“Sailing Away to Freedom”
Forty-year-old Joseph Cornish had deep ties to the community. He was married to a free woman and the father of five children. His decision to escape must have been fraught with emotional pain.
On December 8, 1855, Cornish most likely knew about the Underground Railroad network Harriet Tubman relied upon in Philadelphia and New York, when he started out on “foot for Gilpins Point, where he had heard there was a vessel about to sail.” Gilpin Point was one of the busiest wharves along the Choptank River in Caroline County. It served as a landing for steamboats and sailing vessels transporting people, timber, agricultural products and seafood. It sat just upriver from Dr. Anthony C. Thompson’s plantation where Harriet Tubman’s parents lived and where Harriet herself conducted several of her most famous escapes.
Joseph Cornish “worked his passage” to Baltimore, and then he made his way to Underground Railroad agent William Still in Philadelphia on Christmas Day. From there, Cornish was quickly forwarded to agent Sydney H. Gay in New York City. Cornish eventually made his way to St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, where Harriet Tubman, her brothers and many others from Maryland’s Eastern Shore were settling into their newfound freedom.
GPS Coordinates: 38.809594,-75.896881