Two years ago, a team of scientists filming a show for PBS unearthed evidence that showed a bit more about how Josiah Henson might have lived at what was long ago a plantation along present day Old Georgetown Road.
On Tuesday, Aug. 19, the “Time Team America” episode chronicling the archaeological dig at the Riley Cabin will premiere on PBS.
The team of scientists had three days alongside Montgomery Parks archaeologists and volunteers to dig and search for evidence of Henson-era structures and artifacts. The existing site is now two acres at 11420 Old Georgetown Rd. known as Josiah Henson Park.
The Riley plantation of 1828 — the one Henson wrote about in the autobiography that inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” — was much larger, though much of it has been subdivided and developed into homes.
The team still was able to find three layers of compacted earth flooring in the cabin-like structure on the property. The artifacts and construction materials indicated the log kitchen built well after Henson’s time on the plantation very likely sits on the exact footprint of the one Henson described.
“The Search For Josiah Henson” will be one of four new episodes of the show’s second season. The show filmed the program in August 2012.
Since that time, Montgomery Parks has upped its efforts at building a museum-like experience at the site open year-round. The log cabin and site of the dig is now open at select times throughout the year, including during Black History Month.
School groups and others can request tours at other times. Parks officials said it’s becoming more common for tour groups to pair a visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in D.C. with a stop at the park.
The new museum would include a visitors center, replica slave quarters and eight-foot-tall book with Henson quotes.
Montgomery Parks’ foundation is looking to raise $2 million to fund the facility. Montgomery County has approved $4.85 million in matching funds for the program.