Amherstburg Freedom Museum


Mulder Family

The Mulder Family Part 1 – Military Man

– Mulder ancestor is the first known Black resident in Colchester. Read more below.

Did you know that Black Canadians have been serving and protecting Canada for centuries? A member of our next family, the Mulder family, is an early example of this. It was John Joseph Mulder whose military service goes all the way back to the early 1800s when he fought in the 1837-38 Upper Canada Rebellion as a member of Captain Caldwell’s Company of Colored Volunteers.  The 1837-38 Rebellions occurred in Upper and Lower Canada and was a result of political unrest that developed soon after the War of 1812.  This caused resistance against the British Crown, which ruled the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada. There were numerous Black soldiers who were loyalists and they assisted in defending against rebel attacks.

According to Irene Moore Davis’ article “Canadian Black Settlements in the Detroit River Region”, found in the book A Fluid Frontier: Slavery, Resistance and the Underground Railroad in the Detroit River Borderland, “In December 1837, during the 1837-38 Mackenzie Rebellion, the Reverend Josiah Henson’s company of black volunteers attached to the Essex Militia was part of the group that captured the rebel schooner Anne and made prisoners of its crew … Josiah Henson’s unit defended Fort Malden [in Amherstburg] from Christmas 1837 to May 1838, and another company of 123 black volunteers, Captain Caldwell’s Coloured Corps, was subsequently stationed there for two months.  The black volunteers showed such bravery that Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head commented on their service in his remarks to the legislature of Upper Canada in March 1838.”

Irene Davis Moore adds that “interracial relations in Amherstburg were not entirely rosy: in 1835, paranoid white residents petitioned the government of Upper Canada not to remove British troops from Fort Malden, fearing that they would be left defenseless against ‘the very numerous and troublesome black populations … who are almost daily violating the laws.’” This point is further proof of the discrimination that Black Canadians endured and yet they still defended Canada.

John Joseph Mulder is among these brave Black Canadians and the following pages share his and his family’s story.  According to Milo Johnson’s book, New Canaan, John Joseph Mulder arrived in the Colchester area between 1810 and 1820 and was known as the first Black person to reside in the township. He was born into slavery sometime between 1776-1781 in Maryland and escaped in the early 1800s. John’s wife Emily was born circa 1796 in Virginia. Several years after he arrived in Canada, John and Emily purchased 40 acres on Gore Road (Lot 5) in 1839. He later sold this land and purchased 60 acres on Lot 9 on Gore Road.

By 1851, the couple had a farm consisting of 22 acres in crops, 2 acres of pasture, 2 acres of orchards and 34 acres of woodland.  By 1861 they had 50 acres of farmland.  You might be wondering why their acreage decreased.  It is because John and Emily’s son Joseph Jr. purchased 10 acres from them. That same year, 1861, the Census for Colchester lists John, Emily, and their children: James, John (Joseph), Harriet and Emily. Not mentioned is their daughter Rachael who was born in 1828.

As mentioned, John Joseph Sr. and Emily’s son John Joseph Mulder Jr. purchased 10 acres from his parents and operated a farm there. He also farmed his father’s land after he passed away, but it should be added that Emily remained the owner of this land until her passing in the late 1880s.  Following Emily’s passing, John Jr. was willed the land. He is who we will discuss in part 2.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps.  See you next week for part 2.The Mulder Family Part 2 – Independent Women

-Strong, land-owning women in the Mulder Family. Read more below.

John Joseph Jr. married Almaney McCoy, who was the daughter of William McCoy and Esther Malawice. In the late 1800s, John Jr. and Almaney owned a farm on Walker Road, which was land that was willed to Almaney by her mother Esther Malawice-McCoy. Following Almaney’s passing in 1902, she willed 17 acres of land to her son Albert Mulder, 23 acres to her son Isaac, 17 acres to John and 17 acres to her daughter Adeline.  There is certainly a pattern of women owning land in the Mulder family.

