We should be thankful that Josiah Henson had the vision to help build a strong black community in Canada. He was born in Maryland, U.S.A. His entire family was sold to different estates when their master was killed.
Based on the scriptures he read he knew that all men/women should be free. He was given the task of escorting slaves to Kentucky, he went through Ohio which was a free state, however, his strong beliefs in God and doing the right thing he did not want to steal the slaves and stay in Ohio so they all left and continued their journey to Kentucky.
He signed papers stating in order to be free he would have to pay $450.00 which he achieved but he allowed his Master Riley to store the papers for him and Riley double-crossed him and told him it was $1,000.00 to be free knowing that Josiah could not afford that amount at the time. Josiah then decided to escape with his family and he came by way of the underground railway.
Josiah arrives in Canada
In 1830 he went to the Fort Erie area and he fell to the ground because he was so happy to be in Canada, some reports state that he actually kissed the ground. It took him six weeks to make his way to freedom and he received help from the Native Indians. He made over 118 trips back to the USA to help free other slaves. President Abraham Lincoln gave credit to the book written by Harriet Beecher Stowe book called Uncle Tom Cabin for starting the civil war, this book was based on Josiah Henson life.
Here are 5 facts you may not know about Josiah Henson;
- He was born on June 15, 1789.
- He first settled in Dawn, Ontario which is now called Dresden. You can arrange a tour of the Uncle Tom’s Historic site by calling 519-683-2978 or visit 29251 Uncle Tom’s Road in Dresden, Ontario N0P 1M0.
- Josiah met with the President of the USA and he also met with the Queen of England.
- He is the first black man to be featured on the Canadian stamp.
- He helped establish a vocational school and refuge for slaves coming from the USA.
Let’s take some time and recognize and celebrate some of Canada’s history on Canada Day.
Thank you, Josiah Henson.