Wilberforce Educational Institute

The Wilberforce Educational Institute was opened in Chatham in 1873 in a standard frame building. The creation of this school was from the merger of two institutions, The British American Institute at the Dawn Settlement and the Nazrey Institute. The school was found at the corner of Princess and Wellington Street in Chatham.

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The purpose of this school was to furnish the youth of the area, regardless of race, colour, creed or nationality, not only with a sound primary and secondary education but with a far superior education that would set them up for the university level. Other schools in the city of Chatham often would deny entrance to members of the Black community, but as the Black community built their own schools, they would not have the same regulations and would open their doors to anyone.
The original board of trustees for the school included: Rev. Richard R. Disney, Morris Potter, Stanton Hunton, Isaac Holden, Nelson Robinson, Nathaniel Murray and Perry F. Chase. The curriculum at the time would include examinations in art, law and medicine for the students and would also prepare students for careers in teaching and business. The school’s first president was Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott, the first Canadian-born Black doctor.
The first group of pupils to attend the school numbered around 100 students, 36 of those were enrolled in the preparatory classes and about 20 were enrolled in the primary classes. Teachers and principals at the school over the years were the best of the best including principal Alfred Lafferty, a graduate from the University of Toronto, Dolly Scott, Lillian Shreve and Mollie Lewis.
The school eventually moved to King Street in 1887 and was described at the time as a handsome brick structure located near the C.P.R. Station. The building would remain until it was demolished in 1952. (The picture would be of this building)