Born in Maryland in 1820, Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in 1849 to become a leading abolitionist. She led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom along the Underground Railroad.
During the Civil War, she helped the Union Army, working as a spy, among other roles. After the Civil War ended, Harriet dedicated her life to helping impoverished former slaves and the elderly, establishing her own Home for the Aged. She really was an amazing woman — not just for her time, but for all time.
That’s why I was really excited when the Harriet Tubman State Park opened up in early April in Church Creek, MD — just below Cambridge in Dorchester County.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center immerses visitors in her world through informative, evocative and emotion-provoking exhibits, explaining how the landscape of the Choptank River region shaped her early years and the importance of her faith, family and community.
Harriet escaped from slavery in 1849 via the network known as the Underground Railroad to travel the nearly 90 miles to Philadelphia. She crossed into the free state of Pennsylvania with a feeling of relief and awe, and recalled later: “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”
Years later, she said of her time as a conductor for 8 years on the Underground Railroad, “I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”
|New Revived Church|
At Malone’s Church (stop #8) we got out to take photos, noticing some very old gravestones in the back of the church yard, and made our way back. We saw there were Tubmans buried there: Moses and Evelina. We wondered whether Harriet had known Moses and Evelina, whether they too had been enslaved or free, like John Tubman. Were they related to her husband? What were these people to her? Before her escape to freedom, did she laugh and dance and gossip with them? I wanted to know more.
NOTE: After this post was published, a Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway representative more fully explained why Harrisville Road is not on the driving tour: “The site is on private property down a rutted dirt road, and for privacy and safety reasons, we don’t feel we can safely send tour buses and visitors down that road.” So disappointing as it is, the explanation is reasonable.
|Malone’s Church; this church haunts me, even several weeks after visiting it. It’s not a particularly lovely old church, but more than some of the other places I photographed that day, this is the one that sticks in my imagination and dreams.|
We took a few wrong turns. The byway will lead you through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (stop #14). Keep your eyes peeled — you’re almost guaranteed to spot a bald eagle. We watched this amazing and dramatic scene of an adult bald eagle harassing and then chasing away two juvenile bald eagles, which I will feature in next week’s post.
The forests, marshes, and waterways that comprise the refuge are pretty much the same landscape Harriet would might have seen during her lifetime.
|The adult bald eagle, to the right, flies in to harass two juvenile bald
eagles in a spectacular scene that we got to watch unfold.
We headed home after stop #24, Choptank Landing. We certainly learned more about Harriet Tubman, but I still felt she was a mystery. How did she come by that force of will that led her to her freedom, and then back into the extreme of danger so many times? What indications were there as a child that this woman would become the American hero she turned out to be?
Know before you go #2: Bring a navigator to help spot those hard to find turns and Tubman Byway sign posts.
|The general store in Bucktown played a significant part in Harriet Tubman’s life.|
Hours: The visitors center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for major holidays.
Getting there: The visitors center is located at 4068 Golden Hill Rd, Church Creek, MD 21622; at the visitors center, pick up a brochure and map for the driving tour.
Website: http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/eastern/tubman_visitorcenter.aspx and for the byway: http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/eastern/tubman_byway.aspx
|The Leverton House’s current owners have planted privacy trees obscuring all view of the house from the road, as well as shrubs that have grown over the Harriet Tubman Byway signpost, making it difficult to read.|
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