Historians: Cabin not 'Uncle Tom's'

Oct. 4, 2010 at 3:57 PM

BETHESDA, Md., Oct. 4 (UPI) -- A Maryland county has poured more than $2 million into buying and expanding a cabin falsely believed to be the basis of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," historians said.

Montgomery County purchased a two-story colonial house in Bethesda with the log cabin jutting from one side in 2006 for $1 million and has since spent $1 million more on expanding and studying the property, which was believed to be the former home of Josiah Henson, whose life story inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

However, historians said they have now determined Stowe never lived in the cabin although it did belong to the Riley family who held Hansen as a slave from 1795 to 1830, The Washington Post reported Monday.

"I seriously doubt the county would have spent upwards of $2 million if they had known the cabin was not the real Uncle Tom's Cabin," said David Rotenstein, who served on the county Historic Preservation Commission in 2006.

"As a taxpayer, I'd like to see the money spent elsewhere. As a historian, I'm torn. I am not trying to minimize the property's historic significance, but the county needs to be more careful about what it designates as historic," Rotenstein said.

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