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The museum complex

Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site brochure
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Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site is located on part of the original property purchased in 1841 by Josiah Henson and his supporters to establish a refuge for the many fugitives from slavery in the United States. It consists of an interpretive centre, three historic buildings, two cemeteries and numerous artifacts that have been preserved as a monument to these early pioneers.

The Josiah Henson Interpretive Centre houses a collection of 19th-century artifacts and rare books pertinent to the abolitionist era, as well as documentation regarding the life of the Rev. Josiah Henson. An overview of Henson's life is provided on arrival at the site through an audio-visual presentation in the North Star Theatre. The Underground Railroad Freedom Gallery traces the trials and triumphs of these freedom seekers on Canadian soil. Among the many artifacts on display in this room are dishes presented to Henson on one of his trips to Europe, as well as a signed photograph of Queen Victoria, whom he met in 1877 at Windsor Castle. A first edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous novel Uncle Tom's Cabin can be viewed as well as numerous translations of her anti-slavery novel.

The tour continues around the outer property with a look at Henson's last residence, a modest two-storey clapboard-sided structure. The structure was restored to its original condition in 1993-94 and contains furnishings of the late 19th century. The main floor of the house is open for viewing.

The Harris house is also a two-storey structure – reputedly one of the oldest remaining buildings in the Dresden area – where these pioneers could live in freedom.

The pioneer church dates back to 1850 and contains the organ from the original church where Henson preached.

The cemetery adjacent to the property is the private cemetery for Henson and his family. Henson's gravesite is marked by a tall stone with a crown on top, representing Queen Victoria's crown. In 1999, the Government of Canada erected a plaque beside his gravestone designating Henson as a National Historic Person. Henson's celebrity raised international awareness of Canada as a haven for refugees from slavery.

Immediately across the road from the Henson family cemetery is the British American Institute burial ground, where many gravestones of the settlement have been preserved.

Slavery to freedom
Slavery to freedom
During the 19th century, thousands of enslaved and many free African-Americans fled the United States and made their way to freedom in Canada. Ontario was one of their primary destinations.
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