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Joseph Stewart's Canal

Joseph Stewart's Canal

“Danger and Drudgery in the Marshes”
The Stewart family owned large tracts of timber in the area. Joseph Stewart and other nearby landowners designed a canal to float cut logs and agricultural products to the wharves and shipyards in Madison Bay. Enslaved and free people dug by hand this seven mile canal through the marsh between 1810 and the 1830s. It was a grueling and sometimes deadly endeavor.

Harriet Tubman learned important outdoor skills when she worked with her father in the nearby timbering operations. These skills would prove vital later in her life, when she would confidently guide passengers along the Underground Railroad. Through her work on the docks and in the forests, Harriet learned the secret networks of communication that were the provenance of African-American men, particularly those employed as mariners, carrying timber and other goods to cities and towns around the Chesapeake Bay and into Delaware, Pennsylvania and New England. Beyond the watchful eye of white masters, they spoke of freedom in the North, the safe places along the way and the dangers in between. Feeding her own growing resentment of slavery’s injustices, the free world beyond the shores of Dorchester County emboldened Harriet.

GPS Coordinates: 38.488349,-76.262765

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Escapes were not uncommon in the area. Harriet would later successfully bring away Winnebar Johnson, the...