Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site
Recognized internationally for his contribution to the abolition movement, Josiah Henson asserted his leadership as preacher and a conductor on the Underground Railroad. He worked with energy and vision to improve life for the Black community in Upper Canada (now Ontario). After escaping slavery in Kentucky, 'Father Henson' quickly attained the status of leader within the Underground Railroad community of Southwestern Ontario. In 1841 he co-founded the British American Institute, a vocational school for Underground Railroad refugees.
Backstory and Context
The Dawn settlement, comprised of mostly Black settlers, grew around the school. Its residents farmed, attended the Institute, and worked at saw mills, gristmills, and other local industries. Some returned to the United States after emancipation was proclaimed in 1865. Others remained, contributing to the establishment of a significant Black community in this part of the province. Harriet Beecher Stowe used Josiah Henson's memoirs, published in 1849, as reference material for her novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin. Henson's dramatic experiences and his connection with Stowe's book made him one of the most famous Canadians of his day. The Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site recognizes the accomplishments of Josiah Henson through interpretive videos, interactive exhibits, numerous artifacts and tours reflecting the Black experience in Canada.
The five-acre site consists of the Josiah Henson Interpretive Centre, with its Underground Railroad Freedom Gallery and North Star Theatre, plus three historic buildings, two cemeteries, a sawmill and numerous artifacts that have been preserved as a legacy to these early pioneers. Each August Civic Holiday weekend the site hosts Emancipation Day, with various speakers, performers, exhibits and cuisine reflecting early Black life in Ontario. Black History Month programming takes place each February, as well as a Diversity Dialogue retreat for youth from the local school boards in the spring and an annual workshop for educators on how to incorporate Black history into their curriculums. The museum is owned and operated by the Ontario Heritage Trust.
William A. Hall experienced dreadful treatment on his farm. These punishments did not only come to him, but to those around him, as well. Hall came to Dresden for a new beginning and to restart his life.