Tub­man’s his­tory ex­tends from Dorch­ester to Caro­line

Dorchester Star - - Regional - By VIC­TO­RIA WIN­GATE vwingate@ches­pub.com

CAMBRIDGE — While the newly-opened Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road Visi­tor Cen­ter may be lo­cated in Dorch­ester County, neigh­bor­ing Caro­line County shares the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing home to plenty of Tub­man’s his­tory.

The Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road By­way is a 125-mile scenic, self­guided driv­ing tour that in­cludes sites sig­nif­i­cant to Tub­man’s life and work. There are thirty-six to­tal stops along the by­way, four­teen of which are lo­cated in Caro­line County.

“We have some of the most im­por­tant sites in the na­tion re­lated to Har­riet Tub­man, be­cause she res­cued her en­tire fam­ily from there,” said Caro­line County Tourism Di­rec­tor Ceres Bain­bridge.

Linch­ester Mill in Pre­ston, was an im­por­tant site for the Un­der­ground Rail­road in Caro­line County. Ac­cord­ing to the by­way’s of­fi­cial web­site, the mill site was a con­stant flow of in­for­ma­tion for free and en­slaved African Amer­i­cans.

“The mill was the kind of place that free men, slaves, and white peo­ple would’ve met to have your flour ground, a place where plan­ning and se­cret ex­changes could take place and not be no­ticed be­cause it was an ac­tive place,” Bain­bridge said.

The mill was ad­van­ta­geously set in the midst of the safe­houses of the Lev­er­ton, Hub­bard, Kel­ley fam­i­lies and Po­plar Neck, where Tub­man’s par­ents lived be­fore their es­cape.

Po­plar Neck is where Tub­man’s broth­ers — Robert, Henry, Ben and Ben’s fi­ance Jane — stayed hid­den in a corn crib un­til night­fall al­lowed them to es­cape to free­dom with Tub­man as their guide.

Webb Cabin in Pre­ston gives visi­tors in­sight into what a typ­i­cal AfricanAmer­i­can home would have looked like dur­ing Tub­man’s time. The free African-Amer­i­can farmer who built the one-room home, James Webb, lived there with his en­slaved and their four chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to the by­way web­site.

Caro­line County will soon en­joy a new visi­tor cen­ter of their own, the Crouse Park Visi­tor and Her­itage Cen­ter in Den­ton. Ground was bro­ken on the project in June 2016 and work is sched­uled to be com­plete in June of this year.

The new visi­tors cen­ter, will be the head­quar­ters for the Caro­line County Of­fice of Tourism along with an in­ter­pre­tive cen­ter, her­itage dis­play, and re­strooms for tour buses. The cen­ter will be built on stilts, and have three ex­te­rior decks for a panoramic view of the Chop­tank River wa­ter­front in down­town Den­ton.

“This 2,500-square foot cen­ter will high­light the re­gion’s ro­bust cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal her­itage,” Ho­gan said at the June 2016 ground­break­ing. “I’m look­ing for­ward to com­ing back to see its ex­hibits on the Na­tive Amer­i­can pe­riod, the Un­der­ground Rail­road, the Civil War and the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay ecosys­tem.

“Tourism is big busi­ness in Mary­land, and this cen­ter will be great for Den­ton and Caro­line County,” Ho­gan said. “It rep­re­sents the north­ern gate­way to the Har­riet Tub­man Na­tional Scenic By­way and Mich­ener’s Ch­e­sa­peake Coun­try Scenic By­way as visi­tors ex­plore the re­gion.

Both Caro­line and Dorch­ester coun­ties ex­pect to see a sig­nif­i­cant boost in tourism thanks to the new visi­tor cen­ters and the by­way.

“This is a game-changer for us, the in­flux of visi­tors com­ing in and the po­ten­tial for eco­nomic im­pact,” said Dorch­ester County Tourism Di­rec­tor Amanda Fen­ster­maker. “More than that, the idea that this is hap­pen­ing after years of work­ing on this, 30-plus years of peo­ple in the com­mu­nity hold­ing this torch, to say that some­thing should be done to rec­og­nize Har­riet Tub­man.

“To see this come to fruition in such a mon­u­men­tal way sym­bol­izes that we are re­ally proud of her, and that we’re stand­ing ready to wel­come peo­ple from around the world into our com­mu­nity.”

Fen­ster­maker said she is very proud of the high qual­ity ex­hibits, par­tic­u­larly the pre­sen­ta­tion of Tub­man quo­ta­tions.

“Tub­man’s is a won­der­ful, in­spir­ing story of a most un­likely can­di­date,” she said.

More in­for­ma­tion about the Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road By­way can be found at http://har­ri­et­tub­man­by­way.org/.

In­for­ma­tion about the Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road Visi­tor Cen­ter can be found through the Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and the Na­tional Park Ser vice web­sites.

For more on Caro­line and Dorch­ester coun­ties tourism, visit tour­caro­line.com and www.vis­it­dorch­ester.org.

PHOTO BY ABBY ANDREWS

The one-room log cabin built by James Webb in 1852 out­side Pre­ston has been re­stored after years of re­search­ing, fundrais­ing and man­ual la­bor. It was ded­i­cated in March 2016. The stone­and-metal arch to the right was built by Al­fred Fluharty, whose fam­ily later do­nated the cabin to the Caro­line County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety and then sold the acre of land sur­round­ing it to the Caro­line County com­mis­sion­ers.

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

Linch­ester Mill in Pre­ston fea­tures a Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road By­ways stop.

Linch­ester Mill in Pre­ston fea­tures a Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road By­ways stop. The site is one of 14 lo­ca­tions for Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road By­ways in Caro­line County.

Linch­ester Mill in Pre­ston fea­tures a Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road By­ways stop. The site is one of 14 lo­ca­tions for Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road By­ways in Caro­line County.

PHOTOS BY DUSTIN HOLT

Con­struc­tion con­tin­ues for the Crouse Park Visi­tor and Her­itage Cen­ter along the Chop­tank River wa­ter­front in Den­ton.

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