Levi Foster was a free African American immigrant from the United States who became a successful businessman and an important person in the Black community in Canada West (Ontario) during the mid-1800’s. He was born March 29, 1811, in the state of Ohio. He was a plasterer and worked on finishing the interior walls of houses while they were being built. He and his wife, Elizabeth, lived at Perrysburg, which was a known stop on the Underground Railroad and he may have helped fugitive slaves on their way north before he himself left Ohio.
In 1838, Levi moved his family from Perrysburg, Ohio, to Amherstburg, in what is now southwestern Ontario. After arriving in Canada West, Levi Foster found a job as a plasterer and he also became an innkeeper in Amherstburg. After working for more than ten years, he saved enough money to open his own business, a livery stable. This was a place where people boarded horses. The livery also rented horses and carriages to people who did not have their own. His business did so well that he even won some local awards.
Levi was also an influential person in the Black community in Amherstburg. He was one of the leaders who found a very important organization called the “True Band Society” of Amherstburg. This organization was formed by Black people in communities across Canada West (Ontario) to help protect enslaved African Americans who had run away from the USA to Canada, and to provide mutual support and assistance to members of the community who fell ill or were in need.
In addition, Levi Foster took part in many slavery debates and anti-slavery activities. In fact, Levi hated slavery so much that he closed his tavern for a day after losing a debate in which he was arguing for the motion that a slaveholder was worse than an innkeeper. The Temperance Movement was very strong at the time. It was an effort to encourage people to moderate their drinking of alcohol, or even to stop drinking altogether. In 1835, Levi married Elizabeth Waring and they had seven children. In September 1855, Levi’s wife died and he married a woman named Lucy with whom he had five more children.
After closing down his tavern, Levi continued his livery stable business and became very rich. He bought several properties and farms in Amherstburg and Malden. Levi Foster died in Malden in April, 1875, and his sons continued operating their father’s livery stable business. A large crowd attended Levi’s funeral and his obituary stated that he was a peaceful man and well respected in the community of Amherstburg.