CORNWALL, Ontario – The installation of the John Baker memorial was held on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Baker was a Loyalist, born into slavery in the 1780’s. In 1804, he was released along with his family, later going on to fight in the war of 1812 and the battle at Waterloo, who later died as a general labourer in 1871.
Bridge Annex is the first virtual branch of the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada (UELAC), an organization dedicated to enriching the lives of others through knowledge of the past, particularly the history of the United Empire Loyalists and their contribution to the development of Canada.
Bridge Annex chose to honour John Baker’s life by installing a memorial storyboard during the UELAC’s annual conference they hosted virtually, May 2021, featuring the history of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry (SDG).
They stated that the life experience of John Baker and other early Black citizens of Cornwall and SDG is an important historical interpretation. Bridge Annex had spoken with Natasha Henry, President of Ontario Black History Society, to ensure the memorial truly paid homage to the life of John Baker. Henry then wrote the text seen on the memorial.
Bridge Annex assisted in proving John Baker’s service during the War of 1812, allowing them a memorial stone from the Graveside Project which was mounted beneath the memorial.
“John’s story, and the story of so many of our early Black citizens of Cornwall and Area, and so many other places, have lingered for too long in the shadows of history. We are proud to be able to come to know John Baker and his experience and that of his family and are proud to now share this life of the remarkable man we have before us with others,” said Jennifer DeBruin, UELAC Public Relations Chair.
Local Artist, Tracy-Lynn Chisolm was commissioned to create an original oil painting of John Baker, which was then donated by Bridge Annex to the Cornwall Community Museum, to be displayed in future exhibits.
“At the museum, very soon we are going to have a new exhibit. It is going to be called the History of Racism in the SDG, part of it is going to be enslavement, slavery from 1760, to 1834, and after that it is going to be the history of the Indian act and the Residential School System,” said Jean-Yves Lemoine, Senior Curator of the Cornwall Community Museum. “For the slavery period, John Baker is going to be the corner stone, the center of our story.”
The memorial can be found in front of the Cornwall Community Museum, located at 160 Water Street West.