Dawn, Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site and Josiah Henson House
Other settlements were established to provide homes and education for fugitive slaves. White abolitionists Hiram Wilson and James Canning Fuller, and the Black abolitionist and former slave Josiah Henson founded the British-American Institute near present-day Dresden. The school became the nucleus for a large Black community of the “Dawn Settlement”, named for the lands it occupied in what was then the township of Dawn. For over 10 years the school was a source of vocational instruction for both young people and adult students, many of whom worked either on the land around the Institute or in the settlement’s sawmill, which produced hardwood lumber.
Backstory and Context
The settlement’s charismatic leader was Josiah Henson, a slave from Maryland who escaped to Canada after trying to buy his freedom. He published several editions of his autobiography, and his life story served as a source for the fictional title character of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Today, Henson’s home near Dresden, now part of a seasonal museum site, is referred to as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the first widely distributed description of slave life. It sold 300,000 copies within a year of its appearance in 1852 and played a significant role in raising support for the abolition of slavery and in hastening the start of the Civil War.