Brantford's Black History
SR Drake Memorial Church
East Ward was home to early Black settlers in Brantford. A map by Lewis Burwell from 1830 indicates that the first “African” Church was located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Dalhousie and Peel Streets.
This early church served the Black community for more than 20 years. The building that stands today at 165 Murray Street was completed in 1896 and replaced a frame building that was erected on the site in 1856 on lands donated for that purpose by Peter S. O’Banyan and his wife Sophia. The O’Banyans were formerly enslaved prior to their arrival to Brantford and the family’s connection to the BME Church continued with their son Josephus who was associated with the BME Church in Owen Sound, Ontario.
The first pastor of the church, Rev. Walter Hawkins had been enslaved in the U.S. prior to settling in Brantford. This property, including the S.R. Drake Memorial Church as the BME building was renamed in 1956, is associated with the Underground Railroad and is municipally designated under Part IV (4) of the Ontario Heritage Act.