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Another Moses leading the enslaved to freedom

March 29, 2018

Story Location:
4068 Golden Hill Road
Church Creek  Maryland
United States

Tucked away in the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Md., is a unique museum that reaches out and touches your soul and makes you think about slavery, one of the county's darkest times.

The visitor center in the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Park is the main stop on a new 125-mile historic byway named for her. There is also a Harriet Tubman Museum in downtown Cambridge. The center is managed by the National Park Service and the Maryland Park Service.

The Underground Railroad was a secret network of trails, waterways and safe houses used by enslaved people seeking freedom.

The center, which opened a year ago, describes the remarkable life of Harriet Tubman, who was born into slavery in early 1822 on a farm near the site of the center in Dorchester County. Her childhood was hard as she suffered through illness and beatings. She was hit in the head with a heavy metal weight that left her injured and suffering from seizures, headaches and visions her entire adult life.

Among the many tasks she was forced to do, she was hired out to work as a muskrat trapper and forest worker. Those jobs helped her learn the lay of the land, which was instrumental when she led others out of slavery. She was never caught and never lost anyone along the route to freedom.

Traveling at night, she escaped in 1849 following the Underground Railroad along the Choptank River through Delaware north to Pennsylvania, then a free state. A $100 reward – equal to $3,000 today – was placed on her recapture.

Demonstrating an unbelievable amount of courage, Tubman returned to the area 13 times to rescue at least 70 people, friends and family members, including her parents and two brothers. Her exploits earned her the nickname Moses.

When the Fugitive Slave Act passed in 1850, traditional stops on the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania and New York were no longer safe havens for runaway slaves. Tubman varied her routes going through Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York crossing the Niagara River into Canada.

When the Civil War broke out, Tubman once again risked her life to help the Union cause. She started out as a nurse and cook for the Union Army and later served as a scout and spy.

She ended up living in Auburn, N.Y., where she married and adopted a daughter. She was active in the women's rights movement until her death in 1913.

 

 

IF YOU GO:

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center

Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day

Free admission (donations accepted)

4068 Golden Hill Road, Church Creek, MD

Phone: 1-410-221-2290

More information: HarrietTubmanByway.org

 

 

  • Ron MacArthur has lived and worked in Sussex County all his life. As a journalist for more than 40 years, he has covered everything from county and town meetings to presidential visits. He also has a unique perspective having served as an elected official and lived on both sides of the county.

    Contact Ron at ronm@capegazette.com