A landmark discovery!
Maryland archaeologists have discovered the location of Harriet Tubman’s father’s home, NBC News reports.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center announced that the home of Harriet Tubman’s father, Ben Ross, has been discovered by archaeologists in Maryland. The site, named “Ben’s 10,” was located on property owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge extension in Dorchester County, Marland. It is believed that Ross received the 10 acres of land in the 1840s as part of a will agreement from a slave owner who decreed that Ross should be freed and inherit the land five years after his death.
Julie Schablitsky, State Highway Administration Chief Archaeologist, said she and her team dug nearly 1,000 holes in search of the property, a metal detector that found a 50 cent coin, dated in 1808. They then began to find broken pieces of ceramics but had to abandon the project due to time and financial constraints. In March, they finally were able to return and confirm that the site was indeed the location of Ross’ home.
“We look at those artifacts closer and confirmed that these artifacts do date to the time period when [Ross] was living there. With the artifacts, the archaeology, the evidence of a building and just the location – knowing he worked in the timbered wetlands – those multiple lines of evidence told us unequivocally that this is the home of Ben Ross,” Schablitsky said.
Tubman was born Araminta Ross in the 1820s. Historians have documented that Tubman’s work with her father helped her easily navigate the land, supporting her role as conductor of the Underground Railroad, leading enslaved people north to freedom.
“For several years, we believe that Mr. Ross harvested trees on the property and sold the timber, and the timber was then transported to shipyards by free Black mariners to use to make ships in Baltimore…The discovery of Ben Ross’ cabin is a major find. This discovery adds to another puzzle piece to the story of Harriet Tubman, the state of Maryland and our nation,” said Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford.
Schablitsky echoed those sentiments, saying, “When we’re able to find extra sites, additional sites, other people who inspired [Tubman], who gave her that lesson of integrity and perseverance like her father, I think that kind of gives us that excitement that we can learn more about Harriet Tubman through her parents.”
Archaeologists will continue their work to unearth the site and learn as much as possible, keeping the descendants of Tubman abreast with any updates.
Tina Wyatt, the great-great-great-grandniece of Tubman and great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Ross, spoke of the significance of the project.
“It means so much to the family to be able to see all of this. It’s so important, not just for family, but for the world to understand about our history,” said Wyatt.
She also commented on the importance of artifacts helping to “humanize and visualize her ancestors.”
Both Tubman and her father were enslaved on the plantation. The land will be added to the Tubman Byway, an experiential driving tour that includes more than 30 sites of historical significance that educate participants on the life of Harriet Tubman.
Photo Courtesy of The Smithsonian/MDOT/Flickr