Although there is nothing about the landscape that would indicate it today, the area bordered by Euston, Pownal, Richmond and West Streets was once home to the largest population of Black Islanders in the Province.
Founded by Samuel Martin, a former slave and later chimney sweep, in about 1812-1814, the community would grow to include about 100 people who identified as Black. The number declined a bit by the time that the 1881 census was taken to a total of 84. Many African Islanders would move out of the community and a large number would intermarry with other groups so that by the early part of the 20th century, the Bog had changed significantly.
The Bog was a poor area and its residents indeed suffered from racism. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of James Millner and Louis Johnston – two working to middle class white men – who shot George Kelly, a young black teenager from the Bog. A rock had been thrown in their direction and the pair shot three rounds into the sixteen year old Kelly, killing him. The two were brought to trial, however neither was found guilty.
Although its residents suffered greatly, the Bog had developed a sense of community. An example of this is the West End Rangers (above), a hockey team that was formed in 1899, and became so skilled in just one year that they beat the experienced Abegweits who had already been playing for four years.
In recent years, Islanders are rediscovering their heritage. Publications like Jim Hornby’s Black Islanders and groups such the Black Islanders Co-operative and the Black Cultural Society of PEI are adding to our knowledge of Black History and help us to celebrate our diversity.
We are always interested in photos and information about the City of Charlottetown’s rich history. If you would like to contribute, please contact us.