John Joseph and Almaney had seven children: Isaac (1859), Albert William (1862), Alfred (1865), Adeline (1866), John Arthur (1868), Joseph (Jack) (1871), Mary E. (1872). Isaac was born in 1859 and married Ellen Hunt-Day in February of 1883.  Their marriage record states that Ellen was the daughter of Joshua Hunt and Sarah Day.  Ellen was also 23 years old and had never been married. Isaac was also never previously married but was a 24-year-old farmer. Sadly, Ellen passed away only a few months after their wedding in May.  Isaac married a second time to Annie Pines in 1894 and no children came from this marriage. Interestingly, according to the 1911 Census, Isaac took in his sister-in-law Sarah, along with her children Harvey, Viola and William who are all listed under Isaac’s household.  This is in addition to a border named Steward who also lived with them. A few years later in December of 1916 Isaac passed away.

Albert William Mulder, brother of John Joseph Jr., was born in 1862 and he became a farmer/labourer, living in Colchester.  He later married Delia Charlotte Johnson, the daughter of James Johnson and Mary Elizabeth Dennis-Johnson on May 27, 1884. Albert and Delia had two children: Ernest (1880) and Glenna (1901). Ernest married Ethel May Clingman on December 22, 1912.  Their marriage record states that Ernest was born in Windsor, a bachelor and 27-years-old, while Ethel was born in Colchester South, a spinster and was 16.

According to the 1921 Census, Ernest was living with his wife Ethel and their children: Ivan, Vida, Geraldine, Catherine, and Yvonne. According to Ethel Mulder’s obituary, it states that the couple was living in Amherstburg on the corner of Simcoe and Apsley (Sandwich) street and had eight children, the eldest of which was 12 years old and the youngest was six months at the time of her passing due to pneumonia.  The 1921 Census only provides five of their children’s names, but the remaining children are named in Ernest Mulder’s 1975 obituary which lists his children: Kenneth of Chatham, Mrs. Harvey (Vida) Mulder of Harrow, Mrs. Ace (Geraldine) Brown and Mrs. Carl (Catherine) Berrigan, Yvonne Montgomery, Mrs. Meryle (Helen) Harrison, Mrs. Wallace (Jean) Mack.  There is one person missing which is Ivan, who passed away at the age of 19 from tuberculosis.

Ernest’s sister Glenna was born on December 23, 1901, and she later married Joseph Aron Walls on February 19, 1919.  At the time, Glenna was 18 years old and a housekeeper.  Joseph was a 25-year-old farmer, born in Maidstone and the son of Henry Walls and Parthina Perry.

There was no available information for John and Almaney’s next child, Alfred, but there was significant documentation for their daughter Adeline who we will discuss next. Adeline was born in 1866 and later married William Coates who was the son of Milton Coates and Frances “Fannie” Reynolds (daughter of John Bartlett Reynolds and Lucinda Reynolds).  Adeline and William lived on the property that was formerly owned by Adeline’s father, John Joseph Mulder Jr.  Interestingly, the 1871 Census record lists the Mulder and Coates family as living right next to each other. Following their marriage, Adeline and William had twelve children: Maude Luella (1881), Josephine (1886), Oda (1888), Archie (1891), Claude Leo (1892), Clodia (1894), Ethel (1896), George Henry (1898), Roland (1900), Blanche Dell (1901), Almana (1903), and Dora (1905).

