“Roots of Family and Community”
A large community of free and enslaved black families lived and worked between Harrisville and Whitemarsh Roads, creating an important social world for Harriet Tubman and her family.
Harriet Tubman was probably born in 1822 on Anthony Thompson’s plantation, called the Mansion Farm, which bordered the Big Blackwater River, south of Madison in an area called Peter’s Neck. Like Eastern Shore planters of the period, Thompson cultivated grains and other foodstuffs, but timbering the great white oak, pine, walnut and maple on his lands occupied the majority of his efforts for decades. By the time Harriet was born, Thompson enslaved nearly 40 people, including Ben Ross, her father. The labor needed to timber this region also attracted many free African-Americans, who created a close knit community nearby.
Ben was one of Thompson’s most valuable men. As a timber cutter and inspector, Ben’s skills increased the profitability of Thompson’s lands. Harriet’s father was married to Rit Green. Rit belonged to Thompson’s stepson, Edward Brodess, who moved Rit and five of her children, including baby Araminta (Harriet Tubman), to his farm in Bucktown. But by 1840, Rit was back living on Thompson’s farm, where she and Ben remained until 1847.
Teenaged Harriet Tubman was hired out to John T. Stewart, who owned farms, a shipyard and businesses here. Her father also worked for Stewart after he was freed in 1840. While working here, Harriet likely learned of the secret communication network supported by black mariners, as well as about safe places in the north and how to navigate by the stars. It was near here that Harriet met and married freeman John Tubman in 1844.
Working for the Stewarts at Madison brought Harriet back to the community near where her father lived and where she had been born. Harriet worked here in the Stewart’s house (no longer standing), then in their fields, on the docks and at their timber yards. She exhibited great feats of strength and endurance.
Edward Brodess eventually allowed Harriet to hire her own time after paying him a yearly fee of $60. She was then able to buy a pair of oxen, which helped her earn more money, offering the possibility of one day buying her own freedom. In 1844, Harriet married John Tubman, and they lived together nearby. It was at this time she shed her childhood name Minty in favor of Harriet.
GPS Coordinates: 38.507786,-76.222721