St. Mark's Church

The Waters Family


The Waters Family

Since the establishment of the Town, Black settlers have established roots in the community. One longstanding family of African roots is the Waters family. Humphrey Waters Sr., his wife Ann, and sons James and Humphrey Jr. moved to Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) in 1794 from Kingston upon receiving land grants. It is more than likely Humphrey Sr. was white and Ann was Black. Humphrey Sr. is never identified as Black in any of his land records. Mrs. Waters is noted as being a “negro woman” in St. Mark’s burial register.

Humphrey Sr. and Ann, settled in Newark around 1794, having lived in Quebec, possibly Detroit, and then in various townships along the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River. Humphrey passed away by 1807 and a Mrs. Waters’ death, likely Ann, is record in 1802. The Waters family were members of St. Mark’s Anglican Church, whose records help us learn more about the family.

James Waters and Humphrey Waters Jr.

Humphrey Sr. and his wife Ann had two sons, James and Humphrey Jr. James was born around 1773, while Humphrey Jr. was born sometime between 1776 and 1780. James married Clarissa Sorrell on 17 December 1811. Humphrey Jr. and Catherine Servos married prior to 1809 when their first child John was born.

An 1843 affidavit for the couple noted that they had been living as husband and wife for 35 years. Both couples are identified in the records of St. Mark as “of colour.” Based on her family lineage, Catherine Servos was white, therefore only Humphrey Jr., who was biracial, had direct African ancestry to pass on to their children. James was biracial, and his wife Clarissa Sorrell is likely the woman baptized by Rev. Addison in 1802, whom he identified as “a negro girl”.

James and Humphrey Waters served with the Coloured Corps during the War of 1812, along with approximately 55 Black men, including Richard Pierpoint. James was appointed Sergeant in the Coloured Corps, while Humphrey Jr. served as a Corporal.

When the Americans attacked Fort George in May of 1813, they took the Town of Niagara and burned it to the ground before retreating in December of that year. During the American occupation, the Town and the surrounding farmland was mostly inhabited by women and children, and men too old to fight. Humphrey Waters’ wife, Catharine, and their three children found themselves destitute when their farm was looted by American soldiers looking for food and clothing. They were driven from their home and had to receive charitable funds and food from Reverend Addison of St. Mark’s Church.

In the spring of 1814, both Catharine and Clarissa gave birth to sons.

Pregnancy and childbirth during wartime would not have been easy. James and Clarissa’s son was baptized by Reverend Addison on 26 June, 1814. Sadly, the child did not live long, and he was buried in November that same year. Humphrey and Catharine’s four sons (Joseph, Daniel, John, William) were baptized by Reverend Addison on September 6 of that year.

In 1816, Humphrey Waters Jr. filed a war compensation claim for property and crops lost during the war. As of June 1823, he still had not received compensation for these losses. Both he and his brother James struggled to rebuild their lives, but eventually their families were able to rebuild their houses and farms.

Humphrey Jr. received a land grant in Oro Township, Simcoe County, which he leased to others. James spent years trying to claim patents for land in the Kingston area which had been owned by their late father. James died around 1840. His brother Humphrey simply disappeared from historical records. There is the possibility that Humphrey Jr. may have been captured and sold into slavery, either while on a visit to New York, or from the Niagara region, where there is evidence that slave catchers were operating even north of the border.

List of Lot Owners May 11, 1795 Newark

This list of lot owners was compiled in 1795 in the Town of Newark, present day Niagara-on-the-Lake. At the end of the list you will see Humphrey Waters and Jas (James) Waters.

The men owned lots 325 and 368. Lot 325 was located on the corner of King and John Street, while lot 368 was located on the corner of King and Anne Street. The lots were located next to one another in an area that became known as the "Coloured Village."

John Waters and Daniel Servos Waters

The descendants of Humphrey and James went on to live full and interesting lives. Humphrey Jr. and his wife Catherine had four sons, including John Waters and Daniel Servos Waters.

Daniel owned and operated a large livery stable on Regent Street. John was a landlord and served as a Town councilor for six years. He was elected as a Town councilor in 1874. John increased his original land holdings by buying more lots and was a successful farmer. He acquired a tavern license in 1871, 1872 and 1873. John’s death in 1880 was recorded in the Town Council minutes:

Councilor:
“Whereas it had pleased Divine Providence to remove by death one of our number.  Be it therefore, Resolved that as a tribute of Respect to the memory of the late John Waters Esquire that Council adjourn its sitting until tomorrow evening at 8 o’clock and to attend his funeral as a boddy (sic).  Carried.”

John Waters is buried in the St. Mark’s cemetery. The Waters family, like many families, have roots going back generations.

John Waters' Grave

Here is John Waters’ grave from St. Mark's Church. It reads:

Sacred to the memory of John Waters Died Oct 8 1880 Aged 72 Years

This memorial is shared with his wife Sarah who died March 15, 1881 at age 58.

This grave is located in the northern part of the cemetery.

St. Mark's Church and Reverend Robert Addison

Two weeks before Lieutenant Governor Simcoe arrived, the Anglican minister Robert Addison arrived in Niagara. His parish covered the wider Niagara area and would include Niagara-on-the-Lake, Grimsby, and Beamsville. The church building was constructed in 1802 and following the War of 1812 was partially rebuilt due to damages sustained during the American retreat in December 1813.

During his tenure between 1792 and 1832, Addison performed many baptisms, marriages and funeral ceremonies, and documented these vital statistics in the church registers. In his registers, he identifies enslaved and free Blacks that he provided services for. For example, six months after his arrival, he baptized Jane, daughter of Peter Martin, who was enslaved by Lieutenant Colonel John Butler. His records also confirm the existence of the enslavement of Africans. In February 1797, he married, Moses and Phoebe, slaves of William Jarvis.

Freedom seeker William Riley is also buried in St. Mark’s Cemetery.



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Voices of Freedom | Black History of Niagara-on-the-Lake

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