Adeline’s daughter, Maude Louella Coates Mulder, was born on March 16, 1881 in Colchester South.  She married Wiley Grayer, the son of William Grayer and Mary Elizabeth Green, on April 13, 1900 in Detroit and lived on a farm on Gore Road on the 2nd   Concession.  Wiley was one of the first mail carriers in Colchester South Township in the early 1900s and delivered mail on Rural Route 2 and Rural Route 4. Wiley Grayer and Maude-Mulder Coates had sixteen children: Estelle Mae (1900-1936), Mazie Luella (1902-1975), Ruby Beatrice ( 1903-1979), Virgil Sylvester (1905-1963), Olive Marie (1907), Lovedy Bernetta (1909), Helen Josephine (1910-1911), Wilfred (1911), Ida Evelyn (1911), Gerald (1915), Sylvanna (1916-1918), Mary (c. 1918-1922), Gladys Leone (c. 1917-1919), Violet Winifred  (1916-1921), Marvin Lester (1918-1919), Kenneth (1920-2009). See Grayer family history – – for further information.

Adeline and William’s next child, Josephine, was born circa 1886 and according to her marriage record, she married James Taylor on January 6, 1905.  At the time, Josephine or Josie was 19 and worked as a domestic.  James was a 28-year-old farmer and the son of James Taylor and Dollie Green.

Josephine’s brother Oda was born on July 12, 1888 in Colchester.  On his birth record there is a note from Oda’s aunt, Mary E. Coates, confirming his birth, which says “That I am the aunt of the said person and was on intimate terms with his family at the time of his birth; that although I was not present at his birth, I saw the child within a few days thereafter and was informed at the time and fully believe that he was born at the place and on the date mentioned.”

No information was available for Archie, Claude Leo, Clodia, Ethel or Dora, but there are a few documents concerning Georg Henry Coates.  According to his birth record, he was born on December 22, 1898 in Colchester. Just like with Oda’s birth record, there is also an interesting note on his birth record by his sister Josephine which confirms his date of birth.  The note says “I am an Elder sister being 8 years senior and I was in the home just after my brother George Coates was born as I lived there and I know that he was born on the 22th day of December 1898 and [illegible word] record was lost by fire about 25 years ago.” George went on to marry Maud Boyd, the daughter of Anthony Boyd and Hattie Turner, on December 25, 1918.  George was a 20-year-old farmer, while Maud was 19 and listed as “at home on farm” for her occupation.

Adeline and William’s next child, Roland, was born on November 7, 1900, while his sister Blanche Dell was born on December 24, 1901 and Almana was born on January 24, 1903.

Sadly, Adeline passed away around 1902.  In the 1911 Census, it lists William Coates as living with his 2nd wife Elsie, along with Oda, Archie, Caud [sic], George and Dora, but also William’s step-children: Enoch Thompson, Andrew, Lorance, Eliza, Elizabeth, Lenny, and Florance.  This was in addition to a lodger named Eliza Sheppard and grandson, but the later person’s name is illegible.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps.  See you next week for part 3.The Mulder Family Part 3 – Civil Rights

-Members of the Mulder family help close the last segregated school in Ontario. Read more below.

Adeline’s brother John Arthur Joseph (Jack) married Mary Elizabeth Leek, who was the daughter of Isaac Leek and Caroline Pear. John and Mary married on February 3, 1888.  John Arthur Mulder and Mary Elizabeth Leek had several children including Harvey Sr. (1886), Charles (1887), Lucille (1892), and Viola (1895). The 1901 Census lists John and his four children, but also another child named Nina, in addition to a woman named Emma (listed as “Sister to H”), his mother Almaney and his brother Isaac.

