Blacks, both slaves and free men, were among Upper Canada’s earliest settlers. Their numbers were small
and they were concentrated at Detroit and in the Niagara peninsula. For the most part, these people lived
within a sub-culture obscured from the historical record by the persistence of slavery, small numbers, and
widespread illiteracy. Before 1830, most blacks were ex-slaves who had received their freedom in return
for military service during the American Revolution. A small number were slaves, brought to the new land
by loyalist masters. After 1830 the black population grew and spread throughout southwestern Ontario.

Richard Pierpoint (Parepoint, Paupine, Pawpine), known as Black Dick or He was Captain Dick, is probably
a good example of the early black settler. born about 1744 in Bondu (Boundou), Senegal, where about

1760 he “was made a Prisoner and Sold as a Slave.” Shipped to the British colonies in America, he became
the slave of a British officer At some point during the American Revolution he availed himself of the
opportunity offered to slaves of enlist- ing in the British forces and gaining their freedom. Pierpoint
served as a pioneer in John butler’s ‘Rangers. His actual date of enlistment is unknown, but by 1780 he
was stationed with the unit at Fort Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.). On 20 July 1784 his name appeared
among disbanded rangers on a list of persons intending to settle and cultivate land in the Niagara
peninsula. Two years later he was still in the Niagara area.
Blacks were entitled to the same proportion of land as their fellow loyalists, and about 1788 Pierpoint,
under his more common name of Black Dick or Captain Dick, was located on 200 acres of land on the
Twelve Mile Creek, in what later became Grantham Township. The creek running through his property is
known to this day as Captain Dick’s Creek. The community of St. Catharines developed on the northern
edge of its confluence with the Twelve Mile Creek. Pierpoint was given a certificate for lots 13 and 14,
concession 6 by the land board of the Nassau District on 18 January 1791. He did not receive patents for
the land until 10 March 1804. He sold both lots on 11 November 1806, lot 13 going to the dominant figure
in the region, Robert Hamilton. Pierpoint had been suspended from the UEL list as part of the reforms
initiated by Lieutenant Governor Peter Hunter. There is no record of appeal, or of a lifting of the
suspension. Nonetheless, it did not effect title to lots 13 and 14.

On 29 June 1794 Pierpoint was one of the nineteen signatories to a petition of “Free Negroes” to
Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. This short docu- ment offers a rare glimpse of the lives of
blacks in this period. Same were veterans of the “late war;” others “who were born free with a few who
have come into Canada since the peace. They seem to have been landless and socially isolated and were
“desirous of settling adjacent to each other in order that they may be enabled to give assistance (in work)
to those amongst them who may most want it.” They urged Simcoe to “allow them a Tract of Country to
settle on, separate from the white settlers, your Petitioners hope their behaviour will be such as to show,
that negroes are capable of being industrious, and that in loyalty to the Crown they are not deficient.”
The petition was read by the Executive Council on 8 July 1794 and dismissed. The reasons are not entirely
clear, but the minute-book points to the emphasis on land “separate from whites” as the most likely
explanation. Three years later the council refused lands to Adam Lewis, a black man, on the grounds that,
“Negroes, unless they have served as soldiers, are not entitled to lands in this Province.”
What Pierpoint did between 1806 and 1812 is a matter of conjecture. Most probably, he resided in
Grantham and worked as a labourer. War of 1812 provided him with an opportunity and he “proposed to
raise a Corps of Men of Colour on the Niagara Frontier.” His offer was refused, but a small coloured corps
was raised locally by Robert Runchey in October 1812. Pierpoint volunteered immediately and his militia
records list his service as a private in the unit from 1 September 1812 until 24 March 1815. The Coloured
or Black Corps as it was sometimes called varied in size between 27 and 30 men excluding sergeants and

officers. The corps saw action at the battle of Queenston Heights on 12 October 1812 and the siege of
Fort George (Niagara-on-the-Lake) on 27 May 1813. For the remainder of the war, it was used for labour
and garrison duty, usually at Fort Mississauga or Fort George. After disbandment in 1815, Pierpoint
disappers once again.

Presumably he continued to live in the peninsula. On 21 July 1821 Pier- point penned a pathetic
memorial. Then a resident of Niagara (Niagara-on-the- ” he found Lake) he sought aid from the
government: “Old and without property, it was difficult, “to obtain a livelihood by his labor.” The old
African had one wish “that he is above all things desirous to return to his native country.” Accompanying
his petition was a certificate from the Adjutant General of Militia corroborating Pierpoint’s service in two
wars, a lifetime of service from “a faithful and deserving old Negro.” All he wanted was fare to England
and from there to Africa. The dream, however, was not realized.
Instead the old soldier received a location ticket for 100 acres of land in unsettled Garafraxa (West
Garafraxa) Township on the Grand River, near present-day Fergus. Lieutenant-Governor Sir Peregrine
Maitland’s adminis- tration was anxious to give the settlement a military cast; most grants were to former
soldiers or militiamen including two other members of the Coloured Corps. Of the three blacks, only the
aged Pierpoint took up his land becoming one of the area’s earliest settlers. His ticket was dated 30 July
1822 and on 9 May 1825 he had completed the required settlement duties–clearing and fencing five
acres and erecting a dwelling 16 feet by 20 feet. His patent was duly registered on 22 September 1826.

On 28 January 1828 Captain Dick drafted his will. It was witnessed by sons of two former Ranger officers.
The lone black in a white settlement, Pierpoint had “no heirs nor relations”. He left his farm and a claim to
one of his former lots in Grantham to a resident of Halton Township, Lemuel Brown. Unfortunately
Pierpoint had entered the wrong concession number for the Grantham property and His will the surveyor
general’s department reported the claim unsubstantiated. was proved on 27 September 1838. When he
died is not known, but probably he died that year or in late 1837. Pierpoint’s life was characterized by
dispos- session and upheaval. If it is true that home is where the heart is, then he died as he was born–an
African. Upper Canada was his haven, Africa was his “home” in his dreams, he never left.