Aby B. Jones
275 Thames Street, Empty Lot Across from Parking Lot at 24 Horton Street East.
275 Thames Street, now a parking lot across the street, was the original location of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a predominantly Black church which now resides at 430 Grey Street. Some Londoners preferred to worship in all-Black churches, like the one that used to be located across the street, but Aby B. Jones and others chose to attend mixed-race services.
Mr. Jones’ story comes from Benjamin Drew’s 1856 book, The Refugee: Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada.
I was formerly a field hand in Madison County Kentucky,— Remained there until thirty years of age. My treatment was not harsh, —nor was there any hard treatment in the neighborhood. …
My brother was set free in this way: his master was a millwright and told him if he would serve him so many years he would set him free. He did so, —meanwhile building a large merchant mill, and employing my brother in it…. His good opportunities enabled him to advance nearly money enough to free myself and a younger brother, —the deficiency we borrowed, and afterward paid up. The sum paid for the two was seven hundred dollars, our master favoring us in the price….
Yet, although I was nominally free, and had free papers, I did not consider myself free in the eye of the law: the freedom was limited. The papers said I was to have as much liberty as was allowed to a free man of color. I saw at once that I was not really free; that there was a distinction made. I wished then to emigrate to some place where I could be really a free man.
I heard that in Canada colored men were free; therefore I came here….
The colored people usually attend divine service: some in the same societies with the whites; others maintain separate churches. But I do not think it advisable to have separate churches. In this place the door is open into all the churches of the denominations that the colored people profess, therefore I think those lines of distinction drawn by the colored people themselves will soon be put down. I speak of London.