Port Stanley

Elgin County became both a home and a landing point for many free Blacks and formerly enslaved persons. A relatively short trip across Lake Erie brought freedom for many. Port Burwell and Port Stanley received a number of Black immigrants in the years before 1865. Few left a record of any kind so it is difficult to gauge the number that actually arrived on these shores.
At least 18 families fleeing riots and repression in Cincinnati landed at Port Stanley in 1829, on their way to establish a settlement north of London near what is now Lucan. Known as the Wilberforce Settlement, it grew to about 70 people and then declined to just a few families. Its leader Austin Steward, an escaped slave who had later prospered in Rochester, also arrived in Port Stanley in 1831 before heading north.
The narrative of one couple, known only as Peter and Polly, is found in the memoirs of Alexander Ross, a Canadian abolitionist and an agent of the Underground Railway (UGRR). He was responsible for bringing 30 slaves to freedom from the US.
Just before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Ross went to Harrodsburg, located near the middle of Kentucky, then a slave state, pretending to look for a farm to buy in the area. He was given a guide, an enslaved man, who told Ross his wife had been sold to a hotel-keeper in Covington, a town across the Ohio River from Ohio, a free state. He asked Ross for help to escape and to rescue his wife. He sent the man to Cincinnati, providing him with the names of contacts who would hide him once he got there. He then found the man’s wife in Covington and took her away in a row boat to the Ohio side of the river. Ross then departed for Cleveland to make arrangements to get them to Canada. Meanwhile other members of the UGRR shipped the couple to Cleveland in a box marked "hardware and dry goods.” Ross met the train and brought the couple to the docks where they were stowed away on a steam boat by the captain and taken to Port Stanley. From there Ross took the couple to London and found them work.