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Josiah Henson, Blue Skies, and Remembering

A few days ago my husband and I took an afternoon away from our computers and drove the approximately two hours to a spot near Dresden, Ontario. I’ve known about this place for over forty years and even visited it when we first starting teaching in nearby Wallaceburg where we lived for three years.

The brain child of Josiah Henson and today called Uncle Tom’s Cabin after Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous book, this settlement–the Dawn settlement, it was called–came about because Josiah Henson bought two hundred acres and called all those Blacks fleeing slavery south of the border to come and settle. For an excellent accounting please click the link above for the full story now. Remember to come back and view our pictures from last week’s visit to this historical site right here in Ontario.

We took the back roads from Woodstock preferring their quiet but forgot what a long drive it is to Dresden and didn’t arrive at our destination for over two hours. It was a lovely day driving the back roads of Ontario, some we’d never traveled before, and we reached Uncle Tom’s Cabin about 3:30 with lots of time before closing at 5:00. The docent rushed us inside to see an excellent movie before a busload of visitors would arrive. She was most helpful.

It was a perfect blue-sky-white-cloud day, and the plain but sturdy buildings stood out beautifully. This plaque is for the Dawn settlement.

You can see the time of day from the way the light is in the west. I should have taken my shots from a better angle.

Off to the side was this plaque about Josiah Henson. While I thought I knew the story I was glad to reread this and also to remember that Stowe’s book was loosely based on Josiah Henson.

I just loved the serenity of this shot. The whole property with its few buildings was clean and neat. Nothing was wasted. This experiment of Henson’s is most interesting to see.

In the church where Henson preached, excellent carpentry, plain lines, and functional furniture predominated. This old stove would have heated the whole church. I wonder how hot it might have been sitting right next to it!

Here you can see the front of the church with its piano holding a photo of Josiah Henson and simple bench behind the preacher’s pulpit.

I particularly liked this shot which the parishioners would see as they headed out into the world beyond their church. Very uplifting.

This plaque tells the story of the settlement and its evolution. I wonder how many of our southern neighbours are descended from Blacks who went back to the States after slavery was abolished.

Here is Henson’s house, very simple by today’s standards but quite elaborate when compared to the other homes in the Dawn settlement.

Above, Henson’s grave monument shows Henson’s stature in the community and, indeed, in North America. (If you haven’t clicked the link above, now would be a great time to do it. This man was amazing.)

Facing Henson’s grave monument were all of these very old markers gathered together in a protective wall under the shade trees. I like to think they are placed this way in order to listen to their preacher for eternity.

One of the themes in The Loyalist Legacy is slavery. In this book I mentioned Robert and Mary Anne who lived in Buffalo and helped slaves escape across the raging Niagara River to Upper Canada.  And I also brought a small Black boy into the story through William and Catherine. These were the stories of the times after the War of 1812 and while my instances are fiction, the tales could easily have happened. Visiting Uncle Tom’s Cabin brought it all back to me and I am so glad it did.


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