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The township of Norwich was founded in 1810 by settlers from Dutchess County, New York, many of whom were members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). By the 1830s, these Quaker settlers began to encourage free Black people from the United States to move to Upper Canada, including South Norwich.

In particular one of the first settlers, Frederick Stover, became involved in abolitionism through travelling to Quaker Yearly Meetings in the United States. It was Stover who was appointed to purchase the land for the Wilberforce Settlement near Lucan.

Other Norwich Quakers were involved in the abolitionist movement, including the settlement’s co-founder Peter Lossing. As the dowry from his first marriage, Lossing was offered a number of slaves; on receiving these people as property, he not only freed them but helped them in finding employment. Others, like Jesse Stover, simply encouraged free Black people to move to Norwich Township. The majority of these Black residents lived around the settlement of Otterville.