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Sheffield Family of Collingwood, Ontario

Canadian Roots

Lorraine Hollinbeck & Jane Bland/Montg0mery Pictured here are Lorraine Hollinbeck (Sheffield),on the left, and Jane Bland/Montgomery (Thomas). Lorraine was married to my great grandfather, William Richard Sheffield Sr. and Jane was my great, great grandmother. She was my grandmother, Ildia Smith's, grandmother.

Jane's family came from Sierra Leone on a slave ship and her family changed their name from Bland to Montgomery to make it more difficult for slave catchers to find them when they fled from Virginia to Canada in the mid 1800's. Her brother went back to United States to fight in the Civil War and was never heard from again. Another story that has been passed down from my grandmother's side of the family is of an ancestor slave named Pleasant Duval who escaped from Louisianna and ran to the Niagara River and swam across to Canada. Jane married a fellow named Charlie Thomas, my great, great grandfather, and they were the parents of my great grandmother, Annie Thomas (Smith).

The Sheffields in my paternal grandfather's lineage arrived in North America on the eastern coast of United States on a ship with the United Empire Loyalists. They made their way to Canada and settled near a town called Flesherton, Ontario but by the time Abrim was born they (Abraham) had relocated to Collingwood, Ontario where the next four generations in my direct line were born and raised. This was Abraham's second attempt at settling in Collingwood. The first time he walked the 25 miles from Flesherton to Collingwood, which was then a small village named "Hen and Chickens", Abraham found no use for the town so, after a short stay, he walked back to Flesherton. When Hen and Chickens changed its name to Collingwood and incorporated as a town, Abraham packed all his belongings, including his pot bellied stove, slung them on his back and walked back to Collingwood for the second time. This time he stayed.

Rumor has it that there were Sheffields who were relatives of mine who settled on the Bruce Peninsula near Wiarton, Ontario and some who settled in or near Sarnia, Ontario. If anyone can tell me anything about relatives I may have in either of these locations, or who stemmed from there, I'd be glad to know.

Settling In

Since there were few jobs available to Blacks at the time, for three generations most of my family became cooks and porters on laker ships or trains. This disadvantage became an advantage during the great depression since they were able to keep their jobs. It meant they had money to accumulate land in and around Collingwood at bargain prices when unfortunate casualties of the depression were forced to sell. This steady line of work, cooking and portering on ships, did not come at no cost however. For the sailors it meant long summers away from family and friends and the loss of two of my great uncles, Robert and Lorne, in the icy waters of Lake Superior. Their bodies were never found.

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Although we are now spread out across the country, and around the world for that matter, there are still many Sheffields in and around the Collingwood area. Those of us who were born there but have moved on, still call it home and it remains our central gathering place.

It's always very relaxing and rejuvenating to return "home" for a visit with friends and relatives and of course, enjoy a home cooked meal and share stories at the old homestead. Hopefully our offspring will feel the same fondness for Collingwood, Ontario for generations to come.

Our Future

Slowly but surely the next generations of Sheffields are arriving. Hopefully, with documentation such as this, they will always know where they came from and our proud Canadian roots will never be a mystery or be forgotten. I will teach someone how to update this document and they will teach someone...and so on.

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