaster.
In any case, John Graves Simcoe arrived as Upper Canada's first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada in 1793 and immediately campaigned to end slave ownership.
Brant died in Burlington at 65 in 1807. Pooley lived into her 90s in the Waterloo area.
Enslaved Africans in Upper Canada runs until Feb. 26 at Toronto's First Post Office, 260 Adelaide St. E. Admission is free or by donation.
Last edited by sschkaak (Jul-13-2011 03:55:pm)