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173-year-old Oro-Medonte church serves as symbol of freedom

A photo of the Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church taken on Sat., Feb. 25 (Christopher Garry/CTV News). A photo of the Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church taken on Sat., Feb. 25 (Christopher Garry/CTV News).
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An important symbol of freedom in Oro-Medonte's history still stands over 170 years after its founding.

173 years later, the Ontario Historical Society and Simcoe County Museum are partnering to invite residents to tour the site.

The Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1849 by 24 families who escaped slavery in the United States. For Black History Month, the historical society and museum invited people to tour the site where those 24 families once settled.

"That's right, this church is a symbol of freedom," said Janie Cooper-Wilson, an Ontario Historical Society board member. "It was a symbol of freedom when it was built and it's every much today the same symbol of freedom."

Families who escaped to Canada settled in Oro-Medonte between 1830 and 1850. According to Cooper-Wilson, most of those families lived on the concession known as Wilberforce Street.

Eventually, they acquired the land that the church now resides on for a burial ground.

"This symbol, it will help get rid of the systemic racism that's in Canada today," Cooper-Wilson added.

The first set of settlers were soldiers who fought against the Americans in the war of 1812.

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