Thornton Blackburn was born in Mason County, Kentucky back in 1812, growing up in Washington, Kentucky. Because he was a black man he was sold ending up in Louisville, Kentucky. He escaped with his wife Lucy in 1831, making their way to Michigan. The two were arrest two years later however Lucy was able to exchange clothes with Mrs. George French walking out of the jail where she was smuggled across the Detroit River to Essex County, Upper Canada.
Thornton’s escape was more difficult because he was heavily guarded. Detroit’s African-Americans community rose up in protest in The Blackburn Riots. About 400 showed up at the jail where they were able to free Thornton. He made it to Essex County eventually reunited with Lucy. They moved to the newly incorporated City of Toronto in 1834. He found work as a waiter, but he had a vision so he started the first taxi service in Toronto. He built a red and yellow box cab drawn by a horse. He died in 1890, leaving an estate of $18,000.00 and six properties.
What you may not know about Thornton is that his case established the principal that Canada would not return slaves to their masters in the U.S. no matter what they had done. That case established Canada as a safe terminus for the Underground Railroad.
Until tomorrow give someone the free gift of a smile