Harriet Tubman’s lost childhood home discovered by archaeologists

Graig Graziosi
·3 min read

An archaeologist believes she may have found the home of abolitionist and Underground Railroad mastermind Harriet Tubman.

Julie Schablitsky, an archaeologist leading a team from the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, believes she has found the home of Ben Ross, Ms Tubman's father.

The site is located on Maryland's Eastern Shore, "deep in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge," according to a statement released by the team.

The site is not currently open to the public, but Ben Ross' great-great-great-granddaughter and a number of dignitaries were present when the announcement of the find was made.

"This discovery adds another puzzle piece to the story of Harriet Tubman, the state of Maryland, and our nation,” Maryland Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford said. “It is important that we continue to uncover parts of our history that we can learn from, especially when they can be lost to time, and other forces. I hope that this latest success story can inspire similar efforts and help strengthen our partnerships in the future."

Bricks, 19th-century pottery, a button, a drawer pull, old records and a pipe stem were all found at the site, according to officials. They believe a log cabin once stood at the location.

Experts said the find is a critical piece of Ms Tubman's history, and will shed further light on her actions as an abolitionist in the mid 1800s.

Between 1850 and 1860, Ms Tubman made 13 trips to rescue slaves - some who were family and friends of hers - using stealth and a network of abolition-friendly individuals to transport and hide the people she was freeing.

That network came to be known as the Underground Railroad.

Historians believe Ms Tubman was sheltered at the recently-found location after her father, Mr Ross, was freed. Mr Ross purchased his wife, Rit, after he was freed, and helped raise Ms Tubman and her siblings in the cabin.

The archaeology team began research at the site in November after the US Fish and Wildlife Service bought 2,600 acres of land next to Blackwater in order to replace refuge areas that had been lost to rising water levels. The land was purchased for $6m.

During the research, the archaeology team dug more than 1,000 test pits to search for artifacts, but found nothing.

Eventually Ms Schablitsky uncovered a coin from 1808, which helped lead her to the site of Mr Ross's cabin.

Tina Wyatt, Ms Tubmans great-great-great grandniece, said the find will provide invaluable insight into the lives and upbringing of her ancestors.

“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,” she said. “This brings enlightenment, revealing how he lived his daily life making it a real-life connection to and for me, a great-great-great-great-granddaughter. The world benefits also from the study of these artifacts concerning objects used by the enslaved; are they common to this plantation, to his position, or to this region? It gives us so much more to explore, explain and exhibit.”

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