Seeking Harriet Tubman in Fort Hill Cemetery

Fort Hill Cemetery -- Harriet Tubman's grave

We went to Fort Hill Cemetery to pay our respects — and get the closest we’ll ever get — to freedom fighter and American hero Harriet Tubman. We’d visited her home, which is under restoration and renovation, earlier that day. And the day before, we’d toured William Seward’s house, her friend and former U.S. Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln.

Fort Hill really is a fabulous old cemetery in Auburn NY. Designed in the Victorian rural garden style in 1851, you’ll find that it’s great for a quiet walk amongst the historic stones.

Fort Hill is rich in history. In the middle of the 16th century, the indigenous people used the area as a fortified hill. Some historians believe the Cayuga built the fort for defense during the many wars that raged between the different groups. (The Cayuga Nation is one of the original Five Nations of the League of the Iroquois, who traditionally lived in New York.) After the Iroquois Confederacy was formed, the wars ended and the Cayuga left to seek new homes. Today, faint traces still indicate the outline of the original fort. 

Fort Hill Cemetery, which was founded in the mid 19th Century, is named for and surrounds the Cayuga’s fortified village. In fact, the cemetery encircles an almost 60-foot high limestone obelisk monument to Chief Logan, famed chief of the Haudenosaunee.

About Harriet Tubman

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, traveling into Maryland, endangering her life each time.

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.

Tubman rests on Fort Hill Cemetery’s “West Lawn C,” beneath a large tree with two small bushes on each side of her headstone.

Other Famously Dead and Well Wed in Fort Hill Cemetery

This tranquil rural garden cemetery is also the final resting place for such notables as former Secretary of State William H. Seward. Alongside of Seward are his wife Francine, a feminist and abolitionist, as well as his son, William H. Seward Jr., a banker and brigadier general in the U.S. Army during the Civil War

You’ll also find Martha Coffin Wright, feminist, abolitionist, and signatory of the Declaration of Sentiments.

Myles Keogh who fell on the battlefield at Little Bighorn with Custer also rests within the cemetery. In fact, you can find artists and ambassadors, a baker’s dozen of Auburn mayors and probably as many industrialists and entrepreneurs. There are abolitionists, suffragettes and prison wardens.

Know Before You Go

Getting there: 19 Fort St, Auburn, NY
Hours: daylight (Google erroneously states that it closes at 1 p.m.)
Website: the Cemetery

Looking for other tombstone tourism? Check out other cemeteries MidAtlantic Daytrips has visited.

Learn more about Harriet Tubman, both in Maryland and New York, in the articles below: