15. Little Blackwater Bridge
At work in the marshes
A bridge has crossed the Little Blackwater near here since the 1700s, when Harriet Tubman’s grandmother, Modesty, was enslaved on Atthow Pattison’s tobacco farm, situated across the river on the southeast side. Modesty gave birth to Harriet’s mother, Rit Green, there. When Pattison died in January 1797, he gave the enslaved girl “Rittia” to his granddaughter, Mary Pattison, with the stipulation that Rit and all of her future children be set free when “she and they arrive to forty-five years of age.”
Rit later moved to Madison when her owner, and young widow, Mary Pattison Brodess, married Anthony Thompson in 1803. There, Rit met and married Ben Ross and they started their own family. Atthow Pattison’s wish that Rit and her children eventually be set free was never honored.
Years later, Ben and Rit’s child Minty, the young Harriet Tubman, was hired to work for the James Cook family who lived near this bridge. Initially, Minty was expected to learn the trade of weaving. Instead, she was sent into the nearby marshes to watch Cook’s muskrat traps. It was harsh, dangerous work for a child, done in the winter, when muskrat furs are at their finest.
Key Wallace Drive and Little Blackwater River
Church Creek, MD 21622
GPS Coordinates: 38.445901,-76.087575
- Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center nearby