In the late nineteenth century there was a dearth of black Canadian newspapers. As black Ontario residents found themselves generally excluded from the social columns of the press, they had to look elsewhere to see their activities and lives reflected. American newspapers like Detroit’s Plaindealer capitalized on the situation, inviting black Canadians to submit columns. In return, Canadian circulation of such papers was increased as people sought news of friends and family in other places, as well as the validation that came with having their lives recognized. The excerpts below appeared in the Plaindealer, published in Detroit from 1883-1895. Spellings have been preserved. –Jennifer Harris, Associate Professor, University of Waterloo



“News Notes.” Plaindealer 7 August 1891.

This is my final initiation into quill-pushing, therefore it will not only be short but brief.

The Superintendent of the B. M. E. Sunday School, Mrs. M. C. Linton died on the 24th ult., and was buried on Monday, 27th, at Galt, Ont. Rev. Mr. Minter took part in the burial service, accompanied by several members of the school. We lost in Mrs. Linton, a true and devoted friend, whose place cannot easily be filled. Mr. G. B. Stewart has moved to Windsor and will make that place his future home.

Mr. R. Johnson has moved from Collingwood to the city, and opened up a first-class ice-cream parlor and grocery store on the corner of Essex and Devonshire streets.

Robinson’s great show as in the city on Wednesday, and of course our people were out in full force to see the elephant.

We want the news. If you have a friend in any town where we have no correspondent, send us his name—we will do the rest.

Mrs. Walden has moved back to Guelph from Detroit, and since her return has lost one of her grandchildren. We all sympathize with her in her bereavement.

We are all preparing for a big time at Hamilton on the first.

Subscribe for the Plaindealer, and leave the news at 88 Essex street. M.S.


“The News Of Guelph.” Plaindealer 14 August 1891.

There was a grand time in Hamilton on Monday, August 3rd. A great number were present from all the surrounding places. About twenty-five went from Guelph. We all had a very pleasant time [….] The celebration was given on behalf of the Odd Fellows Lodge of Hamilton and was a grand success. Master Ernest Sheffield is spending his vacation in Collingwood. Mr. Isaac Armstrong and S. Lawson, of Glenallen, were visiting friends in Guelph last week. Joseph Lawson, of Wyandotte, spent Sunday with his aunt and uncle in Guelph. Rev. Mr. Minter delivered his closing address Sunday evening. He leaves for conference in Chatham, on Friday. Diptheria is very prevalent in this city at present. Fortunately none of the colored people have been affected with it.

Dr. H. Robbin, a graduate of Trinity University, Toronto [….] His home is in Jamaica, West Indies.


“The News Of Guelph.” Plaindealer 25 August 1891.

Mrs. S. Venerable, of Guelph, spent a few days in Hamilton, during the Saengerfest last week. Rev. J. O’Banyoun and Miss Lottie Bland, of Hamilton, were married at St. Paul’s A.M.E. church of Hamilton, Tuesday evening, by the pastor, Rev. Mr. Bell. A few of their most intimate friends were present. Mrs. Bell served refreshments, after which the happy couple left for Chatham, where they will make their home. John Walden, of Preston, is in the city, visiting his brother Allen Walden who has been seriously ill for a few weeks. Mrs. Hissin, of Guelph, was called to Dunville last week, to see her sick daughter, Mrs. M. Matthews. Mr. Henry Lawson, of Toronto, spent Sunday with his parents in the city. We are all pleased to know that Mr. Lawson is getting along so nicely with his trade. Mr. Richard Wind, a former Guelph boy, was married last Wednesday in Toronto. Mrs. W. Smith, of Preston, was in the city visiting her mother-in-law, Mrs. Smith. Mr. J. Spencer has been very ill for a few weeks but is recovering slowly. A number of Guelph boys have gone to Toronto. It seems to be a famous place for boys wishing to marry, as all the boys that have gone from Guelph to Toronto have married Toronto ladies. M. S.


“Our Canadian Cousins The Week’s Happenings In Various Ontario Points.” Plaindealer 11 September 1891.

Mr. S. P. Hale visited Guelph, Monday, on his way to Georgetown and Rookwood, where he intends to give lectures. Mr. Hale was one of the first pastors in charge Guelph and many were glad to see the old gentleman again. A pleasant evening was passed at Mrs. Johnson’s Monday, Mr. S. P. Hale being present with a number of friends. Mr. Hale delighted them with his laughable speeches. Mr. Roy of Galt died last week. Many will be sorry to hear of Mr. Roy’s death, as he was a respected old resident of that place. Mrs. Johnson has been ill for some time, but is now recovering slowly. Rev. W. T. Minter has been taking his vacation in Woodstock. He is now at Niagara. Miss Martha Armstrong, of Peel, has gone to Toronto. It has been wondered if the girls will meet the same fortune as the boys, as some of the girls are talking of going to Toronto. Miss Mary J. Lawson, of Guelph, spent Sunday with her parents in Peel County. M. S.


