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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Exploring Photos: Chloe Cooley takes spotlight
Canada Post's Chloe Cooley stamp. FILE Supplied

Staff at the NOTL Museum were happy to consult on the development of Canada Post’s latest stamp, which features a local historical figure, drawing attention to her harrowing story.

Chloe Cooley was enslaved by Queenston farmer Adam Vrooman in 1793. At his farm, Cooley was likely responsible for domestic tasks such as household chores, child-rearing, laundry, food prep, or harvesting crops.

She had previously protested her enslavement by acting in “an unruly manner,” refusing to work, stealing property entrusted to her and leaving for periods of time. When Vrooman, a member of the Legislative Assembly, heard that Lt.-Gov. John Graves Simcoe was determined to pass anti-slavery legislation, he bound and forcibly transported Cooley across the river to a U.S. buyer. This is the scene portrayed in the stamp’s imagery.

The man standing at Vrooman’s Point on the right portrays Peter Martin, a Black loyalist and former Butler’s Ranger, who provided one of two witness statements about the incident. William Grisley, a local resident who worked on the Vrooman farm and who was on the boat, was the second.

Unfortunately, Vrooman had not broken any laws. However, the incident and the eyewitness accounts led to the Act to Limit Slavery being passed on July 9, 1793. It was the first step towards the abolition of slavery here in Canada.

Chloe Cooley was never heard from again and quite possibly had no idea of the effect her experience had on the lives of many enslaved in Upper Canada. In honour of the 230th anniversary of this historical event, the NOTL Museum will host an exhibition on Cooley and enslavement in Upper Canada.

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