Elm Hill Blues

September 9th, 2009 — Elm Hill, New Brunswick

As we made our way down the St. John River filming River Songs, host Brent Mason told me all about the history of the black loyalists who settled at Elm Hill where we were to film a segment with local summer resident and jazz musician, James Talbot. What was once a busy and populated rural Black community at the time of the Loyalists is home today for less than today than 50 people. In the late 18th century, three thousand African Americans who had fought on the side of the British during the War of Independence arrived to Atlantic Canada and were given land at Elm Hill in exchange for their loyal service making it one of Canada’s first black settlements.

The residents of this community worked on the river in the logging industry, on paddleboats, farms and fisheries. The river was as much lifeblood to this community as it was to its neighboring white communities of Gagetown and Evendale. Today Elm Hill is grown over by trees and brush, there are a few residents scattered along the road as the last remnants of a once populated river-side community. It is amazing how much rich history lives on the banks of our river, history that many of us have never heard of, or has long been erased from the history books. Do yourself a favor and take a drive up to Fredericton using the old river route, keep an eye out for the sign at the head of the Elm Hill Road, park the car and take a walk down a road with a hidden story that should not be forgotten.

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