Harvey married Mamie Gertrude Myles, the daughter of William H. Myles and Medora (Masidonia) “Dora” Carter.  The couple had six children: Wilbert Harvey Jr. (1913), Wilbur Howard (1913), Judson (1918), James Arthur (1921), Ethelda Medora (1924), and Ervan Leroy (1926). Wilbert Harvey Jr., married Vida Mae Bradford in September 1934. They were married for over 60 years and also played a role in the closure of the last segregated school in Ontario, SS #11 in Colchester, through their participation in the organization, the South Essex Coloured Community Association (SECCA). SS #11 existed because of Upper Canada’s (Ontario) 1850 Common School Act which permitted racially separate schools at the request of twelve or more resident heads of families. Not every school was segregated, but this law gave white citizens the power to exclude African Canadian children from attending the same schools as white children, if they wished it so. As a result, if Black residents wanted to have any school at all, they had to request a separate school so that their children would receive some form of education. As a result, children of African descent were forced to attend segregated schools. Over 100 years later, Leonard Braithwaite, the first Black Canadian elected to a provincial legislature, assisted with its closure. On February 4, 1964 he delivered his first speech to the Ontario Legislature and spoke out against the Separate Schools Act. Shortly after, on March 12th, the education minister Bill Davis introduced a bill that repealed the 114-year-old law and amended the Act. Organizations, parents and government officials worked together and in 1965 the school was finally closed.

Harvey’s brother, Wilbur Howard, married Juanita Taylor, the daughter of James Taylor and Jessie Walls.  Howard and Juanita had several children including Rodney, Howard, Diane, Juanita, Joanne, Michelle, Wilbur, Marva, Brian, Everet, Christel, Dorothy and Oscar.

Howard’s brother Judson married Vida Baylis, who was the daughter of John Baylis and Daisy Ellen Marshall, while James Arthur married Melda Elain Grayer, the daughter of Forest Albert Grayer and Ida Belle Chavis. James’ sister Ethelda Medora married George Talbot, the son of James Talbot and Jordina Matthews, while Erva Leroy married Lenora Wilson, the daughter of Norval Wilson Sr.

Harvey’s brother Charles married Edna Walker and they had three children: Charles Erwin (1913), Ruth Lucille (1922), and John.  On October 29, 1938, Charles Erwin married Thelma Grayer, who was the daughter of Forest Albert Grayer and Ida Belle Chavis.  The couple was married for over 50 years. Ruth Lucille married Gerald Grayer who was a farmer and operated a trucking company. John, who was also called “Walkin’ John,” never married but remained in Colchester for his entire life.

Charles’ sister Lucille married James Morgan on February 16, 1910 in Amherstburg. James was born on August 6, 1888 and was the son of William H. Morgan and Julia Baylis.  James and Lucille had at least one child, a daughter named Lana May Morgan who was born on March 6, 1912.  Several years later, the 1921 Census lists James living with his second wife Mabel (daughter of N.H. and Madora Dixon) and daughter Helen. The Census also shows Medora Myles (James’ mother-in-law) as the head of household. James married Mabel Dixon on November 8, 1919 and he is listed as a widower, meaning that Lucille had passed away. At the time of their marriage James was a labourer and Mabel did housework.

Lucille’s sister Viola tragically passed away at an early age. According to the book, New Canaan, Viola experienced an anxiety attack while visiting friends in Sandwich (now Windsor) in 1913.  She believed that two men were following her and panicked.  She ran and jumped into The Springs Canal in Sandwich and drowned. Just a year before, Viola travelled to Detroit, Michigan.  According to the Passenger list for 1912, Viola was 17 years old, single and a domestic.

Following the passing of his first wife Mary Elizabeth Leek in 1900, John Arthur Mulder (father of Harvey, Charles, Lucille and Viola, who were just discussed) married a second time to Sarah Anne Stewart on August 8, 1901. According to their marriage record, John was 33 and a farmer, while Sarah was 21 and the daughter of Leonard Stewart and Doreas Kisner.  The couple had one child in 1902 named William Arthur. At the age of 21, William, a farmer, married Madeline Baylis, the daughter of John Baylis and Mary Brown.  The couple married on June 1, 1920.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps.  See you next week for part 4.The Mulder Family Part 4 – A Man in Uniform

So far, we have only discussed one of John Mulder and Emily Leek’s children: John Joseph Jr. Now we will turn to Rachael, James, Harriet and Emily. There is little documentation for Rachael. She is listed in the 1851 Census, but beyond that she is not mentioned in the Census.  As for Emily, there was no information available for her. More information exists for Rachael and Emily’s siblings James and Harriet.

