Maryland Governor Lt. Col. Boyd Rutherford made the announcement Tuesday, along with state and federal partners, at the Harriet Tubman Metro Visitor Center.
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The archaeological house was the former home of Tubman’s father, Ben Ross. It was found on land purchased by U.S. Fish and Wilde in 2020 as an extension of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County.
This discovery adds another piece to the puzzle of Harriet Tubman’s story, Maryland’s story and our nation’s story, Rutherford said. It is important that we continue to discover parts of our history that we can learn from, especially when they have been lost to time and other forces. I hope this recent success can inspire similar efforts and help strengthen our partnerships in the future.
The USFWS purchased the 2,600-acre Peter’s Neck property for $6 million with land and water conservation funds and proceeds from the federal duck stamp program. It was purchased to deal with the effects of sea level rise and to ensure the future migration of wetlands.
Ten acres were bequeathed to Ross Anthony Thompson in the 1800s. Thompson’s will then stipulated that Be Ross would be released five years after Thompson’s death in 1836. In the early 1840s, he was freed from slavery and given land.
When we protect fragile habitats, we help preserve the stories of those who have gone before us, like Ben Ross, Harriet Tubman’s father, said Cynthia Martinez, director of the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System (USFWS). The purchase of Peter’s Neck last year was an important addition to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, as the area is expected to be a marsh by 2100 due to sea level rise. We look forward to working with our partners to create more opportunities to connect people with nature and strengthen the connection between land and community.
In November, a team led by Dr. Julie Szablicki, MDOT SHA chief archaeologist, searched for evidence related to Ross. When they returned in March, they found many items from the 19th century, including nails, bricks, glass, shell fragments and even a button.
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The significance of the discovery of Ben Ross’ cabin here is its connection with Harriet Tubman. She would have spent time here as a child, but she would also have returned as a teenager with her father and worked alongside him, Dr. Szablicki said. It was an opportunity to learn how to navigate and survive in the wetlands and forests. We believe this experience was helpful to her as she began to lead people to freedom.
Douglas Mitchell, Ross’ great-grandson, called the discovery valuable.
Dr. Szablicki’s discoveries promise to deepen and broaden our understanding of the remarkable life of not only the patriarch and his beloved wife, but of course his daughter and legendary heroine, Harriet Tubman, Mitchell added. On this joyous occasion, more than 160 years after Ben Ross left his humble cabin never to return, all freedom-loving Americans are Ross’ parents in honor of this enormously important archaeological discovery and the priceless revelations it had to offer.
CAMBRIDGE, MD – 27. JUNE : The mural Take My Hand, by artist Michael Rosato, graces the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center in downtown and is a must-see on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad, which runs 125 miles and 45 stations through the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware. (Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Tubman was born Araminta Ross on the Thompson farm near Cambridge in March 1822. She and her mother were slaves to the Brodess family and left the farm when she was young. Ross sawed and sold lumber that independent black sailors supplied to shipyards in Baltimore to build ships.
The discovery of the location of Patriarch Ben Ross Sr.’s home and the items he used has humanized the person who gave us a woman of epic proportions, Harriet Ross Tubman, said Tina Wyatt, great-granddaughter of Harriet Tubman and great-great-granddaughter of Ben Ross. It sheds light on, reveals how he lived his daily life, and makes him a real connection to me and to me, a great-great-granddaughter. The world also benefits from examining these artifacts in terms of the items the slaves used; are they common to this plantation, their situation, or this region? It gives us many more opportunities to explore, explain and display.
Ross House will now be added to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad.
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