The Sash Our Forefathers Wore
There are a few early accounts of escaped slaves making their way into Reach Township, however, none took up permanent residence here until 1866 when an escaped slave named Samuel Stoutt (sometimes spelled Stout) arrived and decided to make Port Perry his home.
Samuel was born in Summerville, N.J. of free parents. When he was about 15 years of age he moved to New York and later came to Canada. He moved from place to place living in Toronto, Kingston, Madoc and Uxbridge following his business as a barber. When he arrived in Port Perry, he immediately made his way to one of the local barber shops and asked for employment. He quickly established himself in that trade and gained an excellent reputation.
Samuel had another talent which helped him to gain acceptance in this pioneer community. He was an extremely proficient musician and was apparently able to play well on any kind of wind instrument. He helped to organize the town band and was its first leader. Because of his musicianship, he became known as Professor Stoutt.
Shortly after his arrival in Port Perry, Harris Burnham, clerk of the division court, gave Stoutt permission to build a simple dwelling, probably no more than a shack, at the rear of his property. He remained in his humble accommodation until he married in 1876. He married an English girl, Elizabeth Organ, who was considerably younger than himself, possibly as much as 40 years his junior. His marriage necessitated finding better living accommodation. He rented a house on Lilla Street (now Simcoe Street). In this house, Samuel and Elizabeth had five children; a child who died in infancy; Joseph, born in 1877; Samuel John, who died when only 23 year old in 1903; Alice, born in 1884 and William, born in 1890.
Stoutt continued to work as a barber until the end of the century. His loving and faithful wife Elizabeth died in 1907. Samuel’s age is difficult to determine. His birth date has been recorded in various documents as 1812, 1815 and 1817. When he died on May 4, 1911, his obituary declared that he was a centenarian and for years he held the honour of being the oldest man in Port Perry.
All the Stoutt children spent their entire lives in this community. None married, and when Alice, the youngest, died in 1959 at the age of 74, the heritage of Samuel Stoutt passed into history. And with her death, Port Perry’s only direct link with the grim story of slavery was broken.
Brother Samuel Stoutt, date unknown (Photo: Faces of Scugog).
Orange Parade in Port Perry, Ontario, circa 1900. Brother Samuel Stoutt leading the band (Photo: Faces of Scugog).