Archaeologists Solve a Decades-Old Harriet Tubman Mystery

Historians have been looking for the house in Maryland where Harriet Tubman spent her childhood and early adulthood before escaping slavery for nearly two decades.

State and federal officials said Tuesday that they believe they have identified the ruins of Tubman’s previous home, thanks in large part to the efforts of Julie M. Schablitsky.

Archaeologists Solve a Decades-Old Harriet Tubman Mystery

He is the chief archaeologist at the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration.

Schablitsky swung her metal detector along the side of a lonely road near Maryland’s Eastern Shore after searching the swampy countryside of Dorchester County since last fall.

There, her metal detector started beeping. With some effort, Schablitsky was able to scrape the dirt and grime off a coin.

Revealing the likeness of a woman with the word “Liberty” written across her hat. The year 1808 appeared at the text’s footer.

After 30 Years of Searching, the Site Has Finally Been Discovered.

Tubman biographer Kate Clifford Larson claims that the search for this location took specialists at least two decades.

There was a misunderstanding over where Tubman had been born before the search for Ben Ross’s cabin along Harrisville Road began.

Cambridge newspapers had covered Tubman’s background in the 1940s, but once Earl Conrad’s 1943 biography identified Bucktown as her birthplace.

Residents there came to consider themselves her adopted family, as Larson explains. Researchers debunked this theory when they discovered a notation in the Thompson family’s account book from 1822.

Showing that they had engaged a midwife to assist in the delivery of a child—likely Araminta—born when they were Ross’s slaves.

She and her mother would be enslaved by the Brodess family, who had not yet relocated to Bucktown.

And their birth is documented in court papers from the 1850s, placing the location of the Thompson plantation as the place of birth.

Tubman’s Father Was Granted 10 Acres of Land When He Was Manumitted

Five years after his former master Anthony Thompson died in 1836, Tubman’s father was manumitted and given a piece of land measuring 10 acres.

Tubman and her siblings were hidden in the cabin in what is now the federal Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge after he acquired his enslaved wife.

Schablitsky explained that because private ownership of the land had prevented any excavations from taking place there for many years.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service purchased the 2,600 acre parcel last year to make up for refuge sites lost to rising sea levels.

When refuge manager Marcia Pradines learned that the vanished cabin could have been located on the property, she immediately phoned Schablitsky to investigate.


Harriet Tubman’s former home in Maryland has been discovered by archaeologists.
The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in the state now includes Peter’s Neck, where the homestead was discovered.