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The home belonging to Harriet Tubman’s father, Ben, was discovered in Maryland, providing some clues to Ms. Tubman’s storied history as an abolitionist who helped free others who were enslaved.
The discovery of Ms. Tubman’s father’s home was announced at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek, Maryland. Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford attended the event, among others state and federal officials.
The home was originally acquired by the United States fish and wildlife service, as part of the Blackwater Wildlife Forest and Refuge, before archaeologists learned of its historical importance. A team from Maryland’s Department of Transportation and State Highway Administration researched and studied the location, eventually determining the link to Ms. Tubman’s father.
Childhood home originally belonged to slaveholders
The newly-discovered home was originally bequeathed to Ben Ross, Ms. Tubman’s father, by slaveholder Anthony Thompson, whose will freed Mr. Ross five years after Thompson’s death. Mr. Ross then acquired the property in 1840.
Ms. Tubman, born enslaved as Araminta Ross, suffered severe beatings at the hands of her masters as a child. Throughout her long life, Ms. Tubman made over a dozen trips helping free other people who were enslaved, including most of her family. She was also a key figure in the 1859 Harper’s Ferry Raid.
Lead archaeologist Dr. Julie Schablitsky noted the significance of the finding, stating in a press release, “This was the opportunity she had to learn about how to navigate and survive in the wetlands and the woods. We believe this experience was able to benefit her when she began to move people to freedom.”
Descendants praise Ms. Tubman
Ms. Tubman’s descendants were thrilled and humbled by the discovery of her childhood home. According to Tina Wyatt, Tubman’s great-great-great-grandniece and Ross’s great-great-great-great granddaughter, “Discovering the location of patriarch Ben Ross Sr.’s home and artifacts he used has humanized a man responsible for giving us a woman of epic proportions, Harriet Ross Tubman.”
Ms. Tubman’s great-great-great grandson Douglas Mitchell followed up, thanking the archaeology team. ”[These] findings hold the promise of both deepening and broadening our understanding of the remarkable life not only of the patriarch and his beloved wife, but also, of course, that of his legendary daughter and heroine, Harriet Tubman.”
The land and home will be added to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, an over-100 mile scenic and historical drive with multiple stops related to Ms. Tubman’s life.