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New Provincial Heritage Property recognizes African-American settlement in Sask.

The Shiloh Baptist Church near Maidstone has been added to Saskatchewan’s Provincial Heritage Property registry.
The Shiloh Baptist Church near Maidstone has been added to Saskatchewan’s Provincial Heritage Property registry. Saskatchewan government / Supplied

Shiloh Baptist Church stands today as the only known building that remains from the first and only African-American farming community established in Saskatchewan.

The site, around 30 kilometres northwest of Maidstone, has been designated a Provincial Heritage Property.

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Completed in 1912, the church became the focal point of community life as well as a social and religious centre for a close-knit community of settlers who escaped segregation in Oklahoma.

“In the early 20th century, African-American families seeking freedom from discrimination made this small farming community in Saskatchewan their home,” Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Gene Makowsky said in a press release.

“Our government recognizes the importance of this site and the significant impact it has had in shaping the identity and culture of our province.”

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A cemetery at the site contains at least 37 graves of the original settlers and their descendants. It is the only known place in the province that illustrates the African-American burial custom of the late 19th century.

Fifty-three historic sites and structures have been formally recognized by the Saskatchewan government and protected as Provincial Heritage Property under The Heritage Property Act.