Our Monthly Story

Thornton Blackburn

Section E, Lot 100
Toronto Necropolis

Thornton and Lucie Blackburn were Kentucky slaves who attempted to escape slavery, but were arrested in Detroit in 1831. An uprising in Detroit by black supporters helped the Blackburns flee to Canada. They settled in Toronto where Thornton took a job as a waiter and started planning to open his own business. Thornton took a Montréal cab pattern to a mechanic who then built a horse drawn taxi cab for the Blackburns. The yellow and red vehicle with door at the back and provision for a driver in the front, was built by Paul Bishop in his shop at the south-east corner of Sherbourne and Duke Streets. The cab, a four-passenger, one-horse carriage built in 1837 and named “The City,” helped Thornton and Lucie Blackburn become owners of the city’s first cab company. They provided cab services that took steamboat passengers and former slaves to various destinations in the city. At that time, recently enacted city traffic laws meant no-one could “gallop or ride a horse at an unreasonable rate of speed,” and cab drivers were forbidden to “wantonly snap or flourish” their whips, and to use “abusive, obscene or violent language.” The horse-run taxicabs could accommodate four passengers, with space on the roof of the carriage for luggage. Following the success of their cab business, the Blackburns started purchasing investment properties. They owned six houses that were rented to former slaves who needed a place to live. Thornton and Lucie Blackburn were slaves who became entrepreneurs and who found ways to make a good living while helping other members of the community. Thornton Blackburn died on February 26, 1890.


 

» Story Archives