Archaeologists in Maryland say they’ve found the former home of Harriet Tubman’s father in Dorchester County.
It was discovered on property acquired in 2020 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. An archaeology team from the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, headed by Dr. Julie Schablitsky, started digging for the site on land that’s part of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in November.
“The importance of discovering Ben Ross’ cabin here is the connection to Harriet Tubman. She would’ve spent time here as a child, but also she would’ve come back and been living here with her father in her teenage years, working alongside him,” Schablitsky said. “This was the opportunity she had to learn about how to navigate and survive in the wetlands and the woods. We believe this experience was able to benefit her when she began to move people to freedom.”
According to a news release, the property contains 10 acres bequeathed to Ross by Anthony Thompson in the 1800s. Ross was to be freed five years after Thompson’s death in 1836. He received the land in the early 1840s.
“This discovery adds another puzzle piece to the story of Harriet Tubman, the state of Maryland, and our nation,” said Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford. “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.”
The home will be added as a point of interest to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a 125-mile drive with more than 30 sites related to Tubman’s life.
“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,” said Tina Wyatt, Harriet Tubman’s great-great-great-grandniece and Ben Ross’ great-great-great-great-granddaughter.
“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,” she said. “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.”
“When we protect vulnerable habitats, we help preserve the stories of those who came before us, like Harriet Tubman’s father, Ben Ross,” said USFWS Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System Cynthia Martinez. “Acquiring Peter’s Neck last year was a critical addition to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, as the area is predicted to naturally convert to marsh by 2100 because of sea-level rise.”
See photos from the dig below.