Richard Pierpoint: A Black Loyalist
Pierpoint was born in Bondu, a nation state in current-day Senegal, Africa and was raised as a Muslim. He was captured when he was about 16 years of age and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to the Thirteen Colonies, where he was purchased and enslaved by a military officer. When the American Revolutionary War broke out, he enlisted for the British side in Butler’s Rangers, a successful loyalist fighting force that was stationed at Fort Niagara. For his service to the Crown, Pierpoint was awarded his freedom and was granted 200-acres (81 hectares) in Grantham Township, present day St. Catharines.
During the War of 1812 he stood up to fight once more by petitioning the colonial provincial government “to raise a Corps of Men of Colour on the Niagara Frontier.”
Long after the War of 1812 ended, Pierpoint received another 100-acre land grant, this time in Fergus, Ontario (Wellington County). By this time, he was quite elderly and did not wish to undertake the back-breaking work of settling the land. He was also impoverished, relying on friends and neighbours for support. In 1821 he sent a petition to Sir Peregrine Maitland, the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, requesting that instead of his 100-acre land grant for his military service, he receive funds so that he could return home to Bondu. Sadly, his petition was refused. He lived on his Fergus property for many years, receiving help from other Black settlers in the area. It is believed that he spent the winter months in the Niagara region where he had many friends and where the winters were not as harsh. In 1828, around the age of 84, he had his last will and testament drawn up, signing his name with an “X.”
Richard Pierpoint, “Pawpine,” or “Captain Dick,” as he was also known, died in late 1837 or early 1838. He was a respected member of the Black community and was well-known throughout the province as an elder, a veteran, a settler, and a “griot” (or revered storyteller). He died far, far away from his beloved homeland to which he had so longed to return.