“Across the Border.” Plaindealer 23 October 1891: 5.

Your former correspondent, Miss Melissa Smith, left on Monday last, for Hamilton, Ont., to join the Canadian Jubilee Company, and will be absent, if all goes well, about five months. We very much regret to lose Miss Smith from our social and church societies. She was organist of the B.M.E. church and Sunday school, and also secretary of the latter. She has a very fine soprano voice. Success to you Miss Smith. Rev. Mr. Minter returned home on Thursday, after a very pleasant ten days’ visit to Windsor and Detroit, having been called to Windsor to address some church matter there. he is very favorably impressed with Windsor and the good people there. Mr. Robert Johnson has sold his property to Mr. H. A. Smith. You Tramp stopped at Woodstock on Wednesday night last and to his surprise met a bridal party at the station. Mr. S. G. Robertson, head-waiter at the Queen’s hotel, Toronto, was on Wednesday, the 14th, married to Miss L.C., second daughter of the late Rev. L.B. and Hannah Anderson. Rev. J.C. Farthing officiated. They received a number of choice presents [….]. Rev. Mr. Lucas has moved his family to Woodstock. Mr. Doston, father of Doston Bros., Detroit, expects to return to Detroit about Christmas, and spend the remainder of his days on earth with his sons. R.B. Harrison, Windsor’s favorite son, will read in the city hall here on Thursday, Nov. 5th. Rev. Mr. Minter is off to Washington, DC, to attend the closing exercises of the Ecumenical conference.

Messers. Philip Smith and John Walden, sen., of Preston, were in the city over Sunday. Quarterly meeting in the BME church Sunday, 25th inst. Rev. J. H. Bell, pastor of the AME church, Hamilton, will be present and officiate.


“Across the Border.” 8 January 1892.

The Rev. Mr. Minter, of Guelph, spent Sunday in the city and assisted Father Hawkins. He returned home Monday.


“Guelph Facts.” Plaindealer 3 February 1893.

Rev. T.C. Oliver spoke to a very large and appreciative audience in the City hall last Sunday afternoon. The gentleman spoke very intelligently of the young people. Mr. Oliver was accompanied by his choir who rendered a number of pieces in an excellent manner. A collection was taken up in behalf of the B.M. [sic] church. Mr. Geo. Douglas, of Peel has gone to Oklahoma.

Misses Smith and Howard and Messers J. Jackson, A. Waldom, J. Smith, and J. Thomas, will take part in the grand entertainment at the Presbyterian church at Nassagawa on Friday.

Mr. D. Crumwell is quite ill.

“Guelph Newslets.” Plaindealer 10 February 1893

The young folks of Guelph are anticipating a sleigh-riding party shortly. Miss M. Smith will speak on the debate at the Collegiate Institute Literary society. The subject to be “Money is not as beneficial as love” and will take place on Thursday, the 9th inst. Mrs. G. B. Stewart, of Windsor, is the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The funeral of Mr. J. Richard, a well known citizen of Guelph, took place Monday, at ten o’clock. Miss McFurson, of Central America, is spending the winter in our city, this being her first experience of snow-fall. She says she enjoys it very much. M.S.

“A Successful Choir.” Plaindealer 3 March 1893.

The choir of the B.M.E. church sang five nights last week meeting with some success. They have engagements for Thursday evening in Chalmer’s Presbyterian church of the city. During the evening Prof. Panton will show his views of Kentucky caves. Mrs. G.B. Stewart of Windsor returned home Friday after a pleasant visit with her friends.

The many friends of Mr. George Douglas will be pleased to know that he has passed a successful examination and has a school in Oklahoma. A grand entertainment will be held in the BME church under the auspices of the church.


“Guelph Items.” Plaindealer 17 March 1893.

Rev. T.C. Oliver held his regular quarterly meeting last Sabbath which was well attended Miss Jane Sheffield has just returned from Collingwood, where she has spent two weeks with her friends. Miss Emma Green of Collingwood has gone to Georgetown, where she will remain for a few months. Mr. J. Smith and J. Thomas, of Guelph, made a flying visit to Georgetown last week. Miss Annie Taylor, of Acton, spent Saturday with her friends in Guelph.