7. Church Creek

Crosscurrents of Slavery and Freedom

Church Creek was a thriving shipbuilding center on the waterfront during the 1830s. Workers in the maritime trades – shipwrights, caulkers, sail makers and blacksmiths – labored and mingled at the wharves with highly mobile, free black sailors. These “Black Jacks” were part of a secret communication network that spanned not only coastal American towns, but also across the Atlantic. They brought news, ideas, and information to enslaved communities, spreading notions of liberty and equality, as well as gossip. Sometimes they provided a means to escape. In the early 19th century, a large community of enslaved and free black families lived and worked between here, Harrisville and White Marsh Roads.

Church Creek sits along Route 16, which follows an ancient pre-colonial Indian trail used for seasonal migrations and trade between the Chesapeake and Delaware bays. “The great majority of enslaved people who fled this county before the Civil War came from places along this road, which begins in Taylors Island to the west and continues northeast through Cambridge. The freedom seekers followed the direction of this route and headed into Caroline County, Maryland and onto Delaware.” Access to information and escapes via vessels likely secured this route’s reputation as a “Highway to Freedom.”

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GPS Coordinates: 38.501579,-76.152396

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