Bishop McNeal Turner gave his name to Turner
Chapel. He was the first black chaplain in the Federal
Forces during the American Civil War and a prominent
leader of Afro Americans.  Although he was born free it
was forbidden to teach a black to read or write.  In
spite of this barrier it appears that some sympathetic
whites did, in fact, give him some instruction.  He went
on, as a man, to become a prolific scholar, a brilliant
writer, and something of a linguist.  He was an angry
reformer and he was terribly disappointed when the
plight of his fellow blacks was as degrading after the
war as it had been before the conflict.  He became a
"back to Africa" proponent and travelled to that
continent.  He wrote sensitively and with insight on his
observations while in Africa.  

Turner Chapel African Methodist Episcopalian Church
was built by former slaves who had escaped the
severity of the fugitive slave laws enacted in the
1850's.  The newcomers were sponsored and assisted
by an Afro Canadian who had become successful as a
In 1890 the little community purchased the land and took out a small mortgage to built the red brick
church.  Since their own churches in the United States were likely frame structures, it seems probable
that they copied the churches they had seen in Canada, complete with "flying buttresses".  

The structure served as a place of social gatherings as well as for worship.  Gradually the original
families left the area and in the late twentieth century the building was leased to an offshoot of the
Anglican church.

In 2002 the church and the Manse (next door) were purchased by Jed Gardner as the site of his already
established antique business.  He had begun activity in a shop in Bronte.  As a mark of respect for the
heritage of the building, Jed retained the name Turner.  It was noticed by one observer that the name
Turner derives from the trade of a woodworker.  Turner being another word for "Lathe" on which wood
could be "turned" and carved.  

Turner Chapel Antiques is protected by the Oakville Heritage Act.  It is Jed Gardner's intention to
preserve the structure into the future.  As he phrased it, "It is entirely appropriate to house beautiful
antiques in a structure which is, itself, an antique."                                                                                               
Bishop Henry McNeil Turner
"Few people truly understand the significance of this splendid
old building.  It may have been the first piece of property that a
group of ex-slaves had owned.  It truly belonged to them.  They
struggled to survive in a not entirely friendly new world.  But in
all of their struggles this was their place of refuge for almost a

Jed Gardner (Contact us at

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