53RD PROVINCIAL HERITAGE PROPERTY




53RD PROVINCIAL HERITAGE PROPERTY

The Government of Saskatchewan has designated the Shiloh Baptist Church and Cemetery as our 53rd Provincial Heritage Property.

The heritage value of the Shiloh Baptist Church and Cemetery resides in its association with the first black community in Saskatchewan. Following the American Civil War, tens of thousands of former slaves began migrating to Oklahoma Territory where they could vote, study, and live in relative freedom. The political situation there changed in 1907 when Oklahoma achieved statehood and elected a segregationist government. In search of a life free from segregation and racism, and attracted by the promise of free land in Canada's west, about 12 black families, many of whom former slaves or descendants, arrived in Saskatchewan from Oklahoma in 1920 and settled in the Eldon district. The community eventually grew to over fifty families. Most families had moved away from the site by the 1940s.

The original group constructed Shiloh Baptist Church in 1912. It was constructed of dovetailed, hand-hewn square poplar logs that were delivered by ox-cart from the North Saskatchewan River. The church was furnished with hand-made benches and a pulpit. This vital social and religious centre for the community was a focal point of community life.

Used from 1913 to 1945, Shiloh was the only African American cemetery in Saskatchewan. It comprises what is believed to be 37 graves. The graves were originally marked, according to custom, by large stones at the head and foot of each grave The graves are marked today by white wood crosses. This helps connect descendants with the founding community.

Shiloh Baptist Church and Cemetery is also a National Historic Site, as administered by Parks Canada. It is located about 30 kilometres northwest of the Town of Maidstone, Saskatchewan.