|UWO grad students Flannery Surette and Jim Keron surveying Henson cemetery.|
|Josiah Henson's last home still stands in Dresden, Ontario|
Henson delivered on his promise: "I'll use my freedom well." His home in Dresden, Ontario, is now a historic site commemorating his work.
Today archaeologists from The University of Western Ontario are searching for unmarked graves hidden in the Henson Family Cemetery. A few years ago Henson's home was moved a few hundred metres (yards) to its present location beside the cemetery.
|Archaeologists find lost graves with ground penetrating radar.|
Unfortunately, rain prevented the UWO archaeologists from mapping the areas in question before the symbolic August 1st date. The team is using sophisticated Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) which beams radar waves into the ground. It cannot be used in the rain.
Hidden features and buried objects reflect the waves enabling archaeologists accurately to map anything they discover. This approach minimizes surface disturbance — very important when mapping an historic cemetery. GPR allows a thorough but respectful search by the archaeologists.
Dena Doroszenko, archaeologist for the Ontario Heritage Trust, which owns and operates the historic site, said, "This work will be extremely helpful. Because the Henson family cemetery is still in use today . . . "
A forgotten grave was unearthed at the Henson Family Cemetery during a burial — an unnerving event. "We are trying to prevent this happening again," said Edward Eastaugh, a UWO archeology supervisor and leader of Western’s survey team.
It is possible some of the unmarked graves will later be identified with the help of family members who have a knowledge of Henson Family genealogy, Doroszenko said.
|Josiah Henson shown with Harriet Beecher Stowe, top right.|
Shortly after the release of her book, Stowe acknowledged that Josiah Henson's autobiography, published a few years earlier in 1849, had been an inspiration for her novel. Henson, himself, republished his work as The Memoirs of Uncle Tom.
Sadly, as The New York Times recently pointed out:
"Today, of course, the book has a decidedly different reputation, thanks to the popular image of its titular character, Uncle Tom — whose name has become a byword for a spineless sellout, a black man who betrays his race."
Clearly the original meaning of Uncle Tom has been lost or Henson would not have taken the name for the later release of his memoirs. The archaeologists from Western are finding long forgotten graves while showing great respect as they conduct their search.