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1837 Patchwork

Curated Submission
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
September 1837
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
13 x 13
Materials & techniques
Cotton; Hand sewn
Fanny Riley
Niagara Historical Society and Museum 972.303.1
In 1837, Soloman Moseby crossed the Niagara River into Canada as countless other fugitive slaves had done before him. In pursuit, Kentucky slave-owner David Castleman arrived in Niagara, Upper Canada. Castleman brought his case to the local authorities, who agreed that Moseby should be returned to his owner, but the African-Canadian community in Niagara was determined to prevent the order from being carried out. While Moseby was confined in the Niagara Gaol awaiting extradition, hundreds of African-Canadians under the leadership of Pastor Herbert Holmes surrounded the Gaol and kept a 24-hour vigil for three weeks from August to September of 1837.
When the day finally came to return Moseby to captivity, a group of armed constables and soldiers arrived at the Gaol to disperse the crowd. After being brought out of the Goal, Moseby managed to break free from his chains while the crowd clashed with the authorities. Shots were fired, and in the confusion Moseby was able to escape yet again. The affair was not a complete victory for the African-Canadians however, as two protestors had been killed. One of the casualties was Pastor Holmes, which was an incredible loss to the community. Moseby managed to live for the rest of his days in freedom.
This small patchwork was made in September of 1837, during the Moseby Affair, by Fanny Riley of Niagara. Riley was the wife of another escaped slave, William Riley, who had crossed the Niagara River to freedom in 1802. Fanny may have spent some of those tense three weeks outside of the courthouse in 1837 stitching together this small patchwork.
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