Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Harriet Tubman’s Family Home Found: Archaeologists Have Been Digging Since Last Fall (Video)

Maryland State Highway Administration archaeology consultant Christopher Triplett excavates the home site of Ben Ross in Dorchester County, Md. (Photo courtesy of Julie Schablitsky) (Courtesy of Julie Schablitsky )
Maryland State Highway Administration archaeology consultant Christopher Triplett excavates the home site of Ben Ross in Dorchester County, Md. (Photo courtesy of Julie Schablitsky)

*Maryland archaeologists have been combing through the woods in Dorchester County, Maryland since last fall looking for the lost site where Harriet Tubman lived with her family in the early 1800s.

One of their metal detectors recently found a coin along an abandoned road in Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Archaeologist Julie Schablitsky would soon realize that the coin she came across – featuring the profile of a woman with flowing hair, and wearing a cap that said “Liberty, with a date on the bottom that read “1808” – was confirmation that the team was in fact digging in the right place – near the home of Tubman’s father, Ben Ross.

A 1808 coin found in fall 2020 by Maryland State Highway Administration archaeologist Julie Schablitsky. (Photo courtesy of Julie Schablitsky) (Courtesy of Julie Schablitsky )
A 1808 coin found in fall 2020 by Maryland State Highway Administration archaeologist Julie Schablitsky. (Photo courtesy of Julie Schablitsky) (Courtesy of Julie Schablitsky )

The Washington Post reported:

“Tuesday morning (April 20) state and federal officials announced that Schablitsky, guided in part by the coin, believes she has found the site where Tubman lived with her parents and several siblings during formative teenage years before she escaped enslavement. It was the spot, experts said, where a long-vanished cabin stood, which had served for a time as Tubman’s family home.”

The structure, of unknown form, was owned by her father. A timber foreman and lumberjack who had been enslaved, he had been given his freedom, the house where he lived, and a piece of land near the Blackwater River by his enslaver. Officials said bricks, datable pieces of 19th-century pottery, a button, a drawer pull, a pipe stem, old records, and the location all pointed to the spot being the likely site of the Ben Ross cabin.

Artifacts found at what is believed to be the site of Ben Ross’s home in Dorchester County, Md. (Photo courtesy of Julie Schablitsky) (Courtesy of Julie Schablitsky )
Artifacts found at what is believed to be the site of Ben Ross’s home in Dorchester County, Md. (Photo courtesy of Julie Schablitsky) (Courtesy of Julie Schablitsky )

The announcement was made at 10 a.m. at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, in Church Creek, Md. The project began last year when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bought for $6 million a 2,600-acre tract adjacent to Blackwater to replace refuge areas lost to rising sea levels elsewhere, said refuge manager Marcia Pradines.

Pradines said she had heard that the Ben Ross cabin might have existed in the tract, and contacted Maryland experts to see if an archaeologist wanted to investigate. Schablitsky said she was interested.

Below is a bit of history behind the search for Tubman’s family home:

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