9. Madison

Roots of Family and Community

Harriet Tubman spent her formative years around Madison. After living in Bucktown as a young child and adolescent, teenaged Harriet Tubman was hired out to work for John T. Stewart, who owned farms, a shipyard and businesses here. She toiled in the Stewarts’ house (no longer standing), then in their fields, on the docks and in their timber business.

Working for the Stewarts brought Harriet back near the community where her father lived and where she had been born. Tubman’s father, Ben Ross, was set free in 1840, and he worked in Stewart’s lumbering operation. Harriet learned important outdoor survival skills while laboring with her father in the woods, such as how to navigate by the stars, and find food and fresh water. These skills later proved vital as she confidently guided passengers along the Underground Railroad to freedom.

Harriet Tubman successfully led away Winnebar Johnson, enslaved by Samuel Harrington, from here in early June 1854. Johnson later passed through Underground Railroad agent William Still’s office in Philadelphia, where Still noted that Johnson had been “brought away by his sister Harriet two weeks ago.” Johnson was passed along to the bustling port of New Bedford in Massachusetts, where he lived and worked with other freedom seekers, some from Dorchester County.

In December 1854, Tubman had a coded letter sent to Jacob Jackson, a free black farmer who lived west of Madison. The postmaster read the letter and confronted Jackson, who denied knowing what it meant. But Jackson quickly notified Tubman’s brothers that she planned to lead them north from their parents’ home at Poplar Neck in Caroline County. When Harriet Tubman’s three brothers made it to freedom in Philadelphia, they chose as their aliases: James Stewart, John Stewart, and William Henry Stewart – the names of the white Stewart brothers.

Information

Address

MD Route 16, and Madison Canning House Rd.
Madison, MD 21648

GPS Coordinates: 38.507786,-76.222721

Practical info
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  • Water Access
  • Restaurant nearby

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