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Maidstone

Our house, Vausroy Sask.The Eldon district of Maidstone, one of the first Black settlements in western Canada, is close to the Alberta border, between Lloydminster and North Battleford, Saskatchewan. When first settled, the Maidstone area, being north of the Grand Trunk Pacific and Canadian National Railway lines, was relatively remote. Maidstone, named after a town in Kent, England, was originally settled in 1908 by Barr colonists, a group of British settlers brought to Lloydminster by Reverend Isaac Barr. By 1905, the Canadian Northern Railway was being constructed through the region and the town grew.

The first Black settler in the Maidstone area, Samuel Boyd, did not arrive until 1907. The following year, Anderson Harper settled in the Eldon district with his family. The bulk of the Black settlers arrived in 1910 and 1911, and there were about 20 families in the area. Some families moved on to Alberta to form the community of Amber Valley. By 1911, the Black settlers started building their first community structure, Shiloh Baptist Church, finished in 1912. In 1913, Julius Caesar Lane became the first person to buried in Shiloh Baptist Church Cemetery, built next to the church.

By 1913, a sufficient number of settlers had arrived in the Eldon district to warrant building a school in the Black community. Settlers in the Eldon district petitioned local authorities for the creation of a school district. Their efforts, however, were in vain: the few White settlers living in the Eldon district did not want their children to be schooled with Black children. The Black settlers made appeals to the Saskatchewan Department of Education in Regina. Finally, in 1915, with the aid of MLA P.P. Lyle, a segregated school was created for the Black children in the Eldon district. By the 1920s, Eldon School became an integrated school. 

By the early 1920s, the Eldon district grew and was home to about 50 Black families. Over the course of the 1920s and 1930s, however, many families, because of the challenges associated with homesteading, returned to the United States or moved to larger centres like Saskatoon, North Battleford, and Edmonton.

The Maidstone area was densely wooded, and settlers found it difficult to clear enough land to receive the title to their homesteads. By the Second World War, the young people in the area started moving to the cities in search of better opportunities. Many of the young men moved to the cities to become railroad porters, one of the few occupations opened to them.

Shiloh Baptist Church was closed in the 1940s, and Eldon School closed in 1959. George Harvey Mayes was one of the last Black settlers to remain on his farm in the Eldon District. He died in 1975 at the age of 81 and was the last person to be buried in the Shiloh Baptist Church Cemetery.
 
While Maidstone is now a thriving farming and oil town, little remains of the Black district of Eldon. Most of the farmhouses are gone, and the Eldon schoolhouse was moved outside of the district, as it is now a private residence. The abandoned Shiloh Baptist Church and its cemetery were restored by the Shiloh Baptist Church and its Cemetery Restoration Society in the 1970s. The Restoration Society was formed by the “Shiloh People,” a nickname given to the Black settlers of Maidstone and their descendants during this time. With the help of Arlene Frolick of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society, the restoration society has rediscovered the names of the settlers buried in the cemetery and a cairn has been erected in their honour. In 1991, the Shiloh Baptist Church and Cemetery was designated a provincial historic site.


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