Choptank Landing — Photo courtesy of Dorchester Tourism
“When the good old ship of Zion comes along, be ready to step aboard.” – Harriet Tubman
Maryland’s Eastern Shore, like many towns of the South, has a dark side to its history – a story of enslavement, destitution and bondage. Thankfully, it also has famous heroes and revolutionaries whose stories were born on its waters. Perhaps one of the most notable is Araminta “Minty” Ross, aka Harriet Tubman.
In 1849, accompanied by her two brothers, Harriet made her first attempt for freedom. A high reward for their capture and a dose of fear convinced the three siblings to return to their owner’s plantation. It was the last time Harriet would allow her conviction for freedom to be swayed by any man or woman.
Over the course of eight years, Harriet Tubman became the most crafty and notorious abolitionist, returning time and time again to the Eastern Shore as well as other points South to free enslaved African Americans. She’d later add Civil War Union Spy and suffragist to her resume.
Over 100 years after her death, a bright light shines on the greatest conductor of the Underground Railroad. A movie about her life has just been announced. A new rare photograph of Harriet in her younger years has recently surfaced in New York. The Treasury Department announced that she will be the new face of the $20 bill.
And as March 10th marks Harriet Tubman Day in Maryland, the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center opens its doors for the first time to the general public on the 11th. This new attraction adds to the rich history and various places to visit in Dorchester County, Md. and surrounding areas.
We’ve listed 10 such places that you shouldn’t miss:
Dorchester County Visitor Center
Dorchester County Visitor Center — Photo courtesy of Tawanna B. Smith
As you cross the Choptank River on Route 50, large white sails flanking a tan edifice catch your eye. The Dorchester County Visitor Center is the perfect starting point for your exploration into the birthplace of Harriet Tubman.
Inside the center are exhibits that provide background information on Harriet Tubman and Underground Railroad Network activities in the area. Step outside for a beautiful view of the Choptank River. The waterfront park has a beach, playground, picnic tables, a walkway and a fishing pier.
Before you leave, make sure to grab a map to guide you to eighteen historic markers along the Underground Railroad Byway in Dorchester and Caroline County.
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway
Harriet Tubman Scenic Byway — Photo courtesy of Tawanna B. Smith
A one-hour drive from Baltimore, this scenic byway stretches across 125 miles of open land and waterscapes, much of which hasn’t changed over the last two centuries. The Underground Railroad Byway includes 36 historically significant sites that tell the interwoven stories of enslaved African Americans, free African Americans, slave holders and abolitionists.
It starts in Dorchester County and continues into Delaware, ending in Philadelphia, Harriet Tubman’s destination once she found freedom.
Dorchester County Courthouse
Dorchester Courthouse — Photo courtesy of Tawanna B. Smith
This 1854 Courthouse sits steps away from restaurants, shops, museums and galleries in Cambridge, Md. It was once the central location for trials of local Underground Railroad Conductors and the place where the enslaved were sold and jailed. Harriet Tubman’s niece escaped from the auction block that sat in front of the Courthouse.
The Italianate building still functions as the town’s central courthouse.
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center — Photo courtesy of National Park Service
The new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center commemorates one of America’s most famed abolitionists. The Maryland State Park constructed the Harriet Tubman Underground State Park to honor her deeds and sacrifices through its landscapes.
The visitor center includes a meditation garden, exhibits, theater and outdoor interpretation that depicts the life of Harriet Tubman, and slavery in Dorchester County.
Stanley Institute — Photo courtesy of Dorchester Tourism
The little, bright yellow building located on MD Route 16 on the edge of the City of Cambridge is the oldest community-owned one-room school house in Dorchester County. It was first constructed in 1865 in an area called Church Creek.
Relocated to Cambridge in 1867, the school served children in grades 1 through 7 until 1966. Today, it stands as a testament to the African American community’s determination to teach their children regardless of harsh circumstances.
Brodess Farm, plantation where Harriet Tubman was born — Photo courtesy of Tawanna B. Smith
The land that surrounds this area was home to Harriet Tubman and other enslaved people for decades. Vast and open fields surround the private properties that sit aback from the road.
The Brodess Farm is one of several plantations where Harriet labored. A state marker and information plaque sit on the edge of the road memorializing the famed abolitionist’s birthplace.
Bucktown Village Store
Bucktown Village Store — Photo courtesy of Tawanna B. Smith
This restored village store has been around since the early 1800s. It served as the central household goods shop for neighboring farms.
One evening, while in the store to purchase goods for the plantation, Harriet was caught in the line of fire between an angry overseer and an enslaved man. She suffered a debilitating blow to the head from a two-pound weight that the overseer threw at the fleeing man. The injury caused severe head trauma that would affect Harriet throughout her life.
In present day, the store is open to visitors stopping along the Underground Railroad trail. Owners, Jay and Susan Meredith, lovingly help to preserve the store’s history. They also offer bicycle and kayak tours to explore the historic area.
Linchester Mill — Photo courtesy of Caroline Tourism
Once a hub of Underground Railroad conductors who lived nearby, Linchester Mill hosts seasonal and special events. A picnic area and restrooms are available to visitors, and tours of the mill can be arranged by appointment.
The original mill, a smaller version of the building that sits here today, served as a general store and post office where free and enslaved worked side by side.
Webb Cabin — Photo courtesy of Dorchester Tourism
The restored log cabin that you see today is an upscale version of the original property built by James H. Webb, a free farmer who built his home by hand. He lived here with his enslaved wife and their four children.
The house is a one-room cabin complete with a “potato hole”, open fireplace and ladder-accessed loft. The cabin sits on the original ballast-stone foundation which was made from ships that plied the Chesapeake Bay. It is a rare example of typical housing for free African Americans in the 1800s.
Tuckahoe Neck Meeting House
Tuckahoe Neck Meeting House — Photo courtesy of Caroline Tourism
This Quaker house in Denton, Md. was one of five Quaker Meeting houses in Caroline County. Its members managed the Underground Railroad Network in that area. The Tuckahoe Neck Meeting House was built in 1803. Although the house is only open by appointment, the building offers living evidence of abolitionist work in Denton.
Just outside the structure, you’ll find a triangular interpretive sign where you can read additional information about the Meeting House’s history. You can find restrooms, restaurants and accommodations nearby in Denton.