James Mulder was born circa 1833 and he married Ellen Matthews-Bird, the daughter of William and Mary Bird, on March 23, 1864 in Colchester. The couple had two children: James (1866) and Judson (1867). Shortly after their marriage, James and Ellen moved to Detroit and according to the US Census, he worked as a coachman. James and Ellen’s son James Jr. married Ida Kirtley, the daughter of Henry and Esther Kirtley, on June 9, 1889 in Colchester, but they lived in Detroit. At the time, James was a 24-year-old farmer, while Ida was 18.  James married a second time to Mary Ann Henderson, the daughter of Toy and Sarah Henderson, and the couple lived in Ypsilanti, Michigan. According to their marriage record, James and Mary married on November 26, 1914. The record states that Mary was married once before and James was married twice before. We know that he was married to Ida Kirtley, but the records do not reveal who his other wife was. We do know that Ida married a second time to Edward Love on February 28, 1906 in Windsor.

James’ sister, and the final member of the Mulder family to be discussed, is Harriet.  Harriet was born circa 1838 and married John Nelson. The couple lived in Michigan. Harriet must have lived there for the rest of her life because her January 1923 death record states that she passed in Alma, Gratiot, Michigan at the age of 80. According to the book New Canaan, Harriet’s husband John was born into slavery in 1830 on the farm of George Lynn near Louisville, Kentucky. Interestingly, John Nelson at one point changed his name to Alexander Carter, likely to assist himself in his escape from enslavement. He escaped in roughly 1854 and came to Canada. Records for John Nelson list him as John Nelson, not Alexander Carter, indicating that he changed his name back to John Nelson after he arrived in Canada.

Harriet and John Nelson had nine children: Annie (1860), Eliza (1861), Sarah (1876), John (1868), James (1872), Robert (1874), Forest Hezekiah (1876), Morris (1880), and Winnifred “Winnie” (1888).  Morris and Winnifred were born in Michigan, but the remaining seven were born in Colchester South.

Annie married Elijah Armstrong, the son of John and Mary Armstrong in Colchester South, while Eliza married a Mr. Stewart.  Sarah Nelson, a cook, married a “Railroad man,” Gilbert Taylor (son of Steve Taylor and Mary Ann Simpson), while James, Morris and Forest Hezekiah moved to Michigan with their parents and married there as well. James married Ada Harding, the daughter of Solomon Harding, while Morris married Marjory Walker, the daughter of Marion and Marie Walker, and Forest married Jessie Hamilton, the daughter of Edgar and Laura Hamilton.

Their father, John Nelson, was a very brave man considering he left Colchester South, travelled to Michigan and joined the Union army during the Civil War. According to New Canaan in roughly 1863, John became a member of the 102nd Unites States Colored Troop. Milo Johnson adds “The 102nd transferred to Massachusetts where the Union Army inducted the unit to the 55th Massachusetts Infantry which fought many battles in the Civil War.  The Union Army discharged John Nelson from the unit at Wilmington, North Carolina, in April of 1865.  He then returned home to his family in Colchester South, Essex, Ontario.  John Nelson purchased land north of the town of Harrow near the area which was commonly called Hillsville.  The community, according to Milo Johnson, “stretched westward, from 3rd Concession at the Richmond drain, towards the McLean Side Road, east of Walker Road; and from Roseborough, near 3rd Concession, it stretched north towards the 4th Concession.”  Hillsville had two main churches: Mount Calvary Church of God in Christ (Baptist Church) and Central Grove on the corner of the 4th Concession and Walker Road.  John Nelson farmed on the 4th Concession, Lot 12.  Per the 1900 United States Census, the family immigrated to the United States in 1880. John was compensated for his military service because records show that Harriet was able to collect John’s Civil War pension from 1906 until her passing in January 1923.