Revered William King successfully established Elgin as a settlement for fifteen former slaves from Louisiana. Beginning with 4,500 acres, Elgin grew to be over 9,000 acres. Black settlers could purchase land at $2.50 per acre, payable in 10 annual installments. Many whites in the area were strictly opposed to a free black settlement and organized vigilance committees to police the settlement. By 1855, 150 families inhabited Elgin and found work on the railroad. The community placed an emphasis on education; Elgin’s students learned Latin and Greek in addition to English, arithmetic, geography. The curriculum was so strong that white parents enrolled their children.
When Cincinnati’s African American population dramatically increased, white Cincinnatians demanded that the city begin enforcing Ohio’s Black Codes. In response to these racial tensions, James Charles Brown, a former slave, organized black Cincinnatians around the idea of starting a settlement in Ontario. When white mobs raided a black neighborhood, thousands of African Americans fled the city; many had sights on Brown’s settlement, some relocated to other Northern cities. The settlement in Ontario became known as Wilberforce and had a gristmill, three sawmills, general stores and a tavern.